A US judge has been heavily criticised for his decision to substantially reduce the sentence of a convicted paedophile because he "didn't intend to harm" his three-year-old victim.
Californian judge M. Marc Kelly claimed to the court that sentencing 20-year-old Kevin Jonas Rojano-Nieto to the minimum 25 years in prison for sexually assaulting a three-year-old child would constitute “cruel and unusual punishment”. The minimum punishment for this crime is 25 years to life in state prison, while the maximum sentence is 33 years to life.
In a nine-page analysis Judge Kelly defended his decision to reduce Rojano-Nieto’s sentence claiming the man, 19 years old at the time of the assault and trial, “did not appear to consciously intend to harm (the victim) when he sexually assaulted her.”
The judge’s decision has not been well-received.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has confirmed he will appeal the decision, telling reporters: “This is a horrendous crime ad one deserving of the punishment outlined in law.”
Meanwhile, online petitions calling for Judge Kelly’s resignation have mushroomed. Since the court decision earlier this week, a change.org petition has garnered over 32,000 signatures.
Numerous Facebook groups presently advocate for Judge Kelly’s removal over the case.
Rojano-Nieto was convicted of sodomising and committing a lewd act on a three-year-old female girl after she strayed into his Santa Ann garage last year on 3 June while he played a computer game.
As the child’s mother searched for her, Rojano-Nieto locked the garage doors and placed his hands over the three-year-old’s mouth to prevent her cries from reaching her parent.
The child left after Rojano-Nieto, who suffers from psychological issues stemming from growing up in a dysfunctional and abusive family, had unlocked the door.
Her injuries were discovered moments later after she complained of pain to her mother.
In the document read to the court Judge Kelly concluded although the child now appeared to be “happy and healthy” he acknowledged it was “hard to gauge” how the crime might affect her later in life.
He also noted that a court-ordered psychological examination concluded Rojano-Nieto was not a true paedophile, and a sentencing report claimed he did not pose a danger to society.
"Although serious and despicable, this does not compare to a situation where a paedophilic child predator preys on an innocent child," the judge added. "There was no violence or callous disregard for (the victim's) well-being."
Additional reporting from Associated PressReuse content