After metro judge calls child sex abuse victims ‘aggressor,’ lawmakers change sentencing guidelines

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- Kansas lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday that would prevent judges from reducing the sentences of child sex offenders because the judge deems the victim an "aggressor" in the case.

The legislation, which now heads to the governor's desk, is a direct response to comments made earlier this year by Leavenworth County Judge Michael Gibbens.

Gibbens sentenced 67-year-old Raymond Soden to five years and 10 months in prison, eight years less than what was called for under Kansas sentencing guidelines.

Judge Michael Gibbens

Sodden was convicted of using Facebook to contact the victims, ages 13 and 14, and offering them money for nude photos and sexual favors.

In his explanation, Gibbens said the teens were partly to blame for what happened to them.

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

On Wednesday, legislators voted to keep judges from being able to reduce sentences below the state guidelines by finding the victim contributed to the crime if the victim is younger than 14.

It also applies to any human trafficking case, regardless of the victim's age.

"Children don't have the mental capacity to be able to make that decision on their own," said Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson. "An adult should have the responsibility to know not to do that with a child, and the adult should be the one with the responsibility to stop that action."

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who proposed the bill, also applauded its passage.

“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. “It has been my view that Kansas law should reflect that simple principle, and I am grateful the Legislature has agreed.”

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