By Lauren | September 4, 2013
It’s fashionable these days to treat ethical principles as somewhat debatable, dependent on circumstances and personal proclivities. As someone who thinks and writes about ethics, I’ll admit that situations that present conflicting values can sometimes be somewhat ambiguous. However, there are certain ethical principles that, in my opinion, have to be upheld in any remotely civilized society. One of those principles is that children should be protected, never violated, by the adult authority figures in their lives.
Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh savaged that principle when he sentenced a former high school teacher to a mere thirty days in jail for repeatedly having sex with a troubled fourteen-year-old student. (The girl’s mother testified at trial that the rape was a major factor in her daughter’s subsequent suicide.) The judge compounded his horrendous mistake when he indulged in gratuitious observations that the relationship between the then-48-year-old teacher and his underage victim “wasn’t this forcible, beat-up rape,” opining that the child in question was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as her teacher. So perhaps it should come as a surprise to no one that Judge Baugh’s so-called “apology” for his appalling comments was self-serving, inarticulate and clearly delivered without so much as a hint of remorse. Someone must have told him to apologize – he certainly doesn’t seem himself to appreciate how horribly he’s behaved.
Judge Baugh’s actions – blaming a child for being molested by a teacher, then punishing the perpetrator with a sentence so short that it can’t even be called a slap on the wrist – reflect the worst judicial judgment I have ever seen in more than twenty years of practicing law. He reportedly continues to defend his decision, saying that he intends to file an addendum to his decision to “hopefully better explain the sentence.” He might as well save his time and ink. There is absolutely nothing he could say that could justify making light of a teacher’s sexual abuse of a minor student. The fact that he even thinks such justification possible proves that he doesn’t begin to understand what he did wrong. Without that understanding, his apology is nothing more than a meaningless nod to social convention, patently insincere and positively insulting to the victim of this crime and her family.
Pressure is mounting for Judge Baugh to resign. The sooner he does so, the better. The judge’s bizarre notions about rape and child molestation have no place on the bench, and neither does his apparent prediliction for blaming the victims of horrendous crimes. His decisions betray him, and so does his pitiful attempt to apologize. Until he takes responsibility for his actions and accepts their consequences, no apology he attempts to make should be accepted by anyone.