A Kansas judge is facing criticism after he called two girls, ages 13 and 14, the “aggressors” in a child sex case involving a 67-year-old man with a previous criminal history.
District Judge Michael Gibbens sentenced Raymond Soden to five years and 10 months in prison for solicitation of the minors, a sentence eight years fewer than the Kansas sentencing guidelines recommended, according to The Kansas City Star.
“I do find that the victims in this case, in particular, were more an aggressor than a participant in the criminal conduct,” Gibbens said in court. “They were certainly selling things monetarily that it’s against the law for even an adult to sell.”
Soden solicited the young teens over the internet and then paid them for sexual favors after they came to his house.
One of the victims reportedly told authorities she felt “uncomfortable” about a time where the two had physical contact with one another.
But Gibbens questioned the prosecutor about how uncomfortable she could have felt since she voluntarily took her top off and was paid for it.
“Yes, judge. She was also a 13-year-old who under our laws can’t consent to anything,” Leavenworth Deputy County Attorney Joan Lowdon said at the December sentencing.
The judge, however, questioned the type of harm the victim suffered during the incidents.
“I wonder what kind of trauma there really was to the victim under those peculiar circumstances,” he said.
Lowdon had argued for a sentence of 13 years for Soden, who also has past convictions for battery and sexual battery. His attorney, Clinton Lee, had advocated for probation for his client.
Under the Kansas law, for a judge to go against the sentencing guidelines there must be “substantial and compelling reasons,” the local paper reports.
Gibbens said his reasoning for the decision to reduce the sentence stemmed from evidence that showed the two teens had voluntarily gone to the man’s house and had been paid for the acts.
Soden pleaded guilty to the solicitation charge in August, KAKE reported.
The sentencing has sparked criticism from Kansas City area child advocates as well as the Leavenworth County prosecutor’s office, who said they may appeal the judge’s sentence.
“We have looked into filing an appeal, but we have not made a decision,” Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson told The Star. “We always try to zealously advocate for the victims and community safety in every case we pursue.”
Michelle Herman, president and CEO of Sunflower House, a child advocacy center, described the teens in the incident as victims, not aggressors.
“Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what the girls did or didn’t do, he is still the adult and nobody deserves to be taken advantage of sexually.”
[Photo: Kansas Department of Corrections]
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