MAY - Week 2
||Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.
We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Young Woman Trapped In Life Of Sex Trafficking
Sarah Brings Her Story To A Springs Audience
by JACLYN ROSTIE
(Video on site)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- "I was vulnerable. I didn't think anyone loved me at the time," said Sarah. She was just 13, a runaway, when she became trapped in a life of sex-trafficking.
Now, she is sharing her story to those who will listen. Sarah spoke during a one day event in Colorado Springs to promote awareness and action to end human-trafficking. It was sponsored by Living Hope Covenant Church in connection with M.A.D. about Human Trafficking.
Sarah talked about being vulnerable as a runaway. "I was hungry, cold, and tired. I was hoping somebody would take care of me," she said.
Then, she met a man who she said promised her a bed, food and clothes. In turn, she was forced to work as a prostitute and give him the money she earned.
"They beat me, raped me, and sold me. They treated me like a piece of trash," she said.
Over the years, Sarah said several different men abused her. For a long time, she was afraid of telling her story to police. She eventually reached out to a police officer for help.
An organization called Restore Innocence is helping her deal with the emotionally pain as well as get her life back on track. They also attended the event on Saturday.
Orlando Man Indicted On Child Sex Trafficking
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Federal agents are hunting for an Orlando man who was indicted on charges that he forced children to have sex with men from across the country.
A grand jury returned a 15-count federal indictment against Miguel Morancy, 29, of Orlando. The charges allege Morancy coerced girls as young as 13 years old into prostitution.
The indictment says ads were posted on Craigslist and Backpage for girls named "Tiffany Doe," "Stefani Doe," "Sabrina Doe," and "Val Doe," who was described as a "Russian cutie".
For three years, Morancy took girls from across Florida to hotel rooms in Tampa after meeting Johns online, according to the indictment.
Morancy was arrested and booked into the Orange County jail in February on an out-of-county warrant for driving with a suspended license. Local authorities let him go, not knowing what Federal authorities were investigating.
Drew Kesse, whose daughter, Jennifer, has been missing for five years, believes this latest case is a scenario that is all too common. Armed with a mission to find his daughter, Kesse has learned the human trafficking trade in Orlando is extensive.
"If they want you, they will get you," said Kesse. "It's a taboo subject when you talk about the missing, exploited, trafficked, unidentified and abducted in this world. It's a taboo subject still. It can't be a taboo subject anymore. It has to be talked about."
The indictment alludes to one or more co-conspirators, but only names Morancy as a suspect.
Trafficking victims lured to the UK: locked up and raped at £30 a time
by Mark Townsend
They drove north during the night, up from Nice, through the Channel tunnel and into London. Abina remembers stopping outside a tower block, her boyfriend guiding her into a tiny flat and then a back room where she was locked inside. The first British man to rape her arrived the following morning in mid-December 2009, the next that afternoon.
The only time she was allowed to leave the room was to use the shower or the toilet next door. She had no phone, no television; food was brought to her room by her boyfriend.
Abina, 26, from Ghana, says she could do nothing but wait, "miserable", for the next man. "It was my first time to England, my boyfriend said it was east London but I have no idea. I never ever went outside. There was a street below but the window was locked."
For more than 300 days, Abina was incarcerated in the apartment, during which time hundreds of men visited, some black, some Asian, most white, and paid her boyfriend £30 to have sex with her. Men were allowed to beat her, she says, but most were not as aggressive as her boyfriend. He told visitors that they need not use a condom, and when she fell pregnant he punched her so hard Abina lost her baby.
"He says they can do things without a condom, he says they can beat me because they pay a lot of money for me. I can't decide what I can do, I have no say. When he beat me and I lost the pregnancy, he said that I cannot be pregnant because I was a prostitute."
Not all the women trafficked into Britain are for sex. Gloria was nine when she was exported as a domestic slave from Nigeria to Italy through friends of her father. After seven years of unpaid household chores, she was flown to Manchester in March 2006 and forced into a life of domestic servitude with another family. Imprisoned in their home, aged 16, she was coerced into caring for five children and doing all the household chores. She worked 20-hour days without receiving a penny; she slept on the living-room floor and was never allowed outside unattended.
Then the beatings began. "You had to do whatever they ask. They shout, blaming you for everything, sometime they bit me, they beat me. They say you are just a slave, you don't say anything, even though I am a child myself. I was scared all the time."
Abina and Gloria are two of the thousands of women trafficked into the UK every year, victims of a crime that stirs revulsion like few others.
This Saturday marks the 224th anniversary of the inaugural meeting of the anti-slavery movement in London, the city where Abina was enslaved most of last year. Now Timothy Brain, the UK's most senior police officer dealing with human trafficking before his recent retirement, has decided to speak out about his mounting frustration over government policy on the issue, as well as the abhorrent nature of the crime. "We think back to the cotton plantations and sugar plantations of the 18th and 19th century and it wouldn't be as bad as what some victims go through. It's inhumane," he said. The government has vowed repeatedly to take the issue seriously. Last Monday, immigration minister Damian Green told parliament: "It is simply intolerable that in 2011 human trafficking still plagues this country." Yet concern is mounting that the systems put in place to help victims and target traffickers are being systematically dismantled by the coalition.
Abina escaped last October. As always, she tried the apartment door when her boyfriend left; this time, he had neglected to lock it. She recalls panicking, opening the drawer where he stashed the money she made, taking the £30 from her last client and running into the street.
"I was terrified. I ran towards a train station and saw a couple, and I said that I needed to get out of there." The couple took her to Victoria coach station and bought her a National Express ticket to a northern city. There a woman found her weeping in the city centre and took her in. Within weeks Abina had found a job, selling perfume for tips in the lavatory of a nightclub in the city.
"I was so happy not working as a prostitute," she smiled last week, recalling her escape and rubbing her neck, which clients used to grip so hard that it bruised. For the first time in five years she was not being forced to have sex with strangers, her fate since arriving in southern France from west Africa and meeting the boyfriend who decided she could make more money in London.
But her fortunes soon changed again. In November 2010, police raided the club. Abina was arrested as an illegal immigrant and sent to Yarl's Wood detention centre for deportation. Four weeks later the Poppy Project charity assessed her, identified her as a trafficking victim, prevented her deportation and is now helping Abina rebuild her life.
Gloria, too, made a break for it one afternoon. She fled from the family in March last year, telling staff at a college nearby that her life was in danger. "I couldn't go back, it would only get worse," she said. The authorities placed her in a women's refuge and eventually with the Poppy Project, which she credits with transforming her life. Although police arrested her captors, the case was dropped for insufficient evidence.
Locating trafficking victims is notoriously difficult; most cases emerge through a network of voluntary groups or occasional police raids on known brothels. In 2006, concern about trafficking inspired two nationwide policing operations, Pentameter One and Two, which were credited with hundreds of arrests and stamped the problem on the political and public consciousness. Despite this, there are no plans for a repeat.
