Two Probes Prompt Look At Montana’s Handling Of Sex-Assault Cases


Two official probes into Montana’s criminal-justice system have prompted a closer look at how sexual-assault cases are investigated and rapists punished in this sparsely populated state, reports the Wall Street Journal. Montana’s top court will soon ruile on a rare state complaint against a judge for an “overly lenient” 30-day sentence in a rape case involving a teacher and a student, in which the judge commented that the 14-year-old victim was “older than her chronological age.” The judge, G. Todd Baugh, apologized for the comments and wrote in response to the state’s judicial-standards commission that he had “failed to promote public confidence in the judiciary.”

Separately, the U.S. Justice Department alleged after an 18-month probe that prosecutors in Missoula discriminated against women by giving sex-assault cases low priority. The prosecutor’s office denie the charge. The same investigation, spurred by allegations against University of Montana football players, led to agreements last year by Missoula police and the university to change how they handled rape investigations. “We are a very small state: people don’t want to prosecute their neighbor and they hold onto this old belief that the victims asked for it—and victims never ask for it,” said Marian Bradley of the Montana National Organization for Women, which submitted a complaint against Judge Baugh to the judicial-standards commission.

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