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Archive for Monday, June 30, 2008

Sex-crime sentences criticized

Shawnee County judge goes light on offenders

June 30, 2008

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— A 75-year-old man who pleaded guilty to having sex with children has been sentenced to probation instead of prison time by a judge who has already been heavily criticized for granting lighter sentences for similar crimes.

Shawnee County District Court Judge Matthew Dowd on Friday sentenced Harold Dean Spencer to two counts of sex with children, ages 6 and 7, prosecutors said.

A new state law going into effect July 1 might have prevented Dowd from granting the probation terms.

District Attorney Robert Hecht said he plans to appeal the sentence and another similar case Dowd decided earlier in the week.

Hecht said that Kansas statutes, patterned after the national "Jessica's Law," call for a life sentence on each count for Spencer.

Dowd instead ordered a 36-month supervised parole period. Dowd listed a number of factors in his decision including Spencer's age, the lack of a prior criminal record and the availability of family support.

"I have never seen, nor am I aware of any case, anywhere, where the proscribed sentences are two life sentences and the court grants three years of low-level probation," Hecht said.

On Tuesday, Dowd departed downward from sentencing guidelines in a case against Christopher Henderson-Brown, a 32-year-old man convicted of the rape of a 5-year-old child. In that case Dowd gave a sentence of 155 months, lower than the recommended 166 to 186 months.

"The attack was so violent and so egregious that multiple doctors and surgery were required to reconstruct and repair the physical damage done to this 5-year-old," Hecht wrote in a statement released Friday.

Hecht said the reason for the appeal was that Dowd said he wanted Henderson-Brown to "see light at the end of the tunnel."

Ashley Anstaett, spokeswoman for the Kansas attorney general's office, said it appears to some of the AG's legal staff that a new state law going into effect July 1 might have prevented Dowd from giving probation in the Spencer case.

But Anstaett said the AG office couldn't make a definitive statement without more time to research the question and case.

In 2007, Dowd was criticized for three cases in which he departed from state sentencing guidelines to allow probation rather than prison time for men convicted of sex crimes.

State Rep. Joe Patton, R-Topeka, who sponsored the new law after learning of Dowd's 2007 sentencing decisions, was upset Friday, saying, "That's outrageous. The community should be outraged."

The law would allow judges to depart downward from the guidelines in cases of violent sexual crimes, but by no more than half the recommended sentences.

A group of residents said they plan to protest Monday outside the Shawnee County Courthouse.

"We want to show our outrage over Judge Dowd's continued easy sentencing," said protest organizer Monica Brede.

Dowd has announced he will retire Sept. 1 after 31 years as a district court judge.

Comments

Satirical 6 years, 5 months ago

b3...It seems prudent be concerned when crazy people attempt to make laws (whether those laws affect you or not).

Confrontation 6 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like he might be Paula Martin's buddy.

Satirical 6 years, 5 months ago

Does anyone know if in Shawnee County the Judge's are appointed or elected?Judge Dowd is a disgrace. His decisions on this issue are revolting.

tinlizzy 6 years, 5 months ago

"A 75-year-old man who pleaded guilty to having sex with children has been sentenced to probation...."Editors of the LJ-World: Grown men do not "have sex" with 6 and 7 year olds. They rape them. Children cannot give consent. Get it right.

Baille 6 years, 5 months ago

"Dowd instead ordered a 36-month supervised parole period."That's BS. Anyone criminal appellate types have any insight on the likelihood of this being remedied?

Beth Bird 6 years, 5 months ago

tinlizzy - I love your statement! No one else has said it better.This case is a huge injustice to those victims and the citizens in Topeka. How does one go about replacing a judge?

R8RH8RHENDO 6 years, 5 months ago

Its wrong to take it easy on him because of his age. Throw the book at him.

Satirical 6 years, 5 months ago

dandelion...I was being facetious."Yes, but murder is still illegal, even if they do deserve it"We should just do what liberals do when they want to change a law, get some judge to redefine the law as written. "Murder" no longer includes killing a child rapist. Then it will no longer be illegal.

Satirical 6 years, 5 months ago

b3...."The death sentence should be mandatory for all sex crimes."Okay, that comment is a little bit crazy.

Satirical 6 years, 5 months ago

duplenty..."If you commit a sex crime against a child, you should be killed posthaste, after the castration."This is the real reason the Supreme Court recently secured for individuals the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

dandelion 6 years, 5 months ago

Satirical (Anonymous) says:duplenty:"If you commit a sex crime against a child, you should be killed posthaste, after the castration."This is the real reason the Supreme Court recently secured for individuals the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms.Yes, but murder is still illegal, even if they do deserve it.

Catbacker 6 years, 5 months ago

75-year-old pleads guilty to having sex with a 6 and 7-year-old. He should die in prison.

Baille 6 years, 5 months ago

"He has no value for our world."Wow. If that's the standard for state-sanctioned murder, we are going to need more trees.

