Government & Politics

Kansas Legislature OKs law to stop repeat of Leavenworth judge child ‘aggressor’ case

The Kansas Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would prevent judges from reducing the sentences of child sex offenders because their victims are “aggressors” or participants.

The measure came after the Kansas City Star reported in February that a Leavenworth County judge reduced a 67-year-old man’s prison sentence because he thought the 13 and 14-year-old girls the offender contacted over the internet and paid for sex were aggressors in the encounter.

Judge Michael Gibbens sentenced Raymond Soden to five years and 10 months in prison, eight years less than state sentencing guidelines called for.

“I do find that the victims in this case, in particular, were more an aggressor than a participant in the criminal conduct,” Gibbens said before sentencing Soden. “They were certainly selling things monetarily that it’s against the law for even an adult to sell.”

Under current Kansas law judges can stray from sentencing guidelines when there are “substantial and compelling reasons.” Whether a victim is an aggressor or participant in a crime is included on a nonexclusive list of circumstances judges are allowed to reconsider sentencing for.

The recently approved measure prohibits judges from reducing sentences because a victim is a participant or aggressor in a sexually violent crime or electronic solicitation when the victim is under 14 years old and the offender is 18 or older.

It also says the sentence cannot be reduced because of a victim’s role if the offender offered to pay them.

The bill was approved by the Kansas House last month and needs Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s signature before taking effect.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt applauded the adoption of the measure in a news release Wednesday.

“No matter the child’s behavior, child victims are not responsible for the criminal conduct of adults who commit sex crimes against them,” Schmidt said in the release. “It has been my view that Kansas law should reflect that simple principle, and I am grateful the Legislature has agreed.”

Schmidt pushed for a law preventing these rulings in February but it was rejected by a House committee. The measure was ultimately added into a separate bill on sentence diversions which was approved by both chambers of the Kansas legislature.

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