Government & Politics

Kansas prohibits lower sentences in sex crimes based on children as ‘aggressors’

Judges in Kansas can no longer reduce sentences of child sex offenders because they believe the victims are “aggressors” or participants.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed Senate Bill 18 Monday after it was passed by the Kansas Legislature earlier this month.

The bill, which primarily deals with sentence diversions, also prohibits judges from straying from sentencing guidelines to reduce sentences for sexually violent crimes when the victim is an aggressor or participant in the act, if that victim is younger than 14 years old and the offender is 18 or older.

It also prevents sentence reductions if the offender offered to pay the victim.

The measure was prompted by a Kansas City Star report 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.

“Judges must interpret and apply the law with common sense and an understanding of the real world, especially in child sex crime cases,” Kelly said in a news release Wednesday.

“I was deeply troubled when a Kansas judge viewed a child victim as an aggressor when an adult commits a sex crime. I’m pleased to sign this bill eliminating the ability to reduce sentences for sex crimes in these cases.”

In the case referenced by Kelly, Judge Michael Gibbens sentenced Raymond Soden to five years and 10 months in prison, eight years fewer than called for by state sentencing guidelines.

He said that in part because the children were “selling things monetarily that’s it’s against the law for even an adult to sell” they were aggressors in the incident.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.