Judge criticized for comments may retire

LEAVENWORTH — A Leavenworth County judge who drew criticism for comments he made during a 2018 sentencing hearing may retire next year.

District Judge Michael Gibbens said Monday that he is thinking about retirement.

“I may be retiring this spring,” Gibbens said.

He made the comment in court during a hearing.

Gibbens previously drew criticism when he said he considered an underage girl an aggressor in the case of a man who was being sentenced for a charge of electronic solicitation. The girl had been identified as a victim in the case.

Gibbens sentenced Raymond E. Soden to five years and 10 months in prison on Dec. 4, 2018.

Soden had pleaded no contest to the electronic solicitation charge Aug. 21, 2018. The crime had occurred earlier that year and involved communication Soden reportedly had with a 13-year-old girl through Facebook Messenger, according to a news release from County Attorney Todd Thompson.

Gibbens found that underage girls associated with the case were aggressors, and this was cited among the factors for the sentencing departure.

“I do find that the victims in this case, in particular, were more an aggressor than a participant in the criminal conduct,” Gibbens said, according to a transcript of the Dec. 4, 2018, hearing.

State law at the time allowed judges to reduce the length of prison sentences by finding victims of certain crimes contributed to the criminal conduct by being an aggressor.

Earlier this year, state legislators changed the law to eliminate this as a mitigating factor in cases of sexually violent crimes or electronic solicitation involving victims who are younger than 14 and offenders who are adults.