But now Brain, the architect of those police operations, believes that momentum is being lost. Pentameter's perceived success led to the formation of the UK Human Trafficking Centre, a pioneering facility that pulled together intelligence, police and immigration experts. The centre closed in Sheffield in April 2010, moving to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), and since then sources say that 90% of its specialist staff have left. Soca itself is now to be wound up and assimilated into the new National Crime Agency. Police sources admit it remains unclear what precisely will be the agency's strategy on trafficking aside from tightening border security.
Brain believes the relegation of the trafficking centre to an undefined role within a new organisation betrays a shifting of priorities: "The net result is that it is just going lower and lower down someone else's policy agenda," said the former chief constable.
With the resignation of the Human Trafficking Centre's head, former Detective Chief Superintendent Nick Kinsella, anti-trafficking policing has lost a recognisable national co-ordinator. When Soca was asked last week who now headed its anti-trafficking team, its press office could not recall the incumbent's surname.
Concern is mounting that an apparent lack of proactive policing has bolstered Britain's reputation as a soft touch for traffickers who can operate without fear of being caught and prosecuted. Whitehall sources cite a lack of frontline police officers trained to identify trafficked people, especially women, who are often too terrified to approach police and testify against their captors. Kinsella's ambition was for every frontline police officer to understand the impact trafficking had on its victims and to treat such women as victims rather than illegal immigrants, but he believes that this is not happening. "We are in danger of slipping backwards," he said.
There is no precise figure for the number of officers trained to handle the peculiar complexities of trafficking. Devon and Cornwall police currently have only one, who is due to retire in 18 months. Most forces lack a specialist trafficking unit. Scotland Yard's dedicated team, Operation Maxim, was disbanded 14 months ago due to loss of funding. Even so, Green said last week that "organised immigration crime" remains the second highest priority of Soca after drugs. Yet convictions for trafficking, by comparison with narcotics crime, are desperately low.
Abina's traffickers were never arrested because of difficulties trying to identify the correct address. On average there have been 25 convictions a year for sex trafficking since 2004, with only eight in England last year. Scotland and Wales have yet to record a single successful prosecution. Senior legal sources say that is too easy for accused traffickers to plead guilty to lesser charges. The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, will shortly meet the all-party parliamentary group for human trafficking to discuss possible changes to the law. Peter Bone, the group's Tory chair, said: "Someone in the CPS told me that if they were in government they'd tear it up and start again."
Regardless of the technical difficulties, the consensus among the voluntary sector is that trafficking's political profile has slipped. Incentives to tackle it are few, as it is an invisible crime largely below the electorate's radar. Brain said that trafficking's underground nature helped explain its position as "peripheral to what most Home Office and police strategists see as core business". Anthony Steen, chair of the Human Trafficking Foundation, said: "In William Wilberforce's day, slavery could be seen. Now it is hidden from view but no less prevalent." Another factor influencing the allocation of resources to combat trafficking is quantifying the numbers. Data gathered under Operation Acumen, an intelligence exercise by senior police officers, indicated that up to 11,800 women may have been trafficked into England and Wales. Bone estimates there are at least 10,000 slaves in the UK, a conservative estimate given the unknown numbers cajoled into forced labour and domestic servitude, and said: "If hardened police officers say this is happening on the scale they say, and I'm a rightwing Tory arguing to opt into an EU directive [on trafficking], that indicates it is pretty serious."
Acumen identified more than 6,000 brothels in England and Wales, a figure unlikely to include the kind of discreet flat in which Abina was incarcerated. A potential glimpse of the true picture is provided by a recent investigation by a victims' trafficking group in Croydon, south London. Lengthy police inquiries uncovered eight brothels in the borough. The Croydon Community Against Trafficking found 65.
Abina's experiences are very similar to those of Morowa, 33, who arrived in London from Ghana in April 2003 expecting to receive help with her education from friends of her father. They collected her at Heathrow airport and drove for several hours to a "small village" where they said she was welcome to stay. Morowa was kept imprisoned for almost four years.
Like Abina, she was never allowed outside, but hundreds of men arrived to abuse her. She said the men forced her to have sex and that if she refused she was "tortured and beaten" by her captors. "I didn't know where I was, all the time I was sexually abused and then tortured." She says she has no idea where in England she was held, only that it seemed very quiet. She has no idea where all the men came from, or how much they paid, because she never received a penny.
But, like Abina and Gloria, she grabbed her chance of freedom. In April 2007, her captors were unusually absent from the detached property where she was imprisoned; she climbed from the building and just remembers running. "For four years I had never been out in the street and I had no idea where to go." She guesses someone must have called the police because she was arrested and referred to the Poppy Project.
Many trafficking experts condemn Britain's failure to care properly for those who have escaped. "Unless you are prepared to provide some form of safety net for rescued victims you are almost going to undo the good," said Brain.
The principal care provider, the Poppy Project, which is rehabilitating Abina, Gloria and Morowa, had its Home Office funding withdrawn and redirected to the Salvation Army. Yet there is hope: the government's decision to endorse the EU directive on trafficking pre-empts the Home Office's forthcoming four-pillared strategy on the issue, which promises the disruption of trafficking networks outside the UK, an increase in border security, improved but unspecified "law-enforcement efforts" and improved victim care arrangements.
Charities still fear a ministerial document with no specific targets or concrete promises. Britain purports to be a world leader in fighting human trafficking; now, they say, is the time to prove it.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING THE FACTS
~ Police intelligence collated for Operation Acumen, the most authoritative effort to determine the scale of sex trafficking in England and Wales, identified 2,600 migrant women who had been trafficked and a further 9,200 vulnerable women who might include trafficking victims. Some senior figures, including former chief constable Timothy Brain, believe the combined total of 11,800 constitutes an accurate estimate of trafficked women.
~ 17,000 migrant sex workers were identified during the police investigations.
~ London houses the most brothels and illegal massage parlours, with 2,103 identified. On average, each place had 1.7 beds. Of these, 268 brothels and 44 escort agencies were found on the internet, while another 1,000 were identified from cards in telephone boxes.
~ In the capital, more than half of sex workers were from eastern Europe with only 3.6% of women coming from the UK.
~ The region with the second highest number of brothels and "sex shops" – 534 – was Yorkshire and Humber, with each establishment having an average of 4.4 beds.
~ The Metropolitan police estimate that trafficked women forced into prostitution see between 20 and 30 men a day, which would mean at least 7,300 contacts if forced to work every day of the year.
Volunteers and Victims
by JIA TOLENTINO
THIS week, in the wake of accusations that the Peace Corps had mishandled the startling number of sexual assaults against its volunteers over the last decade, Congress invited former participants to tell their side of the story.
In many cases, their tales were horrifying — not only of rapes and attempted rapes, but also of the Corps's efforts to play down or ignore them, as well as the risks involved in certain country assignments.
Many echoed comments by volunteers interviewed for an ABC News report in January. Karestan Koenen, who was raped in 1991 in Niger, said, “My own experience was that the treatment by the Peace Corps was worse than the rape.”
As a recent Peace Corps volunteer whose service in Kyrgyzstan ended early because of sexual harassment, I sympathize with Ms. Koenen. My ultimately positive experience points to ways the agency can reform, however, and in many ways already has.
