Bench Memos

Jane Kelly and Evelyn Miller

President Obama is said to be vetting Judge Jane Kelly of the Eighth Circuit to replace Justice Scalia.  The White House apparently sees some political value in the fact that she is from Iowa, and Ed Whelan has rightly interpreted that calculation as an insult to Senator Grassley’s intelligence.

As the White House’s vetting process unfolds, they will probably find other facts that are significantly less convenient.  For example, when Kelly worked as a public defender she helped secure a plea deal for one Casey Frederiksen, a convicted child predator.

Frederiksen was convicted of sexually abusing and murdering Evelyn Miller, the 5-year-old daughter of his partner, who was also the mother of his two sons. As part of that murder investigation it was discovered that Frederiksen had more than a thousand images and videos of children engaging in sex acts, some with adults. He was charged federally with twelve counts of receiving child pornography and two counts of possessing child pornography.

Kelly represented Frederiksen in the child pornography case.  According to a 2005 story in the Des Moines Register, shortly after Frederiksen was indicted, Kelly “argued her client was not a threat to society,” an odd assertion to make on behalf of a man who had previously been convicted of sexually molesting a different girl. This man went on to confess that “he was sexually aroused when changing Evelyn’s diapers” and “told fellow inmates that he had sexually abused the girl since she was small.”  Kelly helped him negotiate a plea deal under which he pled guilty to three charges and received a sentence of 14 years in prison. 

While serving that sentence, Frederiksen pled guilty to a new drug crime, and then eventually was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for sexually abusing Evelyn Miller and stabbing her to death before dumping her in a river. Frederiksen committed this crime only three months before Kelly stood to argue that he was “not a threat to society.”

Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

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