The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Indecent liberties case results in life sentence

  • A Tonganoxie man has been sentenced to life in prison for taking indecent liberties with children.
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  • A Tonganoxie man has been sentenced to life in prison for taking indecent liberties with children.
    Lawrence McDonagh II, 61, won’t be eligible for parole for 25 years.
    He was sentenced Thursday in Leavenworth County District Court. Last month, he pleaded no contest to five counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child.
    McDonagh is said to have sexually molested four victims, who were between the ages of 10 and 15, between November 2009 and May 2012.
    He received a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years under what is known as Jessica’s Law, which has created harsher penalties for sex crimes involving children.
    McDonagh’s attorney, Michael Highland, filed a motion seeking a shorter sentence. Highland argued the life sentence called for under Jessica’s Law is cruel and unusual punishment.
    Assistant County Attorney Cheryl Marquardt, who prosecuted the case, said Thursday in court that it was important to understand the facts of the case. She said McDonagh had groomed the victims to trust him, buying them gifts and letting them use his mobile home and a swimming pool.
    Marquardt said the defendant set up surveillance cameras at his residence at the Paradise Trailer Park, where he worked as the manager. She said the cameras were used to film girls.
    Marquardt said McDonagh knew one of his victims previously had been sexually molested by someone else.
    The prosecutor said Jessica’s Law is in place for this type of case.
    “Mr. McDonagh is a sexual predator,” she said. “He preyed on these young girls.”
    Highland said McDonagh had pleaded no contest as part of a plea agreement. And under the plea agreement, the defense was allowed to argue for a departure from the life sentence called for under Jessica’s Law.
    In arguing for a shorter sentence, Highland said he was not trying to minimize the crimes in the case. He said his client was not trying to shirk responsibility.
    “We’re just looking for a fair sentence,” he said.
    He said an aggravated indecent liberties charge can result in a lengthier sentence than in the case of when a person is forcibly raped or murdered.
    Highland asked for a 10-year sentence but said he has seen 15-year sentences in other cases.
    When given the opportunity to speak, McDonagh apologized to the victims. He said he takes responsibility for his decisions and actions.
    “I am truly sorry,” he said.
    McDonagh asked District Judge Gunnar Sundby to consider the defense motion.
    When denying the motion, Sundby said Highland had argued Jessica’s Law may have unintentional consequences.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Those are legislative issues,” the judge said.
    Sundby said he assumes these issues were considered by lawmakers.
    He said aggravated indecent liberties is different from murder and rape, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t serious. He said the crime has a long-term impact on children, their families and communities.
    Sundby sentenced McDonagh to life without the possibility of parole for 25 years for four of the counts.
    The life sentence requirement under Jessica’s Law did not apply to remaining count because of when the crime occurred, according to County Attorney Todd Thompson.
    For this count, McDonagh was sentenced to 154 months, which was considered the standard sentence under a state sentencing grid.
    All of the sentences were ordered to run concurrent, which means McDonagh will serve them at the same time.
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