A Greene County, Missouri, judge who is frequently criticized for giving lenient sentences to men who commit acts of rape or molestation toward young children is making headlines for another sentence he rendered out on Friday.
Judge Calvin R. Holden dismissed prosecutorial recommendations for Joseph Robert Meili, a 22-year-old Missouri man who pleaded guilty to molesting an 11-year-old girl he met through an online dating app, HuffPost reported.
A plea deal was worked out that dropped kidnapping and statutory rape charges as well. Prosecutors had recommended to Holden that Meili serve 120 days in a sexual offender treatment program, and serve no more than 7 years in prison for his criminal actions.
But Holden took their recommendations to the other extreme, dropping the sexual treatment program requirements altogether, and giving no prison time to Meili whatsoever. The defendant will have to register as a sexual offender, and will be let free with five years of probation.
The defense lawyer for Meili acknowledged his client’s guilt, but said his crime was related to being “catfished” by the 11-year-old girl, who told him she was 18.
“I think dating apps make it easier to get into these types of situations, to be sure, but to actually see her in person … He knew and just decided to go along with it anyway,” Greene County Attorney Elizabeth Fax said.
Some online have openly questioned whether Holden’s ruling was made on the basis of the defense’s argument, suggesting that the judge bought into the idea that it was the victim’s fault that she was raped and molested. Holden “may have effectively engaged in victim-blaming from the bench,” said user “Christian Dem in NC” on the website Daily Kos, weighing-in on the matter.
Holden has faced criticisms of leniency in the past. A 2017 Change.org petition pushed for his removal from his judgeship, citing another incident in which Holden sentenced a man who had molested an 8-year-old boy to just 30 days in jail and another five-years of probation.
Featured image via Green County Sheriff’s Office