Image from of Kansas City, Kansas Police Department
A man accused of orchestrating a mass shooting at a bar in Kansas City, Kansas last weekend could have been sentenced to nine years in prison for trafficking in contraband while behind bars, but a Kansas judge gave the murder suspect probation instead. Hugo Villanueva-Morales is still on the run after allegedly opening fire in a private bar Sunday, killing four people and wounding five more along with an accomplice, but he shouldn’t have been on the streets in the first place.
Villanueva-Morales was a violent felon serving time for aggravated robbery when he went before a judge last year on charges of trafficking contraband while behind bars. The judge in the case could have sentenced him to nearly a decade in prison, but decided on probation because he decided the criminal had “accepted responsibility.” As it turns out, this isn’t the first time Judge Michael Gibbens has caused an outry because of his decisions.
Gibbens is the same judge who made national news earlier this year when he reduced the sentence of a convicted sex offender because he said the 13 and 14-year-old girls who were victims in the abuse were actually “aggressors.”
The offender was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison, eight years less than what was called for in Kansas sentencing guidelines.
After The Star reported on that case, the Kansas Legislature passed a new law to stop judges from reducing sentences for sex offenses against children on the basis that children could be “aggressors” or participants.
Now Gibbens is back in the news again for the lenient treatment he gave Huge Villanueva-Morales. As it turns out, just about a year after he received probation instead of almost a decade in prison, Villanueva-Morales was back in trouble with the law.
He was out of jail on bond after an August incident in Jackson County that, like the mass shooting, began with an unruly customer at a bar.
He was charged with third-degree assault after he allegedly got in an altercation with a Jackson County sheriff’s deputy outside a bar on Southwest Boulevard. An unknown man had been kicked out of the bar and returned later with Villanueva-Morales.
I’m curious to know if the assault charge in Missouri would have triggered a probation revocation in Kansas, because that may have been another missed opportunity to take this dangerous offender off the streets. Just a few months after being arrested for going to a bar to cause trouble after a buddy was kicked out, Villanueva-Morales allegedly was kicked out of Tequila KC, only to return a short time later with a buddy of his own. Both were armed, and police say both opened fire on the patrons inside.
Gun control advocates will try to use this case to push for more gun control laws, but Hugo Villanueva-Morales was a convicted felon illegally possessing a gun. Instead, this horrible story is the direct result of a failure to adequately enforce existing laws. Villanueva-Morales should not have been kicked out of that bar in Kansas City because he shouldn’t have been there in the first place. He should have been locked up in a state prison, and that’s where he would have been if not for a judge who looked into Hugo’s eyes and, seeing what he thought was remorse, decided justice would be done with a slap on the wrist as punishment for a serious crime. If you want to crack down on violence, you have to crack down on the violent criminals instead of law-abiding Americans.