A Kansas judge has come under fire for calling 13- and 14-year-old girls the “aggressors” in a sexual abuse case involving a 67-year-old man, the Kansas City Star is reporting. Judge Michael Gibbens also cited the girls’ “aggression” in giving Raymond Soden a significantly reduced sentence.
Between January and March of 2018, as the Kansas City Star reported in August 2018, Soden made contact with the 13-year-old girl on Facebook, soliciting sexual favors from her in exchange for money. Specifically, Soden offered to pay the girl for nude photos of her and her friends as well as sex acts with her and her friends.
It wasn’t a random encounter; Soden knew the girl’s mother, whom he paid to do chores around his house. Soden also knew that the mother had daughters, the oldest of whom acted as a “pimp” for her younger sisters, including the 13-year-old and a 14-year-old.
At one or more points during 2018, Soden, through the older sister, arranged for the two younger girls to come to his house for sex. The girls came to the home voluntarily and accepted the money, and indeed, Soden’s defense attorney claimed that they were so cavalier about the whole situation that they even attempted to set up a robbery.
Here’s a photo of Leavenworth Judge Michael Gibbens. Vote him out. pic.twitter.com/LDkmTyKfeO
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If the girls were harmed by the experience, Gibbens wasn’t seeing it.
“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.”
In sentencing Soden, Gibbens cited the girls’ “voluntary” visit (or visits) to his home, the attempted robbery, the fact that the girls didn’t show up to any of his court hearings, and other factors including Soden’s age, physical health, and limited mental capacity.
Gibbens sentenced Soden to five years and 10 months in prison; eight years less than what was called for in Kansas sentencing guidelines.
Child sex abuse advocates are decrying the decision.
Michelle Herman, president and CEO of Sunflower House, says that teenagers cannot legally consent to sex, not in Kansas or anywhere else, and that these girls are the victims in this case, despite the circumstances.
“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.”
Similarly, Harleigh Harrold, a prevention coordinator for the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, says via WPTV (West Palm Beach) that Soden took advantage of the girls.
“It doesn’t mean those children are at fault in any way or have to opportunity to consent in a relationship with an adult.”
Prosecutors say they are considering filing an appeal to seek a longer sentence for Soden.