Attorney: Appeal 'frivolous' in notorious student rape case

AP News
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Posted: Mar 17, 2016 5:50 PM

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The attorney for a Montana teacher serving 10 years in prison in a notorious student rape case said Thursday that her client's pending appeal is frivolous, an unusual move that could end the defendant's chances for a reduced term.

Assistant Appellate Defender Eileen Larkin filed a request with the state Supreme Court to let her drop the case of Stacey Dean Rambold, a former Billings Senior High School teacher who raped a 14-year-old student. The girl later committed suicide.

The request marked yet another unexpected turn in a case that's dragged on almost a decade.

The Supreme Court gave Rambold 30 days to respond.

"After that, generally speaking, the court will issue an order dismissing the case as totally frivolous," said Supreme Court Clerk Ed Smith.

Larkin submitted a 25-page brief in which she said it was her duty to inform the high court that there were "no non-frivolous issues" in Rambold's appeal.

The brief cited a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case, Anders versus California, in which justices said in a 6-3 ruling that lawyers no longer have a duty to argue a client's defense when they have no grounds to do so.

"Conscientious examination of the record, along with thorough research seems to compel a conclusion that there are no non-frivolous issues in this appeal," Larkin wrote.

Rambold was 47 in 2007 when he raped freshman Cherice Moralez, a student in his business class.

Moralez killed herself while charges against Rambold were pending, weakening the prosecution's case and leading a state judge to sentence Rambold initially to just one month in prison. The state Supreme Court overturned that sentence as too lenient in 2014.

State District Judge G. Todd Baugh was later censured and suspended for 31 days over his handling of the case. Baugh, the son of legendary Washington Redskins quarterback Samuel "Slinging Sammy" Baugh, had suggested Moralez shared some of the blame for her rape.

Under Montana law, children younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.

But the judge said Moralez appeared "older than her chronological age" and "was probably as much in control of the situation as the defendant." Rambold's attorneys during his original sentencing also suggested Moralez bore some responsibility, citing interviews of the girl conducted by law enforcement prior to her death. Those videos have never been publicly released.

Baugh's comments drew widespread outrage. He retired under public pressure after almost 30 years on the bench.

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Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter at https://twitter.com/matthewbrownap.