A Kansas judge has come under fire after reportedly suggesting that two underage girls were “more of an aggressor” than the 67-year-old man who paid to have sex with them.
From The Kansas City Star, Judge Michael Gibbens reduced Raymond Soden’s prison sentence from 13 years to five years and 10 months, saying the two victims—ages 13 and 14—bore part of the blame because they voluntarily went to his home and accepted money to perform sex acts. Soden had met the girls and solicited sex from them over the internet.
“I do find that the victims in this case, in particular, were more an aggressor than a participant in the criminal conduct,” Gibbens opined during the December 4 sentencing hearing. “They were certainly selling things monetarily that it’s against the law for even an adult to sell.”
The Star reported that Soden pleaded guilty to felony electronic solicitation in August. Soden admitted in court to soliciting the 13-year-old girl over Facebook in January 2018. Prosecutors said he contacted her and a 14-year-old girl and offered them money for sex, according to NBC News.
Prosecutors pushed for the 13-year sentence, noting that he had prior convictions for battery and sexual battery. The district attorney also challenged Gibbens’ assertion that the victims “voluntarily” agreed to sex.
“Yes, judge. She was also a 13-year-old who under our laws can’t consent to anything,” Leavenworth County Deputy Attorney Joan Lowdon said.
After saying he understood Lowdon’s point, Gibbens said the girls not appearing in court to speak during sentencing indicated they weren’t traumatized by the abuse.
“I wonder what kind of trauma there really was to this victim under those peculiar circumstances,” he mused.
The Star reported that the judge also considered Soden’s age, poor health, and low intellectual capacity when handing down the controversial sentence.
On Monday, Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson told NBC that prosecutors ate exploring appealing the sentence and are determining whether Gibbens adequately explained why he deviated from sentencing guidelines.
[Featured image: Michael Gibbens/Leavenworth County Bar Association; Raymond Soden/Leavenworth County Jail]