Friday, May 1, 2009

A Mom's Failure to Protect

I was in Judge Jenifer Davis' courtroom this morning for the sentencing hearing of Floyd Anderson (2008CF10385), a man who pled in February to the charge of Attempted Sexual Battery of a Child Under 12 Years of Age. In exchange for the plea, the State dropped a charge of Lewd/Lascivious Molestation of a Child Under 12. Last week, Mr. Anderson attempted to have his plea withdrawn, but Judge Davis refused to grant his motion. Mr. Anderson was supported today by approximately a dozen members of his family, some long-time friends, and the victim's mother (who actually walked in on him when he was assaulting her daughter!). Several supporters, including the victim's mother, asked the judge for leniency. Two young girls (one was his 11-year old niece) submitted letters on his behalf for the judge to read. The defense admitted that Mr. Anderson was severely intoxicated at the time of the offense and asserted that this incident was a one-time occurrence. He characterized the defendant's actions as having made a "mistake" while drunk. Numerous mitigating factors were presented in an effort to convince Judge Davis to go easy on him. He faced up to 20 years in prison.

For today's hearing, Assistant State Attorney William Busch had previously agreed to not present testimony or argument for a lengthy sentence, which utterly baffled me. I later learned that the victim's mother had threatened to "disappear" with her daughter in order to thwart the State's efforts to prosecute this man whom the victim called "Uncle." In researching Mr. Floyd's record, I learned that this was not a one-time incident, but that 2 counts of Sexual Activity With a Child were dropped in 2004 because of victim unwillingness to prosecute - a common situation that prosecutors face. I understand that there a numerous reasons why victims don't want to prosecute - most often they're either afraid of retaliation from the perpetrator or they're afraid of the court system.

Judge Davis told the defendant that she was fully prepared to sentence him to 20 years incarceration + 10 years sex offender probation before this hearing. She commented that in all her experience, both as an attorney and as a judge, she had never seen such a good job of mitigating factors presented. The overwhelming support for the defendant made a difference. She told him that the biggest thing that hurt him legally was his actions and his admissions and that he should not blame anyone for the 78-month sentence she imposed. She declared him to be a sexual predator, ordered 10 years of sex offender probation with electronic monitoring, and alcohol evaluation/treatment were ordered. She also told him that he was not to be in the presence of children if he was impaired (I guess she doesn't expect alcohol treatment to be effective).

I am appalled that the mother of this child worked against the State to this degree. My heart goes out to this child, who was not present today, that her mother valued her friendship with Mr. Anderson more than she valued her daughter's (or other girls') well being. Perhaps she should be charged with failure to protect by DCF, but that's unlikely. In spite of the circumstances, I am perplexed that the State agreed to not present argument or testimony in this hearing. Mr. Busch appeared to be frustrated with the situation to a degree I've not seen before.

Finally, I am glad that there are minimum guidelines in place for sentencing, otherwise Mr. Anderson might have been held even less accountable than he was for his actions.

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