Proposed Kansas bill: Child not 'aggressor' in sexual abuse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KWCH) - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is proposing new legislation that prevents judges from shortening sentences for some sex offenders.

The announcement comes a week after Leavenworth County District Judge Michael Gibbens lessened the sentence for 67-year-old Raymond Soden after he solicited sex online from 13 and 14 year old girls.

The judge said the girls contributed to the crime and went to Soden's house.

Schmidt's proposed bill would prevent judges from sentencing sex offenders to less than the Kansas guidelines when the victim is younger than 14, or anytime human trafficking victims are involved.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett thinks it's appropriate for the attorney general to step in.

Kansas law allows judges to lessen sentences for crimes. Therefore, Bennett says Gibbens was within his rights, but he doesn't want it to happen again.

"When you're talking about sex crimes victims, especially children or human trafficking victims, it does beg the question 'why is that even available to a judge?'" Bennett says.

Kathy Williams, executive director at the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center (WASAC) says the sentence in Leavenworth County is disappointing.

"That the seriousness of the crime - I feel like was not recognized and now we have to make sure it's recognized by new legislation", Williams says.

The two girls in the case are 13 and 14 years old. The legal age of consent in Kansas is 16. Williams says Soden deserves a longer sentence.

"A 67-year-old man is mature; has a decision-making process that is very different than a 13-year-old. It is not the same. He is the adult. She is the child," Williams says.

At the sentencing, Judge Gibbens cited Soden's age, poor health and limited mental capacity. He also noted that the girls did not give victim impact statements.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, you can call the WASAC crisis line at 316-263-3002 for help.
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Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt wants to change state law to prevent judges from easing sentences for adult sex offenders because a child victim is purportedly an "aggressor" in the crime.

The legislation proposed Monday was sparked by the decision of Leavenworth County Judge Michael Gibbens to give a 67-year-old man a more lenient sentence after saying the sex abuse victims, ages 13 and 14, were "more an aggressor than a participant."

READ MORE: Kansas judge calls minor in sex abuse case the 'aggressor'

State law now allows judges to reduce sentences below the guidelines by finding the victim contributed to the criminal conduct.

The proposed bill would prohibit that reasoning when the victim is younger than 14 years and the sex offender is an adult. It also would make it unavailable whenever human trafficking victims are involved regardless of their age.

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