Senators Lost Interest, Victim's Family Says


Officials Accused of Forgetting Vows to Get Tough on Crime

Moved by Amber Kern’s story, both Idaho senators appeared with the girl on a national television program last year and vowed to investigate whether federal jail sentences are too lenient.

But when the light from the cameras flickered off, so did the interest of Republicans Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne, Amber’s lawyers and family contend.

Eleven-year-old Amber said she didn’t expect much.

“I don’t really depend on anyone to do anything for me. I depend on myself,” the Coeur d’Alene sixthgrader said.

Efforts to reach Craig and Kempthorne were unsuccessful. Their spokesmen said they had no information on Amber’s case.

Career criminal Richard John Tarver was convicted of kidnapping and molesting Amber in April 1992.

Federal Judge Quackenbush imposed the maximum under sentencing guidelines enacted by Congress – 17 years, 14 years with good behavior.

Both Idaho senators appeared with the victim on the news magazine “American Journal” and expressed outrage.

Craig said Tarver should be jailed for life and vowed to ask his colleague, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to hold oversight hearings examining whether sentencing guidelines are “coddling” criminals.

Hatch is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be chairman of the panel next year.

Kempthorne wrote Quackenbush to inquire about federal sentencing guidelines, but his interest died there.

Craig never spoke with Hatch, Amber’s attorneys say.

In a letter last February to Seattle attorney Bill Marler, Craig wrote that “it appears we do not have any records pertinent to issues likely to be raised in Amber’s case.”

Amber’s attorneys said Hatch never has returned their telephone calls.

“As long as the camera’s on, they’ll tell you anything and make promises,” attorney Susan Machler said. “Once the furor dies down, their not interested any more.”

After Amber’s meeting with the senators, an Idaho judge sentenced Tarver to up to life in prison for molesting a Coeur d’Alene boy.

His first parole hearing will be in the year 2011.