IDAHO, USA — The Canyon County Sheriff is outraged over the early release of a convicted kidnapper.
Brian Sangjoon Lee was charged for 2nd-degree kidnapping of an 11-year-old Nampa girl. Police say Lee enticed the girl through an online gaming program, and planned to take the girl to his house in California.
Lee was sentenced to prison for 2 years determinate, 8 years indeterminate. He was released Monday, nine months after sentencing as part of a "rider" program.
Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue told KTVB the first words that came to his mind when he heard the judge's decision.
"Shock and disappointment, frustration, dismay that we have an opportunity to protect society at the most vulnerable level. And law enforcement did their job. My detectives did their job. Even backing up, the family did their job to notify us. Law enforcement did their job, prosecutors did their job. And then the system broke down after that," Donahue said. "The guy gets convicted, so he should be held accountable for what this type of offenses is - just heinous."
Donahue says the decision takes away from the work that law enforcement does to put felons away.
"We're willing to spend the time to correctly and positively collect the evidence, and build a case and work with the prosecutor, and even go to the court system and convict that that person. To have it all basically thrown out the window," Donahue said. "It makes officers wonder what's the use? What are we fighting for? And they know, - they know deep in their hearts. But that rises to the surface, and they are frustrated. They're mad. They're angry. "That how could this happen? How do we protect the next one?"
The sheriff spoke with the victim's family after Lee was released. He says the victim's father had many questions.
"Questions like, 'where is this person'? I don't know. He's on probation. 'Will he stay in the area'? I don't know, sir. 'Will he go back to California'? I can't say. 'Is our daughter safe?' I can't guarantee that," Donahue said. "That's the questions I got asked today on the phone. And the worry that, what will this do to her psychologically, knowing now that the suspect is not in prison. Is not behind bars. And who's watching over him?...Those are the questions the family wants to know. And they're outraged. They're in shock still today."
Lee was released on a rider program. Inmates who are given a rider can either be released on probation for good behavior or sentenced to their full prison sentence.
Donahue said the program is needed, and has been able to rehabilitate some criminals. But he doesn't think it should be used in cases like Lee's.
"I've seen it work. I've seen great success by people teetering, like 'You know what, I finally woke up, I'm going to I'm going to do better'. But when you have a person who's predatorial, like in this case, that rider program is not going to fix it, this is Sheriff Donahue's opinion. That rider program is not going to fix the mental disturbance in that person, not going to fix it in nine months," Donahue said. "There's a time and a place. I don't think this was either the time or the place. This man made a conscious decision to prey upon an 11-year-old girl from another state"
The Nampa Police department agreed with Sheriff Donahue in a Facebook post, saying everyone should be outraged by Lee's release.
Nampa Police Chief Joe Huff said there's been frustration in the law enforcement community over the rider program. They've seen criminals released with multiple riders, and many repeat offenders who've had dozens to hundreds of run-ins with police.
"My personal opinion is a lot of people that are getting riders are being released, when they probably shouldn't be," Huff said. "They're probably not good candidates for the rider program. And I back that up on statistics on the people that Nampa Police sees. A lot of our suspects are repeat offender suspects. They've been in and out of the system dozens to hundreds of times. Some as frequently as multiple times each year, it's not uncommon for us to arrest the same repeat offender, two or three times in a month, or even more frequent than that. And so that's obviously frustrating for the police officers."
Donahue says a decision like this sends a clear message to criminals like Lee.
"We all need to be on that same page throughout the judicial system, including the judiciary. Because we all have a responsibility to protect that little girl, and every little girl like her - and every little boy," Donahue said. "This man, Mr. Lee, has not seen a punishment for his crimes. And I don't think there's any deterrent in his head whatsoever. I think that he got away with something. And he'll continue to act in a criminal manner until the next victim, and possibly the next victim, until somebody puts their foot down."
Judge Randall Grove made the decision.
Lee remains on a probation term of five years.
Full interview with Sheriff Donahue:
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