Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bill to Make Jail Mandatory for Child Assault Is Debated

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bill to Make Jail Mandatory for Child Assault Is Debated

Article excerpt

State Rep. Rich Chrismer, R-St. Peters, wants to ensure that people who commit sodomy with a child under 14 don't walk free. He wants them imprisoned for a minimum of 15 years, with no chance of probation or parole.

Now, the penalty ranges from five years to life in prison, and probation or parole is allowed.

St. Charles County Prosecutor Timothy A. Braun doesn't like the proposal for a mandatory sentence. A spokesman for the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys says the group also would oppose it.

Chrismer submitted the bill to the House of Representatives after learning that Richard J. Budde, 35, of St. Charles, was put on probation Jan. 14 after pleading guilty to a charge of sodomy against a preschool girl. Chrismer's bill has been approved for inclusion in the omnibus crime bill in the House.

Chrismer called Budde's crime heinous and said, "This sentence itself, to me, was criminal, and a great miscarriage of justice and a slap in the face to the residents of our county."

The judge in Budde's case was Associate Circuit Judge Michael Brown of Franklin County, who got the case after St. Charles County judges disqualified themselves. Brown gave Budde 60 days in the St. Charles County Jail, but allowed him out 13 hours a day to work.

Brown has taken a lot of heat over the Budde decision. He noted in a recent conversation with a reporter that the prosecutor had recommended 12 years in prison for Budde but had taken no position against probation or parole. The state Board of Probation and Parole had recommended probation after a pre-sentence investigation.

Brown said that if the Legislature changed the law to mandatory sentencing, he would abide by the change. "I took an oath when I took this office to enforce the laws as given to me by the legislators," he said.

Braun said that despite his office's neutral position on probation for Budde, "I never thought it was the right thing that (Budde) got probation." He said the prosecutor's office re-evaluated its stance after the Budde sentencing. Now, when a case is strong and the accused is unrelated to the victim, the policy is to recommend 15 years with no probation or parole, he said.

"We're trying to achieve what (Chrismer's) doing on cases where we have a strong case and we'll keep on doing that," Braun said.

But the prosecutor's hands will be tied when it comes to what he terms the gray areas. Braun said that in cases where the evidence is weak, or the child is very young or the parents don't want to put the child through testimony, the prosecutor bargains for a guilty plea.

A lot of times, the accused is a family member, Braun said, and a mandatory sentence would put a child in the position of "putting dad away for 15 years."

Braun said Chrismer's bill will virtually ensure that every child sex case will go to trial. …

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