Iowa Teen Initially Charged With Sexually Abusing A 1-Year-Old Won't Do Jail Time
An Iowa man's light sentence following a serious charge drew concern. A teen charged with sexually abusing a 1-year-old won't serve time in prison, The New York Times reported. On Monday a judge handed down "a 10-year suspended sentence" after the accused, 19-year-old Kraigen Grooms, pleaded guilty to "engaging in a lascivious act with a child."
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a call for public assistance in finding a "'John Doe' child predator" in March 2014, according to the ICE website. At the time, ICE officials believed they were looking for an 18- to 20-year-old male who "photographed himself engaging in sexual contact with an African American baby girl" a few years earlier. They arrested Grooms fewer than 30 hours later. Defense attorney Matthew Boles, Judge Randy DeGeest, and prosecuting attorney Gary Oldenburger did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Update: Iowa Judicial Branch Communications Director Steve Davis responded to a request for comment from Judge Randy DeGeest, sharing that "No one from the judicial branch can comment on a pending case beyond what is in the [sentencing] order." Judge DeGeest forwarded a link to the press release quoted below.
In a press release from Oldenburger published by Ottumwa Radio, the prosecutor wrote that many details of the case being reported were "grossly inaccurate":
In the press release, Oldenburger outlined a number of case details to justify Grooms' sentence. He also detailed “The circumstances of the offense”:
Only 17 years old at the time of his arrest, Grooms was charged with second-degree sexual abuse and "tried as an adult," The New York Times reported; he was held in juvenile detention and spent time in county jail. Though individuals convicted of that crime can serve up to 25 years in prison, pleading guilty to engaging in a lascivious act with a child meant Grooms ultimately faced a much lighter punishment than he would have otherwise.
The sentence may seem distressingly light to people following the case, but Wapellow County Attorney Gary Oldenburger offered justification, ABC News reported. He said that while he, personally, hoped that Grooms would have a long prison sentence, the parents of the baby advocated for rehab over time behind bars. The victim's mother is reportedly an employee of a "residential treatment facility for juvenile sex offenders," according to The Des Moines Register. The prosecution also believes that Grooms did not know he was on video at the time the act was committed, ABC News reported. Oldenburger said that Grooms is related to the victim, according to The Des Moines Register.
Grooms has "five years of supervised release," The New York Times reported. He's also required to be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life, according to ABC News. Any second offense would immediately warrant prison time. Even so, questions remain about whether the punishment was appropriately severe given that Grooms was an active participant in child pornography. For now, Grooms won't be serving any more time behind bars.