From 2000 to 2009 more than 1,000 Peace Corps volunteers reported sexual assaults, including 221 rapes or attempted rapes — a number that is doubtless too low. Under the anonymous reporting process at our small post in Kyrgyzstan, two to three volunteers reported a rape or attempted rape each year.
I landed in Kyrgyzstan last April, a week before the government was overthrown. My group's introduction to that unforgettable country consisted of evacuations and lockdowns amid endless training: wash all vegetables, exercise for happiness and never go to the clubs on the Embassy blacklist. Much of the training centered on how female volunteers could avoid rape.
As I imagine is typical in all Peace Corps posts, we yawned through our safety sessions, aching to work. The training, though extensive, seemed facile. Ultimately, no behavioral code could ward off rape; try as we might to walk in lighted places, our primary offense in the case of an assault would simply, as always, be that of being female.
Once in my remote village, I grew used to men telling me they would make me their wives — they would kidnap me, they joked, as was the custom. I notified the Peace Corps after a few unpleasant incidents; it instantly offered me a site change. I refused, as I felt invested in the children I was teaching and the library I was building.
In the summer, I broke a Peace Corps rule and was grounded to my village for two months, a dangerous punishment in a village full of unemployed, drunk men. One day my host father kissed me. When I reported it, the Peace Corps pulled me in for a talk with a doctor and then sent me back to complete my punishment.
In the winter, I was grounded again, this time for not sending a required text message. After a dozen minor incidents — being grabbed, being followed — I appealed, but the punishment stayed.
But things changed in January, after ABC ran its report exposing the extent of sexual assault against Peace Corps volunteers. Suddenly, everyone became concerned about my safety, to the point that headquarters reviewed my incident history and told me I had 24 hours to pack my things and leave.
Back in America, I felt crushed. Yet I was also relieved that the Peace Corps had finally turned its mixed messages into decisive action, regardless of the image concerns that prompted it. The reconsideration is long overdue, since volunteers tend to support the Peace Corps until the end. If I had been raped and the Peace Corps had told me it was my fault for not following safety protocol, I might well have believed them.
Likewise, the women interviewed by ABC and testifying before Congress want to change the Peace Corps, not tear it down. Like them, I believe that the agency is absolutely able to make decent and compassionate changes to its handling of volunteer safety.
That was certainly the case at my post in Kyrgyzstan. It conscientiously reported all sexual assaults, and just as important, created an atmosphere where we knew we could be honest about sexual assaults.
All posts need to adopt such open policies. Without full and honest disclosure of sexual assaults from each post and from the agency as a whole, female volunteers cannot be sent out in good conscience. Headquarters should consider a universal policy to investigate, and even block, sending female volunteers to sites or countries with assault rates above a certain level.
Female volunteers need to know that their lives will be dangerous, and they need to know just how dangerous their posts will be. They need the chance to say no, and the belief that, when they say it, their voices will be heard all the way back to Washington.
Police crackdown on West African sex trade in 1,000 German brothels
May 13, 2011
Wiesbaden, Germany - Police investigating a West African sex-trafficking network in Germany have raided 1,000 brothels in a bid to collect evidence of intimidation and exploitation among the country's prostitutes.
Police found 170 women from West Africa, some of whom appeared to be working under duress, the Federal Crime Office in Wiesbaden said Friday, one day after the raids. Some were reportedly terrified into cooperation by pimps using voodoo-style curses.
Investigators from Europol, the European Union's police agency, joined some of the raids to assess whether the suspected West African connection was also operating in other EU nations. Evidence suggested West African pimps, money launderers and identity card forgers were part of the gang.
Groups fighting human trafficking face challenges
by EDWARD SIFUENTES
People fighting to end the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children around the world face daunting challenges, in part because getting a prostitute is as easy as "ordering a pizza," a San Diego County Sheriff's deputy said.
Various groups gathered in San Diego on Friday for the final day of a two-day conference on human trafficking.
The issue is of particular interest right now because law enforcement officials recently uncovered several sex trafficking cases in North County, including a gang-run prostitution operation involving dozens of girls based in Oceanside.
One of the problems local law enforcement face in uncovering and prosecuting sex trafficking incidents is the reluctance of the victims to step forward.
In other cases around the world, human trafficking laws are either inadequate or unenforced, advocates said.
"We all have the same problems," said Marisa Ugarte, director of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, a National City-based nonprofit organization that provides services to the victims of human trafficking, which organized the conference.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department heads a regional anti-human trafficking task force dedicated to fighting the problem.
Sgt. Jason King of Ramona, who heads the task force, said law enforcement has had some success.
Since the task force started nearly five years ago, it has identified nearly 400 victims, many of them young girls, King said.
But there are some disturbing trends that law enforcement has noted in the county, including the increasing involvement of street gangs in the sex trade.
The pimps recruit girls over the Internet through social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, then advertise them on other sites, such as Craigslist, King said.
This has made the problem nearly invisible and more difficult to detect, he said.
Getting a prostitute is as easy as "ordering a pizza," King said.
The problem is global, advocates said.
In some countries, the laws are weak or inadequate.
For example, in Costa Rica, human trafficking is against the law, but there are loopholes. The people who actually take the victims from one place to another are not covered by the law and go unpunished.
In other countries, such as Peru, it is illegal for bus drivers and others to transport victims, said Luis Carrera, a Peruvian judge who spoke at the conference.
Bus drivers are hired by human traffickers to take victims from deep in Peru to coastal cities, where they are used as prostitutes for tourists or exported to other countries as indentured servants, Carrera said.
Corrupt police officers look the other way, Carrera said.
"It's sad to say, but corruption is a terrible problem," he said.
Much of the sex trafficking that occurs in San Diego County is "domestic" ---- women and girls are brought from other parts of the state or the country to be used as prostitutes, said Sgt. Bill Wood, who heads the San Diego Police Department's vice unit.
Local authorities are developing closer working relationships with nonprofits, such as the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition to help victims.
"These are our children," Wood said. "These are members of our community."
Maryland man sentenced to 40 years in prison for producing and possessing child pornography
Repeatedly sexually abused a child under the age of eight to produce pornography; possessed over 600 images and videos of child pornography, including sadistic and violent conduct
BALTIMORE – An Ellicott City, Md., man was sentenced today to 40 years in prison followed by lifetime supervised release for sexually exploiting a child to produce child pornography and possessing child pornography. The sentence is the result of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Howard County, Md., Police Department.
Earlier today, Jeffrey Trantham, 24, was sentenced to 40 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake. Upon his release from prison, Trantham must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein, Special Agent in Charge William Winter of ICE HSI in Baltimore, Howard County Police Chief William McMahon and Howard County State's Attorney Dario J. Broccolino.
“The sentencing today of Jeffrey Trantham sends a strong message that law enforcement will not tolerate such despicable crimes,” said Special Agent in Charge Winter. "Our children have an absolute right to grow up free from the fear of sexual exploitation. ICE's Homeland Security Investigations, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to relentlessly pursue predators who sexually abuse children, whether that abuse is physical in nature or if it is accomplished by exploiting their images.”
