When I was a kid, one of my favorite heroes was a rangy football player out of Texas, “Slingin’ Sammy Baugh.” He had played before my time, his last game with the Washington Redskins in 1952, but he was a legend back in the day when boys read books and Sports Illustrated instead of watching ESPN in today’s modern-day stupor. Baugh was a two-time All-American at Texas Christian and is still considered among the top college football players of all time.
So I wonder what Sammy would think today about his youngest boy, Todd? This week Todd got more attention than his father ever did and his daddy, mind you, is in both the college and pro football Halls of Fame. Conversely, Todd, his youngest son, is on the very brink of being shoved into the United States Hall of Jerks – there are already 37,000 calls for his resignation on Facebook and, back long ago, not even “Slingin’ Sammy” ever played in front of such a maddened crowd.
While I admit I don’t know the whole story, Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings, Montana, sentenced a child rapist to 15 years in prison on Monday, immediately handing ex-teacher Stacey Rambold just 30 days in jail and the rest on probation. That’s right – 30 days for repeatedly raping a 14-year-old girl who just so happened to commit suicide in 2010 when she should have celebrated her 16th birthday.
The elder Baugh, who signed with the Redskins after he starred in the 1937 College All-Star game, signed a one-year contract for $8,000 but was later horrified to learn his teammates were making much less. Sammy was about honor, doing things right, and after five years as an All-Pro, he went home to Temple, Texas to raise a family the right way in a place where values mattered.
Ranches in central Texas are wonderful places to learn about life. The Baugh spread, called the Double Mountain Ranch, is about 20,000 acres outside of Temple, Texas. And I know enough about Texas, cowboys, and ranching to know fools aren’t to be tolerated. Todd Baugh grew up in a land of mesquite trees, prickly pear cactus and about 500 cows. But it seems for all the world that somewhere it all went wrong.
Here we have a school teacher, 48 years old at the time of his attack and very much an authority figure, who admitted he raped and further raped a 14 year old child. That the girl endured two years before ending her life only magnified the sorrow and then the judge himself brought down the scorn of the nation.
But just before sentencing Rambold, Judge Baugh said he believed that the girl was “older than her chronological age” and that the victim seems to be “as much in control of the situation.” He also said, “Obviously, a 14-year-old can’t consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape. It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”
The crowd gasped and the victim’s mother, upon hearing the hearing the sentence only included 31 days of jail, leapt to her feet and yelled an expletive at the judge before leaving the courtroom. Many around the world now agree with her, particularly as the tawdry details of the case have been made known.
In 2008 Yellowstone County prosecutors charged Stacey Rambold with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent. The trial was still pending in 2010 when the victim took her life and the prosecutors, fearing a lack of testimony, worked out a deal where Rambold would avoid trial – and sentencing -- if he would enter a three-year program for sexual offenders.
But within two years the deal went sour; just as might be expected from a pedophile. It seems Rambold had a growing number of violations to his agreement, including a sexual relationship with a woman without telling his counselors and a number of unsupervised meetings with minors. Now it appears a month in the slammer will settle everything.
The 30-day jail sentenced caused some 400 protesters in Billings to gather outside the courthouse Thursday with signs that said, “Justice For (victim’s name)” and “Rape is Rape.” The victim’s mother said in a later interview, “As I looked on in disbelief, Judge Baugh stated that our teenage daughter was as much in control of the situation as her teacher was,' she said in a statement.
“She wasn’t even old enough to get a driver’s license. But Judge Baugh, who never met our daughter, justified the paltry sentence saying she was older than her chronological age. I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14.”
Facing nationwide criticism and the media’s intense glare, Judge Baugh wrote the local newspaper a letter that read, in part, “'I don't know what I was thinking or trying to say. It was just stupid and wrong. What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing. My apologies to all my fellow citizens.”
The word is the Judge has no intention of revisiting the case and feels the sentence is adequate. But I’m betting that if his father were still alive, Slingin’ Sammy Baugh would take his youngest back behind the barn and whip him something fierce for tarnishing the family’s good name.