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Convicted rapist free after 31 days
02:10 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

NEW: Victim's mother hopes she'll never see him, but wants to forgive him someday

Stacey Rambold checks in at a probation office after his release from jail

Rambold admitted to raping 14-year-old Cherice Moralez

Judge's ruling is being appealed by prosecutors, who say two years is the minimum sentence

Billings, Montana CNN  — 

Stacey Dean Rambold, a former high school teacher who served a month-long sentence for raping a 14-year-old girl, was released Thursday from a Montana jail.

Rambold’s lenient sentence and the judge’s comments about his victim sparked national outrage and protests.

He won’t be a free man exactly; he’s on probation for the next 14 years, 11 months.

According to court documents, that means he’ll have to agree to conditions like undergoing sex offender treatment, not going to places where children congregate and not having a cell phone with photo, video or Internet capabilities.

Prosecutors have appealed the sentence, saying it is illegal, to the Montana Supreme Court.

The victim’s mother is hopeful that will change.

”(Judge G. Todd Baugh) made a mistake and I’m disappointed, (31) days, that’s outrageous, but the Montana Supreme Court stepped in. Hopefully they’ll make it right,” said Auliea Hanlon, whose daughter, Cherice Moralez, committed suicide before Rambold went to trial.

In the meantime, Hanlon told CNN’s Erin Burnett Thursday night that she wants to avoid the man who raped her daughter.

“I hope I don’t see him. That would be horrible,” she said. “I didn’t see him for the first six years. I didn’t see him until the courtroom.”

But she said someday, she hopes she will be able to forgive him.

“I could be miserable the rest of my life,” she said, “but that wouldn’t do my other kids any good.”

Rambold declined to answer questions from CNN as he entered and left a probation office in Billings on Thursday.

Defense attorney Jay Lansing had no comment on the case, but has said his client contends the sentence imposed is lawful and appropriate.

Before suicide, raped Montana teen loved outdoors, poetry

Activists file formal judicial complaint

On Tuesday, the Montana and Pennsylvania chapters of the National Organization for Women and an activist group called Ultraviolet filed a complaint with a judicial review board, CNN affiliate KULR reported. More than 140,000 people signed accompanying petitions, the groups said.

“If we can’t get him removed from this, there is something wrong with the system, and I know people in the state will work to not get (Baugh) re-elected (next year),” said Marian Bradley, president of Montana NOW.

The case drew widespread attention when Baugh imposed a one-month sentence on Rambold and made controversial comments about the victim, saying she “seemed older than her chronological age” and she was “as much in control of the situation.”

Rambold admitted raping the girl in 2008 while she was 14 and he was her teacher at her high school. Moralez took her life shortly before her 17th birthday.

The judge later apologized for his comments, and earlier this month tried to revisit his sentence. But the state Supreme Court barred him from a new ruling, saying he didn’t have the legal standing to change a sentence.

Baugh said he didn’t realize at first that the minimum sentence should have been two years.

Baugh’s secretary said Wednesday the judge had no comment on Rambold’s release.

‘We want the conversation to go nationwide

There is one good thing about the case, NOW’s Bradley said: It’s brought renewed national attention to the critically important issue of violence against women.

“We want the conversation to go nationwide, so that everyone will say this behavior is not OK in my community. . … I think everyone believes, ‘In my town it can’t happen, it shouldn’t happen, I need to stop it,’” she said. “And you can stop it. You can stop it by going out and spreading the word.”

That’s why she sees a glimmer of hope in how much people are talking about the case.

“I think as long as we know that it’s happening we can acknowledge it and we can do something to change it. If we don’t see it and don’t acknowledge it, we can’t make a change at all,” she said. “So I think this is important. This is so sad for the mother, this is so sad for the community, this is so sad for our state and our country. But there is hope.”

The legal process

With Cherice’s death, the prosecution entered into what is known as a “deferred prosecution agreement” with Rambold.

This meant that all charges against Rambold – who admitted to one of the rape charges – would be dismissed if he completed a sex-offender treatment program and met other requirements. One of them was to have no contact with children.

But the ex-teacher fell short of the agreement and prosecutors asked Baugh last month to sentence him to 20 years.

Baugh ruled Rambold’s infractions weren’t serious enough.

“He made some violations of his treatment program,” the judge said. “They were more technical and not the kind you would send someone to prison for.”

Hanlon said the pain of her daughter’s death hasn’t faded.

“I think we just get used to it, so we don’t cry every day,” she said, but the tears still came.

Opinion: In Montana, a case study in rape culture

CNN’s Jack Hannah and John Branch contributed to this report.