According to Trantham's plea agreement, after an individual in Canada received images of a prepubescent minor being sexually abused by a man appearing to be Trantham. Howard County Police officers executed a search warrant at Trantham's residence on Dec. 12, 2009. Trantham admitted that between August and September 2009, he repeatedly sexually abused a child under the age of eight. He further admitted that he took sexually explicit photos of her and sent them to at least three other people over the Internet. He also sent images of the child via a live broadcast through a web camera.
Further investigation of Trantham's computer revealed over 600 images and many additional videos of child pornography, including images depicting the repeated sexual abuse of the victim. Most of the images and videos found on the computer involved prepubescent girls and contained images portraying sadistic or masochistic conduct, or other depictions of violence.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE . This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein expressed appreciation to the London Ontario Canada Police Department, who brought this matter to the attention of the Howard County Police.
Mr. Rosenstein commended ICE HSI, the Howard County Police Department and Howard County State's Attorney's Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution, and thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok, who prosecuted the case.
Orange County's war on sex offenders
Orange County is forbidding sex offenders from visiting county parks and beaches, and it's asking city leaders to do the same. But not all sex offenders are child molesters.
May 13, 2011
With due respect to Jethro Tull, very few child molesters spend their time sitting on park benches eyeing little girls with bad intent. You're more likely to find them at your church, or in your house, than at a public playground. But that's not stopping Orange County politicians, especially Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, from pandering to voters' worst instincts by pursuing a pointless crusade to bar those convicted of sex crimes from parks.
After the county Board of Supervisors approved a Rackauckas-backed ordinance last month forbidding sex offenders from entering dozens of county parks and beaches, the district attorney followed up by sending letters to city leaders throughout Orange County urging them to do the same, since the county measure doesn't apply to city parks. The missive found a receptive audience in Irvine, which is now considering its own parks ordinance. Although measures aimed at tracking sex offenders or imposing harsher penalties against them are common in California, this is believed to be the first attempt in the state to limit the places registered offenders can visit.
Why parks? Why not? Child molesters are every parent's nightmare, and laws aimed at punishing or discouraging them are wildly popular with voters, whether they're effective or not. Among California's more misguided efforts was Jessica's Law, a voter initiative that passed by a landslide in 2006 but that may have undermined rather than enhanced public safety. The law forbade sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools and parks, restricting their housing choices so severely in cities such as Los Angeles that many were forced to live on the streets, destabilizing their lives and making it more likely they would commit further crimes. In ruling the residency restrictions unconstitutional last fall, Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza wrote, "The evidence presented suggests that despite lay belief, a sex offender parolee's residential proximity to a school or park where children regularly gather does not bear on the parolee's likelihood to commit a sexual offense against a child."
The Orange County ordinance, too, may well be unconstitutional. More important, it is unfair and ineffective. Registered sex offenders aren't all child molesters; some men are on the registry for having sex with underage girlfriends when they themselves were still teenagers. Though some sex offenders are incorrigible, many have done their time and turned their lives around. Should all be permanently forbidden from taking their own children to the zoo, or the beach? And will keeping them away from parks really protect children? An estimated 90% of sex crimes against children are committed by family members or acquaintances, not perverts on park benches.
Irvine's City Council could save itself some legal headaches, and retain some self-respect, by dumping Rackauckas' pandering parks ordinance.
Brooklyn Couple Goes To Prison For Sex Trafficking Charges
by NY1 News
A couple from Sunset Park, Brooklyn accused of killing a three-month-old boy was sent to prison for their part in a sex trafficking ring. A Brooklyn couple accused of killing a three-month-old boy was sent to prison for their part in a sex trafficking ring.
Domingo Salazar and his wife Norma Mendez pleaded guilty last year after they were found to have forced a 17-year-old Mexican girl into prostitution.
Salazar was sentenced to 30 years in prison, while Mendez will serve up to 5.5 years.
The couple also faces manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in connection with the death of a three-month-old boy.
Investigators say Salazar fathered the child with the 17-year-old.
Prosecutors allege Salazar severely beat the boy and then placed the baby's body in concrete.
We must see high-risk victims as people too
EDITOR'S NOTE: This letter is in response to an article in the Edmonton Journal on 5/10.
May 13, 2011
Re: "Project KARE conducts search in Edmonton river valley," The Journal, May 10.
In reading this article, something stood out to me as rather unnerving. In mentioning Project KARE's current work, The Journal made the decision to note that of the 70 missing-persons cases currently being investigated, 13 involve prostitutes.
For those unaware of Project KARE's mandate, one of its primary goals is working toward minimizing the risk of "high-risk missing persons" being murdered. The "highrisk missing persons" category includes individuals who participate in high-risk lifestyles, such as sex-trade work or hitchhiking.
While sex-trade work may be high risk, this isn't the problem.
The problem I have with this particular language is the minimizing effect that it has on the crisis of missing and murdered women across Western Canada.
Regardless of profession or lifestyle, no one seems to question or raise concern as to the remarkably high number of people -particularly women -who are being found dead after going missing for years.
When a child from an affluent family goes missing from a suburban home, it seems as though everyone is made aware, whether through news media, word of mouth or whatever.
But when a young woman who hitchhikes or relies on sex-trade work to survive goes missing, it isn't until she turns up dead that any attention (albeit minimal) is paid.
There is nothing more degrading to a human being than to say that she is responsible for her murder or death because of her lifestyle.
Why is it that women within the sex trade are at an especially high risk of being victims of violence? Is the label "high-risk lifestyle" not simply a fancy way of saying we should blame the victim?
I'm no expert on sociology or psychology, but this seems to echo the argument that women who dress certain ways are asking to be raped.
If we are going to legitimize a "blame the victim" philosophy when women are subject to various forms of violence (note: this is the case sometimes, not all the time), then should we not employ this very same philosophy when violence occurs in other ways?
For example, when a soldier is killed in war, is that not considered a high-risk lifestyle? Now let me note that no one supports the bravery and courage of the troops more than I, regardless of whether I agree with war or not. But if we are to categorize certain lifestyles as high risk, why is a military lifestyle not considered?
To further this argument, consider those who consume alcohol or smoke. Consider those who drive while drunk, high or simply while distracted. Countless deaths occur yearly because of these "lifestyles" and they are considered tragedies. Why? Because the lives of human beings are senselessly lost.
This brings me full circle to the point I would like to raise. If the loss of human life is a tragedy, then why can we as a society not find it in ourselves to mourn the losses of these individuals -particularly women -who are found murdered, regardless of whether they are prostitutes or hitchhikers? Why must we dismiss the value of these people -sisters, mothers, daughters -because of the way in which they have to make a living?
Why must we go out of our way to identify that, of the 70 cases of missing persons that have been murder, almost 20 per cent were prostitutes?
It is a telling sign of the way our society feels about women, particularly the most vulnerable of women, that they are prostitutes first, rather than sisters, mothers, daughters, or human beings.
I would like to express the loss I feel for these individuals and their families and the legacy that has been given to their lives. Of the 70 cases Project KARE is currently investigating, at least 13 are daughters whose lives may have been senselessly and tragically taken from them.
