Prosecutors are researching an appeal after a Kansas judge found that a 13- and 14-year-old girl were partly to blame for a sexual encounter with a 67-year-old man and reduced his prison sentence.
The Kansas City Star reports that Leavenworth County District Judge Michael Gibbens said that “the victims in this case, in particular, were more an aggressor than a participant in the criminal conduct” before sentencing Raymond Soden to five years and 10 months in prison. Prosecutors sought 13-plus years because Soden had prior convictions for battery and for sexual battery.
In ordering a lighter prison term than what sentencing guidelines called for, the judge noted at the Dec. 4 hearing that the two girls had voluntarily gone to Soden’s house and had taken money for sexual favors.
The sentenced imposed was eight years less than what was called for in Kansas sentencing guidelines.
The judge even questioned how much the victims were harmed, referencing a statement where the younger girl told authorities she felt “uncomfortable” about an incident where there had been physical contact.
“And so she’s uncomfortable for something she voluntarily went to, voluntarily took her top off of, and was paid for?” Gibbens asked.
“Yes, judge. She was also a 13-year-old who under our laws can’t consent to anything,” said the prosecutor handling the case.
The judge said he understood that, but told the prosecutor, “I wonder what kind of trauma there really was to this victim under those peculiar circumstances.”
The notion of the victims being referred to as “aggressors” has drawn outrage.
“These girls are minors, and are the victims, not the aggressors,” said Michelle Herman, president and CEO of Sunflower House, a child advocacy center. “Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter what the girls did or didn’t do, he is still the adult and nobody deserves to be taken advantage of sexually.”