KSN Investigates: Sex crimes plea negotiations in Sedgwick County

KSN Investigates

UPDATE: WICHITA, Kansas – Terry Blum was sentenced Friday in Sedgwick County Court to nearly 20 years in prison.

KSN sat down with the child victim we spoke with in April to learn her response to Blum’s sentence. We spoke with the victim, with permission from her parents, but have chosen to conceal her face and modulate her voice in order to protect her identity.

“I thought for so long that it was my fault that he hurt other girls, because he got let go [received probation],” explained the victim.

The victim, now 14 years old, attended Friday’s sentencing and spoke.

“I believe that what he did, he should get the maximum sentence,” she said. “It just felt like I was a super hero in front of everybody.”

She told KSN’s Brittany Glas it was an empowering experience.

“[Terry Blum] He didn’t really have control over me now,” she said. “[Before], he [Blum] had control over my emotions, control over my feelings, control over everything.”

The young victim began to cry during her interview Tuesday with KSN News.

“The last time we spoke, it felt like all these tears were weights,” she said. “They were just dragging me down. Now that it’s all over, and now that I know what’s going to happen… The tears are just an amazing feeling.”

In April, KSN News released the findings of its three-month long investigation into plea negotiations and sex crimes in Sedgwick County.

We sought answers to the following questions:

  1. How often are plea negotiations given out?
  2. Why are pleas distributed so often?
  3. What do plea negotiations ultimately mean for victims of sex crimes and the community, altogether?

Defining Plea Negotiations

A plea bargain is a legal maneuver for prosecutors to avoid the time, expense and uncertainty of a criminal trial. In exchange for pleading guilty, the accused gets a less serious charge and not as much time behind bars.

A Victim’s Fight for Justice

KSN News sat down with a young woman; the victim of a child sex crime. We also sat down with her mother, and with her permission, interviewed the two about their experience with the legal system as it relates to plea deals.

In order to protect both women’s identities, KSN has obscured their faces on camera and distorted their voices.

As the then nine-year-old girl describes it, she was at a sleepover on a cold, fall night in 2010, when she says her life was changed forever. It was the night she became a victim of a sex crime.

“I’m not scared of the dark, I’m scared of what’s in the dark,” explained the young victim. “I’m scared of what’s going to happen to me when I turn those lights off because that night, it was pitch black dark. I couldn’t see anything, and I was scared.”

The victim’s mother, still desperate to obtain justice for her young daughter.

“She literally went through hell,” said the victim’s mother.

Terry Blum

See Terry Blum’s history of court filings

In 2010, when Terry Edward Blum, Jr. was 28-years-old, he was initially charged with Aggravated Indecent Liberties with a Child.

EXTRA | One case – a history of court filings

According to court charging documents, Blum did “unlawfully and intentionally engage in lewd fondling or touching of a child who was under fourteen (14) years of age.”

This charge, so long as it is a defendant’s first offense, carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

A preliminary hearing occurred, the child victim testified, and a judge determined there was enough evidence to go to trial.

Then, however, about six months later, Blum was offered a plea, so long as he admit to two lesser counts: Aggravated Child Endangerment and Aggravated Battery.

It is important to note that neither of these charges are classified as sex crimes. Therefore, Blum was not required, by charge, nor by the special instruction from a judge, to register as a sex offender in the state of Kansas.

Sentencing Guidelines Chart

Terry Blum was sentenced in August 2012 to 36 months of probation, and was granted time served in jail.

Nearly two years after the fall 2010 incident happened, the victim’s mother reluctantly accepted the plea deal.

“I didn’t come up with the plea. It wasn’t my idea for this plea, [it wasn’t my idea] for him to be able to walk,” said the mother of the victim.

Concern soon arose that the plea negotiation offered to Blum at this time arguably allowed him to allegedly reoffend.

Approximately one year after Blum’s plea deal, he is arrested once again. This time, initially, he is charged with three new counts of Aggravated Indecent Liberties with a Child.

For the victim’s mother we spoke with, news of Blum’s most recent arrest, cause her to have second thoughts about the plea deal.

“You think you’re doing right for your child, but then you find out that what you have done has allowed somebody else’s children to be hurt,” said the mother.

2014 Sex Crime Sampling

KSN took a sampling of 2014 sex crimes in Sedgwick County. We learned that Terry Blum’s case is actually typical of what happens in the criminal justice system every day.

In 46 cases that were resolved in 2014, 26 cases were plea bargains to lesser charges. That is, defendants were convicted of lesser crimes, and as a result, lighter sentences. This data made up approximately 56 percent of the sample.

Fifteen cases, more than 32 percent of the sample, resulted in guilty pleas or guilty verdicts on the defendants’ original charges.

The five remaining cases, greater than 10 percent of the sample, were dismissed.

REFERENCE | Kansas Sex Offense Statutes:

KSN’s Brittany Glas took the findings of our sample to Sedgwick Co. District Attorney, Marc Bennett. The district attorney revealed that he was, in fact, not surprised by the data we collected.

In fact, the district attorney told KSN News that, nationwide, approximately 90 percent of cases are resolved through the use of plea negotiations.

So then, why are plea negotiations presented so often?

To this question, the district attorney responded:

“There’s not enough, you know, time in a year to try all the cases. Beyond that, it’s not in the best interest of the victims, and frankly, not in the best interest of defendants, and that’s what their attorneys are there for too.”
– Marc Bennett
Sedgwick Co. District Attorney

Plea negotiations involve an alleged offender, who, as Marc Bennett explains, can often be less than cooperative.

“Very rarely does a guy come in and just say, ‘Okay, fine. You got me. I’ll do the max time, I’ll register, and I’ll go to prison’,” explained Bennett.

The district attorney told KSN that, “Sex crime is a different animal altogether,” regarding how to prosecute these cases.

Bennett says that there are numerous considerations to be made before a sex crime case is presented with a plea negotiation and before it is ultimately, prosecuted in court. He refers specifically to factual and victim considerations.

“What’s the strength of the case? What are the odds of conviction? What do we put this victim through?” Bennett asked.

District Attorney Marc Bennett argues that plea deals can be the “best option” for young victims to have to testify in court.

“At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, ‘If this case isn’t going to be successful, is it better to get them convicted of something so that he’s got a record? So that he has a probation officer to answer to?’, ” said Bennett.

In other cases, including sex crime cases, defendants may be offered plea deals because a prosecutor does not believe they can make the case stick in court.

A Victim Speaks Out

In the case of Terry Blum, however, the victim didn’t buy into it.

“If I got in trouble and I got a consequence, I can’t argue with it. I get the consequence,” she said.

For this victim and her mother, the painful legal process has lasting consequences.

The victim: “It’s been years and I’m still struggling. It still haunts me every day.”

The mother of the victim: “She gets a life sentence and the perpetrator basically got a walk.”

RELATED LINKS / MORE  INFORMATION

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Download the KSN News App and stay up-to-date wherever you are. You can even watch KSN News live for free!
Click here to get the app
Get it in the App store
Get it in the Google Play store

3 Day Forecast

KSN Storm Track 3 Weather

Trending Stories