AMBER Alerts Come to Gas Pumps
GREENSBORO, N.C. and HOUSTON: Notifications of abducted children will soon be displayed on gas pumps. Manufacturers of gas pump technology are adding AMBER Alert capability to their equipment.
Gilbarco Veeder-Root, a North Carolina maker of gas station equipment since 1865, said this week it will become a secondary distributor of AMBER Alerts. The company will carry the alerts on its gas-pump video screens and enable the receipt system to print out photos and information regarding missing children. The AMBER Alerts function will be an opt-in program available to retailers who manage their own video content and for those who use the company's Applause TV service.
Another company, Houston's Additech, which makes fuel additive kiosks deployed next to Murphy gas pumps, will carry AMBER Alerts as well. Murphy of El Dorado, Ark., owns and operates more than 1,000 outlets in 23 states.
AMBER Alerts are now primarily carried on TV, radio and electronic highway signs. Secondary distributors include federal agencies, companies facilitating 911 services and first-responder communications, “America's Most Wanted,” several wireless providers, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, some non-network ISPs, and Qualcomm, which broadcasts the alerts to truckers.
AMBER Alerts are responsible for the recovery of 540 abducted children to date. For 2010, of 173 AMBER Alerts issues, 150 cases resulted in recovery, 28 of them as a direct result of AMBER alerts.
Salvation Army works to end sex trafficking
by Robyn Chambers - Williams Lake Tribune
May 12, 2011
Dina Kennedy has a passion that is probably unlike many others held by Canadians.
Kennedy, a local volunteer at the Salvation Army in Williams Lake, is a crusader for the rights of individuals who are trafficked into the sex trade and into slavery both globally and in this country.
She recently returned from a three-week trip in Bangkok, Thailand where she volunteered at a home for women and girls who had been rescued after being sold or trafficked in the sex trade in that country.
The home, called Home for New Beginnings, is not operated by the Salvation Army but by a couple who saw a need in the country and responded to it.
When Kennedy first arrived there were 10 women (some in their teens) who had been rescued from the confines bars, brothels and strip clubs that litter the capital. That number had grown to 14 by the time she left. Bangkok is a well-known location for sex tourists from primarily Europe and North America.
It's not only Thai women who are held in slavery but increasingly eastern European and African women who are brought to Thailand for the purpose of providing sex.
Kennedy says during her stay she and other workers at the home “ministered” in the red light district and in particular outside one facility called the Nana Entertainment Plaza, a three-storey facility that caters to individuals seeking sexual encounters.
Kennedy says she and her colleagues were allowed into many of the establishments but if they wanted to speak to any of the girls they had to “purchase” them first.
“We invited them to come to the home,” said Kennedy of what, among many things, they talked to the girls about.
Once in the home, the girls tell their stories of how they ended up in the trade. Some were sold by their parents to pay debts or to simply survive, another was sold for a bag of rice as the family could not afford to keep her, another was involved in the trade to supply her husband's gambling addiction, and others were taken by force into the trade.
Kennedy said she felt “degraded and dirty” by the experience but remained deeply committed to help those in need.
Once the women commit to leave the sex trade they live at the home and learn skills including English. Many return to school. Kennedy hopes to return to the country next year to continue the work she started.
Although a world away from Thailand, Kennedy says prostitution and the exploitation of women occurs in Williams Lake.
“We do not see girls standing on the corner but girls are selling themselves,” she said.
In the months of May and September the Salvation Army runs an awareness campaign on human sexual trafficking. Kennedy will have a display on that topic at Boitanio Mall on May 20 from 4-7 p.m. In Vancouver the Salvation Army runs a safe home for trafficked women called Deborah's Gate.
For more information on the Salvation Army's campaign against sex trafficking visit www.salvationist.ca/trafficking.
Colorado A "Dirty Dozen" State For Sex Trafficking
National Group Urges Colorado To Take Action
by JAMES JARMAN
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Colorado's one of the "Dirty Dozen" in a ranking by a national group that monitors human trafficking. The Polaris Project says Colorado is one of the worst states when comes to stopping the criminals.
Polaris runs the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. It researches, helps shape laws and helps the victims.
James Dold is the Project's Policy Counsel and told Target 13 Investigates, "If you look at the human trafficking statutes in just about all 50 states now, the laws that are on the books in Colorado are nowhere near where they need to be."
He applauds our state lawmakers for raising the fines on "Johns" soliciting prostitutes to $5,000, and requiring classes to educate them about human trafficking, but Dold said that's not enough to get us off the Dirty Dozen list.
"There needs to be a complete revamp of the trafficking laws in Colorado," he said. He points out that Colorado does not have a provision in it's law addressing sex trafficking. He said human traffickers know Colorado's laws are lax and they target states like that.
He also confirms what officers told us, Target 13 Investigates could've come face to face with traffickers and their victims during our hidden camera investigation.
Through it's research Polaris has found a direct link between asian massage parlors, prostitution and sex trafficking.
"I think people do need to realize what a big problem this is," Roger Patrizio, President of the Colorado Institute of Massage Therapy. Patrizio's been fighting the problem for years, he's also a member of the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado trying to help the victims in our state.
"Some of these girls are trafficked in from other countries so they don't have the trust that they can go to law enforcement and really believe that they're going to get help," he said, "their lives are being threatened, they're being abused on a regular basis."
Orlando man accused of sex trafficking of children
May 12, 2011
A 29-year-old Orlando man is accused of forcing girls as young as 13 into prostitution over a three-year period.
A federal indictment charges Miguel Morancy, also known as "Shadow," "Shadsky," "Shadizzle" and "Short," with nine counts of sex trafficking of children, two counts of enticement and one count each of transporting for prostitution and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.
According to the indictment, Morancy recruited and coerced five girls younger than 18 to perform sex acts, often in Tampa hotels. He is accused of advertising their services on the Internet.
Government and Nonprofits Work to Stop Sex Trafficking
Every month, 400 adolescent girls are sold on Internet sites, on street corners, and in the backroom deals of sex traffickers. An estimated 300 such transactions occur every day. The girls come from every socioeconomic background: Many are runaways or abused children; some are kidnapped. The average age of entry into the local sex market is between 12 and 14 years old.
This heartbreaking reality is not a story from a red-light district in a third world country. Shockingly, these statistics describe the daily plight of hundreds of children right here in America in the state of Georgia.
Recognizing the unique needs of sexual abuse victims, one organization in the state is helping girls and young women rescued from the sex trade begin healing. Wellspring Living focuses on restoring women's dignity and purpose by providing intensive therapy to promote emotional and relational recovery. The organization offers a residential treatment center for adult women escaping violence and abuse, providing a safe environment where victims can become survivors through counseling and education. Wellspring also offers practical life skills training and family reunification programs. Wellspring for Girls has partnered with a licensed children's home and school to meet the housing and educational needs of underage sex trafficking victims—with noteworthy results.
The organization has served over 150 women and 25 minors, with an 84 percent success rate. Understanding the need for community awareness and vigilance against sex trafficking, Wellspring also invests time and resources in educating local churches and communities on the reality of the sexual exploitation in Georgia.
