As many who read this blog know, I agree with sentencing women who sexually abuse children the as men who commit the sex crimes. Far too often women receive few charges, more plea deals, more probation offers, more charge reductions, and smaller sentences even in cases in which they were equal participants. There is no valid reason to allow women who prey on children to receive those discounts.
That said, I also oppose overly harsh sentences for sex offenders. I do not support mandatory minimums, especially not for juvenile offenders, and I do not support other one-size-fits-all policies . These laws not only work against victims coming forwards, but they also prevent offenders who served their time and want to change from getting the opportunity to do so.
Unfortunately, those two views at times come into conflict. For instance:
A Twin Falls woman convicted of forcing a 13-year-old boy to touch her breasts was sentenced Monday to life in prison.
Michelle Lyn Taylor, 34, was convicted of lewdness with a minor under 14 in November after a week-long trial in Elko County, Nev., District Judge Mike Memeo’s courtroom.
With the conviction, Taylor faced a mandatory life sentence, and Memeo set parole eligibility after 10 years, the minimum sentence. If released on parole she must register as a sex offender and will be under lifetime supervision.
The district attorney’s office did not offer a plea agreement in the case, said public defender Alina Kilpatrick, who argued the sentence is unconstitutional and doesn’t fit the crime.
The sentence may conflict with Nevada’s and the federal constitutions. A higher court must make that decision. However, under Nevada law lewdness against children carries life, so the no one misapplied the statute. Certainly Taylor deserves to face some prison time:
Taylor, who lived in Jackpot, Nev., at the time of the crime, kissed a friend’s child, forced him to touch her breast and asked him to have sex with her in February 2008.
Taylor claimed she was intoxicated and doesn’t remember what happened that night. She told jurors she roughhoused with the boy, but didn’t force him to touch her inappropriately.
According to another article, the boy, now 15-years-old, still attends therapy. That gives some better insight into what occurred, and suggests a far less benign act than inappropriate touching.
It gets more interesting:
Elko County District Attorney Gary Woodbury said Taylor was “convicted of precisely of what she did,” and under the state’ sentencing guidelines, life in prison was mandatory.
Woodbury says Taylor did not want to negotiate a plea deal because she did not want to have to register as a sex offender.
Woodbury says Taylor felt her life would be over if she had to register (as a sex offender) so it wouldn’t matter what she was convicted of.
Taylor’s attorney, Alina Kilpatrick, claims the district attorney offered no deal. She argued why she considers the sentence unconstitutional, but in doing so she downplays the boy’s trauma:
“The jury was not allowed to know the potential sentence in this case and the Legislature doesn’t know the facts,” she said, alluding to the minimum sentence set by the Legislature in Nevada Revised Statute.
Kilpatrick said despite the parole eligibility after 10 years, there should be no mistake that it’s a life sentence for Taylor.
“She is getting a greater penalty for having a boy touch her breast than if she killed him,” she said.
She offers another interesting comparison in court, stating to the effect that Taylor received the same sentence a stepfather who masturbated in front of his stepdaughter would. It demonstrates part of the disconnect many people show when it comes to women who sexually abuse children. Watching someone masturbate may be traumatic. One could argue, however, that someone forcing a person to participate in a sex act is at least equally traumatic. Kilpatrick does not stop there. In order to support her argument she presented several examples of cases from Nevada and other states in which women who committed similar or more egregious crimes walked away with small sentences or probation.
Kilpatrick must defend her client, and she does a decent job. However, she also revealed the prevalence of the sentencing discount for women who sexually abuse children. With only a few exceptions, most of the women in the cases she cited received sentences under ten years, including those who committed child rape. Essentially, Kilpatrick argues that since other women got slaps on the wrist, her client should to.
I remain torn. One one hand Taylor’s statements and the boy’s trauma seem to justify the sentence. Likewise, Taylor will not likely spend the rest of her life in prison. Perhaps ten years at the most, assuming she wins her appeal. On the other hand, regardless of the law’s applicability, life in prison for lewdness does seem extreme.