California has recently championed criminal justice reforms to reduce punishment for nonviolent offenders. These actions made legislatively and through ballot measures are meant to mainly reduce the prison population and release the tax burden on Californian's. Some of us worked on campaigns in the past few years to make sure that a person who committed a nonviolent felony did not get the same punishment as someone who committed a violent felony.
With these reforms I thought something shifted in California. But unfortunately, some things don't change. What hasn’t changed as quickly as we’d like are the hearts and minds of those in power that can still make decisions that reduce justice to a four letter word.
Orange County Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly decided to give Kevin Jonas Rojano-Nieto, 20, a reduced sentence after he was found guilty of sodomizing a 3-year old girl.
Judge Kelly told the wire service that “Mr. Rojano did not seek out or stalk (the child). He was playing video games and she wandered into the garage. He inexplicably became sexually aroused but did not appear to consciously intend to harm (the child) when he sexually assaulted her.”
This statement clearly blames the victim, a 3-year old girl, for her own sexual assault. The legality of this decision will stand unless an appeal is made. Even with objections from the prosecutor the Judge still reduced this young man’s sentence.
It’s not that I believe that incarceration for a crime is the most effective tool to create public safety and to promote rehabilitation. We expect law makers to reduce sentences and advocate for less harsh conditions of treatment of people who are nonviolent offenders. Violence is not a negotiable term that can be redefined for the convenience of a persons opinion. Sexual assault of a child or an adult is violence, period. Reducing the sentences of a violent and heinous crime of this nature slaps the child with a message. You are not valid. Your experience was not as bad as you think it was. You shouldn’t call this rape.
Rojana-Nieto was given 10 years for his assault of the 3 year old girl. His prior conviction in December 2014 of having sex with a 14 year old girl didn’t encourage the judge to consider this young man to potentially have a mental illness and/or as a threat to others. A reduced sentence for him means that he will be out before the little girl starts high school.
A reduced sentence for him means that the little girl will grow up thinking that she did something wrong. Judge Kelly should be ashamed of this decision and the various outlets for accountability should be taken in order to protect other children from further victimization.
What does this say about how we value women and girls in our society? What does this say about the use of discretion in sexual assault cases? What does this say about the protection of victims/survivors?
The judge stated that “there was no violence or callous disregard for (the victim’s) well-being.” When was child sexual abuse not violence?
Judge Kelly’s decision is classic minimization of sexual abuse of women, girls, and especially children.