The success of programs like Wellspring would be nearly impossible without the work of local police and government officials dedicated to enforcing anti-exploitation laws and rescuing women from sex trafficking. This is one example of government upholding justice and protecting the most vulnerable members of the community. Where public institutions' role ends and private organizations' begin is in helping restore victims to wholeness through relationships and individual attention.
As Heritage Fellow Ryan Messmore points on in a new paper, “As it articulates and upholds the rule of law on behalf of an entire society, government benefits all citizens, especially the weakest and most vulnerable. By maintaining public safety, law, and justice, government ensures that healthy relationships can grow and thrive in the context of family, church, and community.”
Government has a responsibility to maintain the rule of law so that safety, freedom, and social peace can allow civil society institutions like Wellspring Living to provide the resources to restore human dignity and help individuals thrive.
Shyima is a young woman who experienced such restoration through a similar effort in Orange County, California. Watch Shyima's story to see how private organizations and public law enforcement can partner to stop human trafficking and restore victims' dignity. Learn more about government's proper role in helping civil society institutions address community needs at SeekSocialJustice.com.
Protecting the Mothers of Tomorrow
Imagine you are a mother of a teenage girl who has been missing for nine months. After exhausting all search options, you begin to wonder if you will ever see your daughter again -- but you will not give up. You continue to do all you can to find your daughter, and one day you finally do ... scantily clad and posted for sale on Village Voice Media's classified site Backpage.com.
Unfortunately, this story is not made up. "Janice," a mother from St. Louis, found her daughter on Backpage.com where a trafficker forced her to place ads to attract buyers. The trafficker picked Janice's daughter up at an Arby's, 24 hours after she ran away from home, and forced her into sexual slavery. Working with law enforcement, Janice was able to save her daughter, who is now in treatment, but these kinds of scars are slow to heal.
According to a recently released Justice Department report, more than 80 percent of the 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking investigated by law enforcement agencies between January 2008 and June 2010 involved sex trafficking. The report, written by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), says that of all sex trafficking victims, about 83 percent were U.S. citizens and were "overwhelmingly female," with female victims involved in 94 percent of sex trafficking cases.
Perhaps the most shocking statistic in the report is that nearly half -- 40 percent -- of investigated incidents uncovered the sexual exploitation or forced prostitution of children, the majority of which one can assume are girls with U.S. citizenship.
It's difficult to say exactly how many girls are being bought and sold for sex against their will in this country, but it is estimated that as many as 300,000 children in America are at risk of being trapped in the sex slave trade every year.
What we do know is that the Internet has made it harder to locate children victimized by sex traffickers and the predators who fuel the booming sex trafficking industry, which is now tied with arms dealing as the second most lucrative underground market, just behind drugs. Many of the girls and young women are no longer on the street or at truck stops where law enforcement can see these young victims. They are instead being bought and sold against their will online.
Traffickers aren't the only ones benefiting from this migration. In the last six months, six websites tracked by the AIM Group have generated $16.8 million from online sex ads. Village Voice Media's Backpage.com remains the leading U.S. online publisher in the sex ad category, providing the nation's most frequently visited online marketplace for buying and selling girls.
In February alone, it generated $1.8 million from the escort and body rub ad categories, both common euphemisms for prostitution, and frequently used by traffickers and buyers to exploit girls. One shimmer of hope for the girls trafficked offline and on sites like Backpage.com is that our nation is beginning to awaken to their horrific plight.
United States Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and John Cornyn (R-TX) have recently re-introduced a federal bill that would go a long way in protecting and supporting child sex trafficking victims and survivors. S. 596, The Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Victims Support Act of 2011, seeks to amend the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 by authorizing large block grants to create a comprehensive, victim-centered approach to addressing the sex trafficking of minors in the U.S.
The grants would be used to fund direct services to survivors, law enforcement activities and public awareness outreach in six regionally diverse locations within the U.S. The bill has now been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and we are awaiting re-introduction in the House.
State houses across the country are also starting to enact laws addressing domestic minor sex trafficking, with states like Texas and Georgia -- hardly known for their progressive legislation -- moving laws forward to more harshly punish traffickers, address demand, and better protect child victims of this horrible crime.
These steps make clear that the advocacy movement and public and political will to address and combat the sex trafficking of our country's most vulnerable children is growing, but we cannot stop here.
On the heels of celebrating mothers across our great nation for their steadfast and unwavering dedication to their children, let us collectively stand with mothers like Janice to protect all of our nation's daughters, and call on our local, state, and federal governments to do more to protect and support girls trapped in sexual slavery. While the roots of child sex trafficking are tangled and complex, some viable options for concrete action are simple:
Congress must pass S. 596 to give shelter and critical support services to child sex trafficking victims.
We must stop criminalizing young victims of sex trafficking in every state and instead link them to the restorative care they need to move from crisis to security.
Internet sites like Backpage must realize their role in the sex trafficking trade and stop providing a platform for traffickers and predators to victimize our children. If they don't, government agencies and officials must intervene.
Let us join together to create zero tolerance for the buying and selling of children for sex because if even one girl is trapped in sexual slavery, it is one girl too many.
Take Action today to ensure that all of our nation's daughters and mothers of tomorrow have the power to build A Future Not A Past.
Arizona Man Sentenced to 180 Months in Prison for Engaging in a Child Exploitation Enterprise
WASHINGTON – David Dean, 43, of Peoria, Ariz., was sentenced today to 180 months in prison and a lifetime of supervised release for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton for the Western District of Pennsylvania and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton.
“The members of this criminal enterprise committed the most unthinkable of crimes – they trafficked in chilling images of children and infants being brutally, sexually abused. And, they used a social networking website to distribute these images so that they could reach as many other like-minded individuals as they could,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Our children, who are the most vulnerable and innocent in our society, deserve every measure of protection we can give them. As this prosecution shows, we will use every tool we have to attack and dismantle these illegal child exploitation networks.”
“ This prosecution also illustrates the ripe environment for child predators that exists though the internet. The defendants in this case found kinship online, validating their shared desire to engage in sex with children, and to seek sexual gratification through sharing horrific and degrading images of children,” said U.S. Attorney Hickton. “We must respond to this threat with the full force of federal law enforcement and its many partners across agencies, jurisdictions, state lines, and national borders. I am committed to this effort, and we will not stop until we eradicate this evil.”
“Possession of child pornography is not a victimless crime,” said ICE Director Morton. “Those who engage in this criminal behavior should be forewarned that ICE, along with our law enforcement partners, will use every tool at our disposal to end the sexual exploitation of our children and keep them safe wherever they live.”
On June 17, 2010, Dean pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Arthur A. Schwab in Pittsburgh to one count of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise. According to court documents and proceedings, Dean and others distributed images and videos of children being sexually abused to other members of an international group that had restricted membership and was formed on a social networking website. Members of the group distributed to one another thousands of sexually explicit images and videos of children, many of which graphically depicted prepubescent, male children, including some infants, being sexually abused and sometimes sodomized or subjected to bondage.
