A Shawnee County District Court judge has notified attorneys she is considering placing a 25-year-old man on probation rather than sentencing him to more than four years in prison for attempted solicitation via computer of a 13-year-old girl for sex.
In reality, the “girl” was a sheriff’s deputy.
Patrick Even Johnson, a Topekan arrested during a sex sting operation last year, pleaded guilty July 6 to a felony count of attempted electronic solicitation of a child younger than 14. As part of a plea agreement, a second charge of electronic solicitation was dismissed.
Johnson was to have been sentenced Aug. 6, but District Judge Jean Schmidt notified chief deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling and defense attorney Chris Joseph of the possible downward departure. Spradling asked for a continuance to cross-examine a psychologist and forensic psychiatrist who evaluated Johnson.
The new sentencing date is Sept. 1.
Without a downward departure, Johnson, who doesn’t have any prior convictions, would face a sentence ranging from four years and seven months to five years and one month, according to the Kansas sentencing guidelines. The sentence for attempted electronic solicitation is presumptive prison and doesn’t include probation. Schmidt told attorneys she intended to “consider” whether to sentence Johnson to prison, then place him on five years of intensive supervised probation.
Presumptive prison for this offense and its assigned severity level is “unduly harsh” compared to crimes of the same level in which people are hurt or terrorized, including aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer, aggravated arson, criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied building, aggravated robbery, aggravated indecent liberties with a child and other offenses, the judge wrote.
Johnson was one of three men arrested during the Internet sting operation on Aug. 12, 13 and 14, 2009, in southeast Topeka. Two female Shawnee County sheriff’s deputies posed online as 13-year-old girls. Johnson wanted what he thought were two girls to sexually stimulate each other while he watched, according to preliminary hearing testimony.
Factors for the departure, Schmidt wrote, included:
— The degree of harm to the community was “negligible” because no inappropriate touching occurred.
— The sex solicited wasn’t violent as in intercourse, sodomy, and bondage.
— It isn’t clear Johnson intended to contact the girls because he didn’t stop at the designated meeting place.
— Johnson was a “passive participant in the ‘crime’ ” because deputies had difficulty getting him to engage in sexual conversation.
— Mental health experts said Johnson is susceptible to being induced and entrapped by officers.
— Officers had to “refocus” Johnson onto sexual topics.
— Johnson has been a “productive member” of society, working to put himself through college.
Based on the evaluation, he didn’t have any previous disposition to have sex with underage girls, his computer didn’t have underage chats on it, he doesn’t have a preoccupation with pornography and compulsive sex chats, and he has no “pedophilic sexual object choice.”
Steve Fry either can be reached at (785) 295-1206 or at [email protected].
BY STEVE FRY
THE TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL