TOPEKA —Legislation requested Monday by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt would prevent state judges from lowering prison sentences for adult sex offenders because a child victim was an “aggressor” who contributed to the crime.
According to a media release from the Attorney General, current law allows judges to reduce the length of prison sentences – or “depart” downward from statutory sentence guidelines — by finding that the victim of certain crimes contributed to the criminal conduct by being an “aggressor.” The proposed bill would make that reason for downward departure unavailable in sex crimes when the victim is younger than 14 years and the offender is an adult. It also would make departure unavailable when human trafficking victims are involved regardless of their age.
“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 my view, the law should reflect that simple principle.”
Schmidt said the legislation was motivated by a recent decision by a Leavenworth County judge, who reduced the sentence imposed on 67-year-old Raymond Soden who was convicted of committing a sex crime against a 13-year-old girl. The reduction was based on the judge’s finding that the child victim was an “aggressor” in the crime.
Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said he disagreed with the reduced sentence but did not appeal the decision because he concluded the judge had acted within the discretion allowed by current law. Thompson said he supports the proposed new legislation.
“We are grateful to Attorney General Schmidt in recognizing this flaw in the law and working with us to immediately take action to fix it,” Thompson said. “When appealing a case we must remove the emotional component and focus solely on the legal argument. In this case we do not have the legal argument.”
The legislation was requested Monday in the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.