Seven co-defendants have previously pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison as a result of this investigation.
This case was investigated by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations and the High Technology Investigative Unit of the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS). Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig W. Haller and CEOS Trial Attorney Andrew McCormack prosecuted the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
California Man Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Attempting to Extort Child Pornography from Minor
WASHINGTON – A Fremont, Calif., man was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison and to pay a $20,000 fine for possessing child pornography and attempting to extort additional child pornography images of an underage girl whom he harassed via the social networking website Facebook, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California.
James Dale Brown, 28, pleaded guilty on Feb. 2, 2011, before U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton in the Northern District of California. In pleading guilty, Mr. Brown admitted that from December 2008 through April 2009, under the username “Bob Lewis,” he repeatedly contacted a girl he knew to be 14 years old via her Facebook webpage. Prior to contacting the victim, Brown had obtained a revealing photograph of the victim. Brown informed the victim that he had this photograph, and others, and suggested that he would delete all the pictures of her “from the Internet” only if she sent him a video of herself engaging in sexually explicit conduct. To force her to send such a video, Brown threatened to expose explicit images of the victim then in his possession to the victim's friends, who were also minors. Despite Brown's consistent harassment, the victim resisted his efforts for several months. To carry out his threats, on April 18, 2009, Brown sent two Internet links to the victim's friend, also a minor, which directed the victim's friend to an explicit image of the victim. On April 23, 2009, FBI agents executed a search warrant on Brown's Fremont residence. Brown was arrested on Aug. 26, 2010.
This is the first case involving the attempted extortion of a minor for child pornography via a social networking website, such as Facebook, to be prosecuted in the Northern District of California.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Mi Yung Park of Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) in the Justice Department's Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Hill of the Northern District of California. The case was investigated by the FBI.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov .
Law enforcement joins forces to combat child exploitation in Orange County
SANTA ANA, Calif. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) have teamed up to create the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force to identify and arrest child predators operating in the county.
The Task Force will allow member agencies the opportunity to share information and resources, and bring their own unique authorities to apprehending those who hurt children. The participating agencies also plan to conduct educational and outreach programs for parents, law enforcement, and the public to raise awareness about the dangers children face on the Internet and how to reduce those risks.
Each year, millions of children fall prey to sexual predators, leaving them with permanent psychological, physical and emotional scars. The Task Force agencies will collaborate to investigate and arrest child pornographers, child sex tourists and facilitators, child molesters and online predators.
"HSI is committed to protecting children victimized by predators who think they can utilize technology and other means to hide," Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI in Orange County. "Some predators mistakenly believe the anonymity of cyberspace shields them from scrutiny; in fact, their use of computers and the Internet have given us new tools in our enforcement efforts to protect children."
"Protecting the children in our community is among the Orange County Sheriff's Department's highest priorities," said Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. "The Orange County Child Exploitation Unit will employ the latest technology to collect evidence and track the activities of individuals and organized groups who sexually exploit children through the use of websites, chat rooms, newsgroups and peer-to-peer trading. Targeting these sophisticated child predators will help make the Internet a safer environment for our children."
"For the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, one of the most important things we can deliver is a child's safety," says B. Bernard Ferguson, inspector in charge for the Los Angeles Division. "Postal inspectors have a long history of aggressively investigating the predators who attempt to sexually exploit children through the use of the U.S. mail. Although they now utilize more sophisticated technology, the USPIS is committed to working with law enforcement partners to identify and arrest suspects, no matter what means or methods they use."
Several laws increase the probability that sexual predators who harm children will suffer severe consequences. Federal law bars U.S. residents from engaging in sexual or pornographic activities anywhere in the world with a child under 18. Those convicted in the U.S. face significant penalties: a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for first-time offenders convicted of possessing, manufacturing, and distributing child pornography and child sex tourism crimes. Trafficking of children for prostitution carries a possible penalty of life in prison.
The Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through ICE's toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 . Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a Task Force partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
Baltimore Man Convicted of Sexually Abusing a Minor to Produce Child Pornography
BALTIMORE—U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis convicted Jesse Aaron Davison, age 27, of Baltimore, today after a five-day bench trial of conspiring to produce and producing child pornography, possession of child pornography, and obstruction of justice. The conviction was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III; and Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein.
According to evidence presented at the five day trial, sometime in 2009, Davison's co-defendant, Tiffany Bolner, became friends with a child who lived in her neighborhood. After November 2009, Davison and Bolner met and became romantically involved. Bolner began taking the child with her to visit Davison and spend the night at Davison's home. By February 2010, Davison and Bolner lived together and the child spent weekends at their home. Testimony showed that some time between January and May 2010, Davison and Bolner sexually abused the child and videotaped and photographed the abuse. Davison told the child to keep the sexual conduct a secret. Additional evidence showed that from at least February 2010 to June 17, 2010, Davison also possessed images of child pornography.
Davison faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Judge Garbis has scheduled sentencing for July 28, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. Tiffany Bolner, age 21, of Baltimore, previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce and producing child pornography and faces a minimum of 15 years and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Judge Garbis has scheduled her sentencing for July 28, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. As a result of their convictions, Davison and Bolner will be required to register as sex offenders in the place where they reside, where they are employed, and where they are students, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Davison and Bolner remain detained.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov. Details about Maryland's program are available at www.justice.gov/usao/md/Safe-Childhood/index.html.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI, the Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore City Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer McAllister for their work in the investigation and prosecution of Davison. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Budlow and Kristi N. O'Malley, who are prosecuting the case.
Police access to missing persons' info broadens
Alberta police can now access financial records to help locate missing people in the province.
The Missing Persons Act, passed May 10 in the Alberta Legislature, allows officers to access personal information, including telephone and banking records, to help locate missing people, even if police determine a crime has not been committed.
Previously, this information was only accessible if officers determined a crime had been committed.
"We had a bit of a blind spot or a gap, and that's what was identified to us by the police and that is what we have addressed with this legislation," says Justice Minister Verlyn Olson.
On average, Edmonton has 1,800 missing persons cases each year, many of which are youth, people with Alzheimer's or people with mental disabilities.
Sgt. Rod Appelt with the Missing Persons Unit says the new legislation eliminates some red tape associated with accessing vital information.
"If it's a youth or someone who we believe may be in trouble, we certainly would like to access their cell phone records, or banking records as quickly as possible," says Appelt.
Officers used to have to prove a crime had been committed to obtain a search warrant from a judge. Now no crime is needed to search for the necessary personal information.
Questions have arisen about infringing on personal privacy, but Olson says the act is well balanced.
"Generally, I think people are willing to have a balance between their right to privacy and the ability to find people who are in need of help."
Although the city has numerous ongoing unsolved missing persons cases, the act will be "forward looking," not retroactive.
"It's not meant for solving cold cases. It's about moving forward," says Olson.
In the coming weeks, Olson says, ministry staff will be working in tandem with Alberta police forces to hammer out exactly how the act will be implemented.
