BILLINGS — Stacey Dean Rambold, the former Senior High teacher accused of raping a 14-year-old student who later committed suicide, admitted to a felony rape charge Monday in District Court.
Rambold appeared before Judge G. Todd Baugh and pleaded guilty to a single count of sexual intercourse without consent.
According to a plea agreement, prosecutors will ask Rambold receive a sentence of 20 years at Montana State Prison, with 10 years suspended. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of life. A sentencing date will be scheduled later.
The case began in 2007 when Rambold, then 49, had sexual contact three times with a 14-year-old student, Cherice Morales.
Rambold was placed on paid leave in April 2008, shortly after the Billings Police Department launched an investigation.
Three months later, Rambold resigned his teaching job and surrendered his teaching certificate. In October of that year, prosecutors charged Rambold with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent.
While the criminal case was pending, Morales took her own life a few weeks before her 17th birthday. The girl's death caused problems for the prosecution, and in July 2010 Rambold entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Yellowstone County Attorney's Office.
The agreement called for prosecutors to put the case on hold for three years. The charges would then be dismissed, the agreement stated, if Rambold completed sex offender treatment and complied with other conditions.
Rambold also admitted to one of the three charges, and agreed that his admission could be used against him.
The case was revived last December when prosecutors learned Rambold had been terminated from his sex offender treatment program. A trial was scheduled to begin next week.
The case also resulted in a $91,000 wrongful death settlement between School District 2 and Morales' family, who filed a civil lawsuit against the district.