Kansas bill says child can't be 'aggressor' in abuse cases

The Kansas Senate has approved a bill that would prevent judges from lowering sentences for child sex offenders if they think the victims were willing participants in the crime

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Kansas lawmakers approved a bill designed to prevent judges from lowering sentences for child sex offenders if they think the victims were willing participants in the crime.

The state Senate gave its approval Wednesday to the measure, which was introduced after a Leavenworth County judge in February lowered the sentence of 67-year-old Raymond Soden because he thought the 13- and 14-year-old girls that Soden contacted over the internet were aggressors.

"I do find that the victims in this case, in particular, were more an aggressor than a participant in the criminal conduct," Judge Michael Gibbens said before sentencing Soden. "They were certainly selling things monetarily that it's against the law for even an adult to sell."

Current state law gives judges discretion in sentencing when there are "substantial or compelling" reasons, including if the victim was an aggressor or participant.

The new bill prohibits judges from reducing sentences if they consider a victim is a participant or aggressor in a sexually violent crime or electronic solicitation when the victim is under 14 and the offender is 18 or older, The Kansas City Star reported . It also prohibits a sentence reduction if the offender offered to pay the victim.

The House approved the bill earlier and it now goes to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

"Judges must interpret and apply the law with common sense and an understanding of the real world, especially in child sex crime cases," Kelly said in a statement Thursday. "I was deeply troubled that any Kansas judge would view a child victim as an aggressor when an adult commits a sex crime. I look forward to reviewing this legislation when it hits my desk."

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who had pushed for such a law, applauded the Legislature's action.

"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 a news release Wednesday. "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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This story has been corrected to correct the spelling of Judge Gibbens' last name.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com