Lucky day in court: Judge Michael Gibbens claimed that the two girls, 13 and 14, were partially to blame for Raymond Soden [photo], 67, soliciting them for sex because they went to his house voluntarily and accepted payment for sex
Kansas judge Michael Gibbens is under fire after he called two girls aged 13 and 14 the ‘aggressors’ in the case of a 67-year-old sex offender who solicited them for sex.
Leavenworth County District Judge Michael Gibbens reduced the prison sentence for Raymond Soden, who was found guilty for paying the young girls for sex.
Soden was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison, which was eight years less than what the state recommends in its sentencing guidelines.
Gibbens held the two girls partially responsible for the incident because they went to Soden’s house voluntarily and accepted payment for sex.
‘I do find that the victims in this case, in particular, were more an aggressor than a participant in the criminal conduct,’ he said before sentencing Soden.
‘They were certainly selling things monetarily that it’s against the law for even an adult to sell.’
Soden was charged last year with electronic solicitation after he exchanged Facebook messages with the 13-year-old girl, offering to pay for nude photos and sex acts from her and the 14-year-old.
He later told police he knew the girl was 13 and that what he was doing was wrong, according to the Kansas City Star.
Soden pled no contest to the solicitation charge and was found guilty in August.
Due to his previous criminal convictions for battery and sexual battery, prosecutors asked that Soden be sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Kansas law states that a judge must find ‘substantial and compelling reasons’ to depart from sentencing guidelines.
Gibbens, 68, believed such a reason was the fact that the young girls had voluntarily gone to Soden’s house and taken money for sex.
Soden had known the girls’ mother and paid her for chores around his house, according to the Kansas City Star.
He then met her older daughter, who he described as the ‘pimp’ for her younger sisters. It was this older sister who arranged for the girls to meet with Sodden.
The judge took those things into consideration in the sentencing and cited other factors, including Soden’s age, poor physical health and low intellectual functioning.
Gibbens said he didn’t believe the girls suffered much trauma as they hadn’t appeared in court to speak at the sentencing
According to a statement the younger girl gave to 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?” Judge Gibbens asked the prosecutor.
“Yes, judge. She was also a 13-year-old who under our laws can’t consent to anything,” said Lowdon, 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.”
At the sentencing hearing, the judge said he was “pretty familiar” with the girls already and that, based on what he knew about them, he believed it was possible that they could have set Soden up to be robbed.
The judge said the case was “bizarre” and “unfathomable,” and that the girls, particularly the youngest, were in a vulnerable situation.He also said that the fact that the girls did not appear in court to speak at the sentencing was one of the reasons he believed that they didn’t suffer the level of harm typically seen in such cases.
During the sentencing, Gibbens said he believed the girls might have tried to set Soden up to be robbed.
He also said he didn’t believe the girls suffered much trauma as they hadn’t appeared in court to speak at the sentencing.
‘I think that a 13-year-old who offered what she offered for money is certainly an aggressor, particularly since she’s the one that had to travel to Mr Soden,’ judge Gibbens said.
Now prosecutors and child victim advocates are speaking out against Gibbens and looking into filing an appeal.
‘These girls are minors and are the victims, not the aggressors,’ said Michelle Herman, president and CEO of child advocacy center the Sunflower House.
‘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.’