Prosecutors in Kansas are considering appealing a judge’s sentencing decision, after he called the teen victims of a sex crime the “aggressor” in the case.
Leavenworth County District Court Judge Michael Gibbens was weighing the case of Raymond Soden, a 67-year-old man convicted of using social media to solicit sex from minors.
Authorities said Soden communicated with two sisters, ages 13 and 14, through Facebook and offered them money in exchange for nude photos, CNN affiliate KCTV reported.
Gibbens said the teen girls were partially at fault.
“I do find that the victims in this case in particular were more an aggressor than a participant in the criminal conduct. They were certainly selling things monetarily that it’s against the law for even an adult to sell,” Gibbens said during a sentencing hearing in December, according to a court transcript.
CNN has reached out to Gibbens for comment and has not heard back.
The judge sentenced Soden to five years and 10 months in prison — a considerably shorter term than the state sentencing guidelines’ standard of 14 years and 8 months. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of more than 13 years in prison.
Under the state’s sentencing guidelines, a judge is allowed to chose a lower punishment if there are “substantial and compelling reasons” to do it and if the “victim was an aggressor or participant” in the crime.
During the hearing, the judge said Soden is physically and mentally impaired, is of an advanced age and lacks “substantial capacity for judgment,” according to the transcript.
After Gibbens announced the sentence, a prosecutor asked him to clarify why he referred to the victims as the aggressor.
“Yes. I think that a 13-year-old who offers what she offered for money is certainly an aggressor,” Gibbens responded.
Julie Donelon, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Organization to Count Sexual Assault, rejected Gibbens’ comments about the girls.
“Clearly 13- and 14-year-old children cannot be aggressors. Children do not have the capacity to consent, and I think we need to make that very clear,” Donelon told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.
“We understand as a society that it’s never the victim’s fault,” she added.
Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said Wednesday that prosecutors are mulling over an appeal for Soden’s sentence.
“There were a lot of other factors like mental capacity and age and health,” Thompson said. “(A)n appeal is about law, not emotion — so we have to take out the comments and think about the other factors.”
Soden remains in custody at El Dorado Correctional Facility near Wichita, Kansas, with the earliest possible release date of March 3, 2023, according to online records with the Kansas Department of Corrections.