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Editor’s Note: Jeffrey Epstein’s recent arrest reignited questions about how the courts handle child sex-abuse cases. This January article from Max Diamond of RealClearInvestigations tells why so many adults get seemingly lenient sentences: It's especially difficult getting young witnesses to testify and they might be re-traumatized. This article focuses on Washington, D.C., but experts say the same dynamics apply widely.

By Max Diamond, RealClearInvestigations
January 4, 2019

After Jessica Lynn Kanya attempted to sexually abuse a 14-year-old child, she was sentenced to 36 months in prison last March. But Lynn served none of that time behind bars when District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Hiram E. Puig-Lago decided to suspend her sentence.

Such leniency is common in Washington, D.C., RealClearInvestigations has found, because of the difficulty of making cases and the alternative to jail presented by the sex-offender registry. Since 2000, almost half of sex offenders convicted in the nation’s capital -- the vast majority child-sex offenders -- have had their sentences cut in half or suspended altogether. Judges do not comment on their rulings, but an analysis of the records of 364 D.C. offenders convicted since 2000 shows that such sentencing is a pervasive practice by more than a dozen judges, who are appointed and not elected.

Sentences are often suspended not just for crimes such as sexually touching a child, which carries jail time of 180 days. In dozens of cases, adult offenders facing years in prison received suspended sentences. 

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