DBAWalt 6 years, 5 months ago

Cut'n'paste from the story:"Shawnee County District Court Judge Matthew Dowd on Friday sentenced Harold Dean Spencer to two counts of sex with children, ages 6 and 7, prosecutors said."Real fine reporting there, AP and LJWorld - unless he really WAS sentenced to "two counts of sex with children", in which case there is something terribly wrong with the legal system.Personally, I think LJWorld is quilty of very poor reporting or editing.Supprize.

acg 6 years, 5 months ago

This makes me so mad. This pos should've been immediately taken to the gallows after sentencing. He has no value for our world. Take him off of it. And that judge needs his a** kicked up over his shoulder blades.

eclaire 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm sad for the families who's children were affected. Kids who suffer through molestation often wonder what they did wrong, if the adult isn't punished doesn't that make it appear to those children that what happened to them was ok?I think it's awful, maybe someone ought to check out the judge's basement to make sure he's not participating in these crimes against children.

Ceallach 6 years, 5 months ago

36 months of supervised parole . . . looks like he'd be afraid to step out of his house (or stand in front of windows) from his release date forward. He'd be safer in prison.

Rationalanimal 6 years, 5 months ago

This is an absolute abomination. Dowd should be thrown off the bench and shunned from society for the absolute spineless coward he is. This man, whom the people of Kansas look to protect their children from the ilk of society, has fundamentally failed to fulfill his oath and duty as a judge.The blood falls to the Kansas Legislature or Kansas Supreme Court if Dowd is allowed to retire to term. Where does our Governor stand, where does our legislature stand, where does our judiciary stand? Children were raped by this vile man who is not fit to be classified as a human. Shame on our leaders if they do nothing and allow this to stand. Should they do nothing the miscarriage of justice falls to them. There is absolutely no excuse.

Danielle Brunin 6 years, 5 months ago

"Dowd listed a number of factors in his decision including Spencer's age, the lack of a prior criminal record and the availability of family support."I sincerely hope that his "family support" doesn't include any children, or the children that he raped.As for the other man, I am not an advocate for the death penalty in most cases, but to brutalize a 5-year old child the way he did calls for extreme punishment. There is no way that kind of predator could possibly be rehabilitated.

supernik 6 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Beth Bird 6 years, 5 months ago

Baille - I understand the the typical process is to vote a judge out. What I meant was is there a way to have a judge removed before their term is completed?

Buggie7 6 years, 5 months ago

thats not exactly "the light at the end of the tunnel" that this guy needs to be seeing. Wow and I thought Douglas Co were the only ones that give them a slap on the wrists and give em permission to go out and do it again. There are those that even plead guilty and not just for the first time either and still they receive light calls from the judge. Well as someone said in a earlier post just give them probation and send them to live in SE Lawrence. Thats where most of them seem to be if you look on the offender map and I know one for a fact that is there. There is no accountability. Most of them claim mental illness which is a crock. Of course they have a mental illness THEY LIKE CHILDREN in a sexual manner. Sad thing is is most of these children after being touched or molested have to live in their own personal prisons for the rest of thier lives due to someones so called "mental illness"

TopJayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

I haven't read any of the comments on this article yet. I just want to say that the Judge has been an embarrassment here for quite some time. He has also done this before. He is retiring this fall, and it can't be soon enough. He is a doddering old fool (in my opinion) who is out of touch and doesn't care what anyone thinks. I never vote to retain any judge. Judges have way too much power to have that power for too long. I urge all voters to always vote against sitting judges. It's the only way to fight this sort of arrogence.

Sigmund 6 years, 5 months ago

happypill4014 (Anonymous) says: "I understand the the typical process is to vote a judge out. What I meant was is there a way to have a judge removed before their term is completed?"Article 3, Section 15: Removal of justices and judges. Justices of the supreme court may be removed from office by impeachment and conviction as prescribed in article 2 of this constitution. In addition to removal by impeachment and conviction, justices may be retired after appropriate hearing, upon certification to the governor, by the supreme court nominating commission that such justice is so incapacitated as to be unable to perform adequately his duties. Other judges shall be subject to retirement for incapacity, and to discipline, suspension and removal for cause by the supreme court after appropriate hearing.http://www.kslib.info/constitution/art3.html

Buggie7 6 years, 5 months ago

thats all they get is probation and sent back to the same damn counselors that they had before. If they do it again then well theres more probation time and back to the same counselors again. We are teaching or rather the judges are teaching these perverts that its ok to do these things to our children cause even if you do it again your just going to get a little more probation. They keep doing it because there are no consequences for their actions so it basically gives them permission to go out and do it again and hope like hell they find a child they can threaten or scare enough (or heaven forbid getting them to believed that is how you show real love like some do) that will not tell on them or show the emotional distress signs to parents or therapists. If these judges or family members who are backing up these predators think they are safe to be out on our streets let me ask them this- Would you let him/her babysit or be around your children. If they are so safe then why not? That was a hypothetical ? however if these judges believe they are not out doing it again and again they are so wrong cause they are they are just getting better at not getting caught. They also figure if they do oh well thats more probation time. For every seperate case its more probation time. They dont take the other cases in mind when making their rulings. I have been at the hearings I have seen the proof, I have heard the guilty pleas and the comments about how they have a mental problem. Then they walk out.

Rationalanimal 6 years, 5 months ago

This is what happens when liberals like Sebellius govern a state--human embryo's that survive Tiller-the-Hun and make it to full term are raped at that age of 5 or 6, their perpetrators are either shielded by a liberal Supreme Court or given probation. Throw the corrupt politicians ilk out like Sebellius and MacFarland that protect their own kind who devestate the lives of children. This is an outrage. Conveniently this story got buried on the LJWorld site.

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