Judge calls girls, 13 and 14, 'aggressor' in sentencing 67-year-old man in sex abuse case
A Kansas judge issues a lighter sentence to a 67-year-old man involved in a sex case with two teenage girls after calling the victims the "aggressor."
When Raymond Soden pleaded no contest to soliciting a 13-year-old on Facebook, the 67-year-old man admitted to knowing the girl's age when he began messaging her. Still, he offered her money for nude photographs and sexual acts.
But when a Kansas judge sentenced Soden in December, the official said that the 13-year-old and another girl, age 14, were “more an aggressor than a participant," according to court transcripts cited by The Kansas City Star and NBC News.
“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,” said Leavenworth County District Judge Michael Gibbens, per the Star.
The judge sentenced Soden to five years, 10 months in prison – eight years less than what's called for in the state's sentencing guidelines.
Departing from those guidelines requires "substantial and compelling reasons" under law, the newspaper reported. Among Gibbens' reasons: The teens voluntarily went to Soden's house and took money for sexual favors, he said.
The judge also questioned whether the girls suffered significant harm since they did not appear at Soden's sentencing.
Gibbens also said he was "pretty familiar" with the girls and believed they possibly could have set Soden up to be robbed, per the Star, which reported Soden was found guilty of electronic solicitation, a felony, in August.
USA TODAY has reached out to Gibbens for comment.
Michelle Herman, CEO of a Kansas-based child advocacy center called Sunflower House, said Soden should be held responsible.
“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,” she said.
Soden had prior convictions for battery and for sexual battery, Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said in a news release last year.
Thompson told NBC News this week that prosecutors are considering appealing the sentencing, questioning whether the judge provided "substantial, compelling" reasons for the lesser sentence.
Thirteen- and 14-year-olds can't consent to sexual relations under Kansas law, Thompson told the network.
Contributing: The Associated Press