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COA upholds 125-year child-molesting sentence

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In upholding multiple child-molesting convictions and a 125-year sentence, the Indiana Court of Appeals has rejected a woman’s argument about why her penalty should be reduced based in part on the very young ages of the victims.

The state’s second highest appellate court issued a decision today in Samantha Light v. State of Indiana, No. 23A01-0912-CR-600, which comes from Fountain Circuit Court and involves facts that the authoring appellate judge describes as “especially repugnant.”

Late last year, the 26-year-old Light pleaded guilty to three counts of Class A felony child molesting. In September 2008, Light and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Stephen Quick II, had engaged in and videotaped various sexual acts with a 6-year-old boy, 1-year-old boy, and 2-month-old girl, according to the court opinion. The couple was arrested and charged in March 2009, and Light later entered into a plea agreement dismissing two other felony child-exploitation counts.

Prosecutors agreed not to make any sentencing recommendations to the trial court. At sentencing, Fountain Circuit Judge Susan Orr Henderson imposed a total 125-year-sentence for Light. Quick received the same sentence on those three charges in March, and his appeal is now pending before the Indiana Court of Appeals.

In arguing for a sentence reduction, Light contends that her sentence is inappropriate in light of her character and the nature of her offenses. With a forceful and descriptive eight-page ruling, the appellate panel rejected her challenges and affirmed the lower judge’s decision.

“Light concedes that her offenses are shocking in nature but suggests that the young age of the victims, who perhaps will not remember the events and may thereafter suffer less psychological trauma, ameliorates the grave nature of her offenses,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the unanimous panel, pointing out that the then-6-year-old does remember the events. “In any event, we are unpursuaded that forced group sexual activity with young children and infants, by their own caretaker and/or mother, is somehow less depraved if the victims do not recall each excruciating detail for the rest of their lives. To the contrary, the young age of the victims, whose youth and vulnerability made them easy prey, highlights the depravity of Light’s offenses and her lack of character in willingly engaging in such unthinkable acts.”

The court also dismissed her claims about remorse and clean criminal history being factors to consider reducing the sentence, as well as her argument that her willingness to plead guilty helped redeem her character.

Pointing to Indiana Supreme Court precedent in which the justices have reduced sentences in certain cases where multiple molestation convictions led to particularly lengthy terms, the appellate panel said this case is easily distinguishable and doesn’t warrant a reduction.

“Indeed, given the circumstances of Light’s crimes, her 125-year sentence is fully within the navigational buoys of that body of law,” Judge Bradford wrote.
 

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