It’s not uncommon to hear criticism about our justice system’s lenient treatment of the perpetrators of sexual assault and related crimes, no matter how wrong their actions or how obvious their guilt. This has been taken to a striking new level in Iowa, where nineteen-year-old Kraigen Grooms has been handed a lenient sentence for raping a two-year-old, filming it, and streaming it online to a child pornography website.
The judge gave Grooms a suspended sentence of ten years and five years of supervised release. A suspended sentence, for reference, is when someone is found guilty and then put on a period of extended probation without ever having to go to prison. If they don’t break the law that anyone hears about in that time, the sentence is dismissed. Grooms will also have to register as a sex offender. Other than that, he has essentially gotten off without punishment.
There is evidence that Grooms was planning to assault a second child. Despite the ample explicit evidence of his other crime and that he was planning another one, the judge accepted it when Grooms plead guilty to the relatively minor offense of engaging in a lascivious act with a child.
In 2013 Grooms, who is now 19, literally raped a baby. This is not okay. This is neither moral in the eyes of society nor legal in the eyes of the law. Yet the man isn’t being punished as either a rapist or a child pornographer, of which he is both. Originally, Grooms faced up to twenty-five years in prison for being charged with felony sex abuse. There is a petition on whitehouse.gov asking that the judge who decided Grooms’ negligible sentence, Randy DeGeest, be fired.
The Grooms case is not an outlier in a general trend of individuals who commit sexual assault being lightly punished by the law, let off entirely, or never tried in the first place, even when the facts of a case are very clear and the incident draws a lot of attention from the public eye. Incidents that don’t have either of these things going for them have very little hope of being resolved satisfactorily at all. The glacial three-year turnover on Grooms’ case is also typical of sexual assault cases.