NOW chapter protests county judge
Johnson reduced sentence of man who molested 4-year-old
The Montgomery County chapter of the National Organization for Women is protesting a county judge's decision to reduce by 14 years the prison sentence of a man who sexually abused a 4-year-old.
A jury convicted Jason Christopher Lay, now 26, of third-degree sexual offense, sexual abuse of a minor child and two counts of second-degree sexual offense in March 2005, and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison, according to an online state court records database.
At a May 7 reconsideration hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Judge Eric M. Johnson reduced Lay's sentence to 16 years, which includes the five years he already served. He also received a 45-year suspended sentence.
Reconsideration, a law unique to Maryland, allows Circuit Court judges to reconsider a convicted criminal's sentence and reduce it for any reason within the first five years of sentencing.
About six protestors stood outside the Circuit Court in Rockville on Tuesday, chanting "No breaks for child rape," and holding signs that read "Sexual assault victims serve a life sentence healing the damage sex offenders should get no reduced sentences."
"I don't think a few years and a slap on the wrist is appropriate for a convicted rapist," said Lara Wibeto, action vice president of the county NOW chapter.
"This is a horrible injustice, especially to the girl who was raped. It seems Judge Johnson is more concerned about the rapist than the child. He needs to serve his time."
Lay sodomized the 4-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, a Germantown resident who he later married, and repeatedly forced her to perform fellatio on him while he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, Assistant State's Attorney Karla Smith, said at the hearing. Smith, a prosecutor who described Lay as a time bomb, said Lay's case was one of the worst that county family violence prosecutors have tried.
Lay has been attacked by other inmates because he is a child sexual offender and in one incident was stabbed 13 times, according to his Rockville attorney Reginald W. Bours III.
"What has happened to this defendant in the prison system is arguably worse than what happened to [the girl]," Bours said. "He almost lost his life ... He has also been a victim, and he no longer has the unrealistic expectation that he get probation for this offense."
At his trial, Lay was obstinate and in denial, and made faces at witnesses, Johnson said, but Lay now admits what he did and seems genuinely remorseful.
"He didn't snatch this child from a school playground. He was invited into the home," Johnson said, adding that the mother should have noticed certain warning signs.
"This is not the same defendant that was before the court when he was sentenced," Johnson said.
The Montgomery County NOW chapter had previously protested comments made by Judge Durke G. Thompson in January 2000 while sentencing a 23-year-old man for engaging in a sexual act with an 11-year-old girl that it "takes two to tango" and that the girl bore some responsibility for what happened. The Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities dismissed a complaint filed by the chapter but issued a warning to the judge.