Sentencing for an Okaloosa sex offender has sparked a lot of discussion. 31-year old Michelle Kemp had sex with a 15-year-old boy but she will not be going to prison. The lawyers on both sides of the case insist, when it comes to sex crimes, the judicial system is not sexist
Michelle Kemp was arrested back in August 2009 for having sex with a 15-year-old. The boy's family decided not to press charges if the relationship stopped-- but it didn’t. In December, Kemp drove more than 100 miles from her home in Crestview to pick the boy up at a drug treatment center in Bay County, where the two had sex again.
Kemp was arrested again and charged with 2nd degree felony lewd and lascivious battery. She faced up to 15-years in prison but walked away with just 2 years of house arrest and 3 years of probation.
The case is strikingly similar to one that received national attention back in 2005 when former Tampa middle school teacher Debra Lafave had sex with a 14-year old boy. Lafave received house arrest and probation, but no prison time.
It was a very different case for Tim McGarry. The former Thomas Drive Fire Chief is serving a 40-year sentence for having sex with underage girls. The disparity in treatment makes some wonder if the judicial system is sexist when it comes to sex crimes.
District 1 Chief Assistant State Attorney Bill Bishop says no.
"We don't make any distinction one way or another whether or not someone who commits a sexual offense is a male or a female. We make our decisions based on the evidence we have available and the witnesses we have available to prosecute" Bishop says.
In Kemp's case, the victim would not cooperate with authorities. Kemp’s attorney, Jonathon Dingus says gender did not play a role in her sentencing.
"She was treated the same in a scenario like we have here where the complainant didn't want to go through the trial" Dingus says.
Both attorneys agree the outcome for any defendant depends on the case's circumstances.