Posted at: 01/15/2013 10:44 PM
Updated at: 01/15/2013 10:50 PM
By: Steph Crock
(ABC 6 NEWS) -- They are two similar cases of child sex abuse in our area. Both suspects were convicted, but only one will serve significant jail time. We decided to investigate what on the surface, appears to be a big disparity when it comes to sentencing.
The difference in the two sentences is more than two decades. When it comes to determining how long a convicted sex criminal will spend in jail, it comes down to a very strict set of state guidelines.
The first case involves 62-year-old Marvin Lego of Leroy. He's convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree for molesting his 14 year-old relative. Then, there's Lonnie Scott from Rochester. He's convicted of the same thing, twice. He molested a 9 year-old who he was supposed to be babysitting.
"I guarantee that there's not a single county attorney in the state of Minnesota that takes criminal sexual conduct lightly," said Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelsen.
However, Lego got 25 years behind bars and Scott got only 90 days in jail and probation. "When the charge says he would go to prison for up to 90 months, why does he only get 90 days? It doesn't make sense I agree, but there's so much more beyond that," said Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem.
"Everybody who's sentenced in the state of Minnesota for a felony, gets sentenced with the Minnesota sentencing guidelines," said Nelsen. Those guidelines weigh in things like previous criminal history and the offense itself.
"A combination of the charge against him, which is criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, factored in with the fact that he had 6 or more criminal history points," said Nelsen. That's why in Mower County, Lego got roughly 25 years. He'd been previously convicted of molesting another young girl.
As for Scott... "My understanding is he had no criminal history so he falls into the lowest range of this grid," said Ostrem. That put him right in the gray area on the grid called "presumptive local disposition." Basically, the only spot that means probation, not prison time.
"I think everybody went into it knowing that this person, by law, would not go to prison based on our sentencing guidelines," said Ostrem.
However, those guidelines can be broken, but not often. "Occasionally for rare circumstances, the court can either depart upwards or downwards for those guidelines, but there has to be a compelling reason why they would do so," said Nelsen.
Both the Mower County Attorney and Olmsted County Attorney agree there are pros and cons to this system. They say it's good to have uniform guidelines so that each case is treated by the same standards. However, there are times when there isn’t enough "wiggle" room.