Huntington Beach : Petition Calls Judge Too Lenient on Molesters

The local chapter of Society's League Against Molestation (SLAM) has begun circulating a petition sharply critical of Superior Court Judge James L. Smith for handing out what the group contends are lenient sentences in child molestation cases.

The petition, which SLAM will present to Smith, cites three recent cases in which sex offenders were given far lighter sentences than the maximums allowed under state law.

Two weeks ago, a wealthy Huntington Harbour man who molested two girls was released and placed on five years' probation by Smith. The convicted man, John Steen, had spent more than two years in a state mental hospital for sex offenses against the girls.

In the second case cited by the group, Charles Reed received a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to a parole violation during an early stage of his trial for molesting a boy, according to Jean Rustemeyer, a SLAM spokeswoman.

The third case was that of William Rhodes, a former Big Brother who could have received an 11 1/2-year sentence. Instead, Rhodes is being treated as an outpatient at Patton State Hospital, Rustemeyer said.

"As our elected official, it is your responsibility to protect our communities, particularly our children," the petition reads. "We do not understand how such lenient sentences can be justified. . . .

"In the Reed case, pleading guilty at any stage of the process is not statutory grounds for the lightest sentence possible for the rape of one child, much less multiple victims."

The petition calls Rhodes "a brutal pedophile who should have served 11 1/2 years" and chastises Judge Smith's sentences as "disregarding . . . responsibility" and a "misuse of judicial justice."

Smith could not be reached for comment.

Karen Kallay, SLAM chapter president, said one important reason for giving sex offenders the harshest possible sentences is to make them aware of their problem and force them to seek help. Only then, she said, will the "cycle of molestation" be broken.

Speaking at a chapter meeting this week, Kallay said that most molested children grow up with obvious scars. Many--like mass-murderer Charles Manson--become vicious, she said. Some turn to prostitution and others become molesters themselves, Kallay said.

SLAM is a national organization founded in 1980 with two Orange County chapters, Huntington Beach and Westminster-Garden Grove.

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