Douglas County DA is appealing a judge’s decision to give probation to man convicted of sex crime against a minor

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Trey L. Gibson, 20, listens to a prosecutor speak during a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.

The Douglas County District Attorney’s Office is appealing a district court judge’s decision to grant probation to a man who was convicted of a sex crime against a minor.

The man, Trey L. Gibson, 20, of Lawrence, was convicted of one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and one count of felony criminal threat after he pleaded no contest to the two charges in April. As the Journal-World previously reported, Judge Stacey Donovan sentenced him on June 28 to 10.5 years in prison, but suspended his sentence to five years of probation.

The charges against Gibson stemmed from an incident in which he was accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in the back of his car at gunpoint in January 2021.

“Kansas law provides a narrow set of circumstances under which the State is authorized to appeal a district court’s rulings,” Dougas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez said in a news release Monday. “The State is exercising that statutory right and is seeking a review of this decision in the interest of justice for sexual assault survivors and community safety.”

photo by: Kansas Bureau of Investigation

Trey Lee Gibson

At the sentencing hearing, Senior Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Vrana argued that the court should follow the presumption of imprisonment, but the court departed from that presumption. He said then that the state would appeal Donovan’s decision.

Vrana pointed to Gibson’s prior cases as a juvenile and said that counting those cases, Gibson “has abused three women in this community” but had never been sentenced to prison.

“How many more must he abuse before he goes to prison?” Vrana said at the hearing.

Vrana also pointed to testimony from Gibson’s probation officer in his juvenile cases, Jennifer Hylton, who testified that she had worked with Gibson from 2018 to 2021 and that Gibson used every counseling resource that he had access to. Vrana said that those years of counseling, supervision and support from friends and family hadn’t prevented Gibson from reoffending.

At the sentencing, the judge said that Gibson’s age, mental health history and network of support were all reasons why she decided to depart from sentencing guidelines and grant him probation. She also said that his experiences as a child played a role in her decision. Trey Gibson’s adoptive father, Roger Gibson, testified that before Trey was adopted at age 5, he lived in a family where his birth mother was unable to care for him and his father ran a prostitution service out of the home.

As part of his punishment, Gibson is also required to register as a sex offender for 25 years.