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Judge Trims 2 Years From Child Molester’s Sentence

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

After hearing that an admitted child molester had a “maternal instinct” and cared for his teen-age victims, a judge Monday reduced the man’s sentence by two years, leaving him with a 16-year prison term.

Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Leon Kaplan gave the revised sentence to Russell A. Kraus, the 29-year-old Rancho Palos Verdes man who pleaded guilty two years ago to 40 counts of child molestation and 32 felony counts of providing drugs to minors.

“I think it’s a travesty,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Carol Fisch. “I think the sentence he was originally given was too low.”

When he originally sentenced Kraus in January, 1993, Kaplan could have sent him to prison for 92 years, but he handed down an 18-year sentence over Fisch’s objection.

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Kaplan then recalled Kraus’ sentence about one year ago. “This is only the second time during my 14 years as a judge that I have had second thoughts about a (prison) commitment,” Kaplan said at a hearing last fall.

Saul Niedorf, a Los Angeles psychiatrist appointed to the case after attorneys on both sides agreed, testified Monday that Kraus was involved in “mutual exploitation” with most of his 14 victims.

“These boys . . . had their own interests and desires,” Niedorf said, explaining that some needed a place to stay and most were probably interested in experimenting with drugs.

Niedorf said Kraus displayed a mother-like concern for the young boys by giving them a place to stay and expressing concern for their health and grades in school.

Fisch disagreed strongly and compared Kraus to a trench-coat-wearing man who lured children with candy. “Instead of candy, Mr. Kraus used video games and drugs,” she said.

Although Niedorf said Kraus was “ideally suited for a treatment program,” Kaplan denied Kraus’ request for a drastically reduced sentence and in-patient psychiatric treatment.

“The defendant will get treatment, but only after he is away for a substantial period of time,” Kaplan said Monday.


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