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Sentencing recommendations in Mo. under review

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – A review is underway of sentencing recommendations used by judges in Missouri.

The state's Sentencing Advisory Commission (MOSAC) has appointed a subcommittee to examine the recommendations, which prosecutors criticize as being too lenient, especially for those charged with violent acts and sex crimes.

Eric Zahnd is a prosecuting attorney in Platte County. He cites a case where a woman and her boyfriend were convicted of videotaping and participating in the sexual abuse of the woman's teenage daughter.

"That woman was ultimately sentenced to 58 years in prison, despite a recommendation from the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission that she receive probation," Zahnd said.

State Supreme Court Judge Michael Wolff chairs MOSAC. He says judges are not being forced to hand down lenient sentences.

"We're giving them information about what other judges are doing in the aggregate, and the individual judge can make his or her own decision about what the appropriate sentence is," Wolff said.

The subcommittee is considering several proposals, including one that would scrap sentencing guidelines for violent and sexual crimes. Doing so would likely require changing state law, which legislators could do next year.

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