Glen Burnie Man Sentenced 10 Years for Child Sex Trafficking
According to the Baltimore Sun, a Glen Burnie man was sentenced to 10 years in prison when the court accepted a plea agreement where Derwin Samuel Smith, 43, pleaded guilty to the trafficking and prostitution of a 12-year-old girl.
The sentence also includes 20 years of supervised release, the Sun reported.
Smith pleaded guilty in March after members of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force found the 12-year-old girl, who had been reported missing and was believed to be involved in prostitution, at a motel in Maryland City
According to the state's attorney's account of the plea agreement, The girl called a relative from the motel room and an investigation revealed that the motel room was registered to Smith, the state's attorney's office said. After officers arrived at the motel room, the child said that Smith told her that he would be back later that evening to have sex with her.
According to the state's attorney's office, the girl was taken to police headquarters and said Smith was the person who picked her up on the street in Washington, D.C., paid for sexual services performed in the backseat of his car and recruited her to work for him as a prostitute.
According to the statement of facts, Smith then drove the girl to Atlantic City, NJ, where Smith told her to have sex with men for money over the weekend. The girl said she gave Smith all of the money she earned.
Monica Johnson: Amber Alert issued for teen believed abducted by sex offender
An Amber Alert was issued on May 11, 2011 in East Tennessee after authorities with the Chattanooga Police Department stated they believed a 15-year-old girl has been abducted by a registered, violent sex offender.
Authorities also say that the alleged abductor, the violent sex offender, is Monica Johnson's biological father.
According to police reports, Thomas Whitt Johnson has no custodial rights to Monica and is currently on parole.
He was ordered to wear a GPS tracking device but allegedly removed the GPS bracelet, stole a vehicle and abducted his daughter.
Heath graduate participates in campaign to fight sex trafficking
NEWARK -- Amber Miller wore the same dress for a month.
Since most everyone asks -- yes, she did wash it.
And while she has your attention, let her explain why:
"Being in college in Toledo, you don't really realize we are in the top five (nationally) when it comes to human trafficking and sex trafficking. It really breaks your heart when you hear about it," said Miller, whose floral-print dress from March 24 to Friday did, indeed, get people talking. "If someone sees you wearing the same dress every day, they're going to ask why."
The FBI defines human trafficking as the "buying, selling and smuggling (of) people -- often women and children -- and forcing them into what amounts to modern-day slavery."
Toledo was found to be the fourth most common city in the nation -- behind Miami, Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas -- for human trafficking cases, according to a 2009 Northwest Ohio Innocence Lost Task Force study.
Miller and a few friends took on the One Dress One Month challenge after hearing The Daughter Project advocate and blogger Amy Seiffert speak on campus about wearing the same dress for six months to raise awareness about human trafficking.
The Daughter Project is a nonprofit organization that provides recovery services in a home-like environment to girls who have been freed from sex traffickers.
Miller, a 2008 Heath High School graduate, chose to wear a two-tone dress with a black top and floral skirt because "it was different," she said. "Everybody was going for solid colors, and I just wanted something that would really stand out."
That way, she said, they'd be sure to know it was the same one.
The goal behind the students' crusade was to raise money for the Daughter Project. Though the campaign only was planned to run from March 24 to April 24, Miller and her roommates wore their dresses until the end of the semester Friday.
The girls also declared a moratorium on shopping for the month, donating any money they would have spent to the Daughter Project. By the time it wrapped up, about 50 girls were participating, Miller said.
"It just made me feel like it's made me so much more aware of my surroundings," she said. "It helped me to realize that there's bigger, there's more important things in the world than worrying about what people think of me."
For more information about the Daughter Project, visit www.thedaughterproject.org
House votes to create 'John' school attempts to cut down on prostitution demand
First-time offenders for soliciting prostitution would be able to defer penalties and go to a class to learn that it's not a "victimless crime" under a bill tentatively passed by the House Wednesday.
The bill by Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, would create a first offender prostitution program, aimed at those soliciting prostitution.
"This is aimed at educating those arrested on the negative consequences of the sex trade and human trafficking," Weber said. "It is a program which goes after the demand of the sex trade-- it's the johns."
Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, spoke against the bill, but an odd exchange followed. She said she was not as familiar with the industry as Weber and asked what exactly he meant by a "john."
"Likewise, I'm not familiar either," Weber said. "The john, and let's face it, in the vast majority, is the man that is soliciting prostitution and we aim to go at the demand."
Farrar suggested such a person --the john -- should not have deferred adjudication for a first-time offense and questioned what need the program is addressing.
"It just seems to me that everything we do here enhances penalties and that dissuades from committing certain acts," she said.
Weber responded that he wanted to go after the demand for prostitution.
"So, we are setting up a john school?" asked Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston.
"A john school teaches that prostitution is not a victimless crime," Weber said.
Before the bill tentatively passed, a final question from Rep. John Davis, "How many johns are in the Texas House?"
Father booked in beating of 5-week-old son in San Bernardino County
May 10, 2011
A San Bernardino County man was booked Tuesday on suspicion of beating his 5-week-old son, who suffered two skull fractures and other injuries, authorities said.
The infant was recovering in a hospital, where he had also been treated for broken ribs, a broken shoulder bone and numerous bruises consistent with child abuse, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department.
David Michael Belvin, 29, who lives in Yucaipa, was arrested in connection with the abuse. He was booked on a charge of inflicting willful harm or injury to a child, authorities said.
Belvin was being held Tuesday at the county's Central Detention Center in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Few leads in abduction of 9-year-old Riverside girl; police call it an 'isolated incident'
May 10, 2011
Police say the abduction of a 9-year-old Riverside girl over the weekend, allegedly by a man who carried her away from her apartment where she was sleeping with her brother and sister, was an isolated incident.
The girl was physically assaulted and remains hospitalized in serious but stable condition, Riverside police said Tuesday.
Investigators have no suspects, but have obtained video of a pickup truck in the area at the time of the abduction; they are working to enhance the tape for potential clues. No witnesses have come forward.
“Right now it's wide open,” said Sgt. Wayne Ramaekers. The girl told police she'd been asleep with two siblings at her apartment near Pike Street and Herman Drive late Saturday night when a man climbed through an unlocked second-story window and carried her away. Police said the girl's mother, a single parent, was not home at the time.
The girl showed up in a Riverside neighborhood about 3 miles away early Sunday morning, disoriented and knocking on doors near Bolton Avenue and Giles Court. She told police she had been taken in a car and later dumped out.
Forensic evidence has been submitted to a lab for DNA analysis. Police plan to interview the girl again when her condition improves.
The victim's 12-year-old brother and 3-year-old sister are staying with a relative. Police said they are concentrating on investigating the kidnapping and assault and waiting to determine whether to file any charges against their mother for leaving the children alone in the apartment.
Irvine may ban sex offenders from parks
May 10, 2011
The Irvine City Council is considering a ban to prevent sex offenders from entering city parks, an action that mimics a law passed by the Orange County Board of Supervisors last month.
The Orange County ordinance , passed April 5, bans registered sex offenders from entering county parks without written permission from Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. Violators could be punished with up to six months in jail or a $500 fine.
Critics said the law, introduced by Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas and Supervisor Shawn Nelson, could be politically motivated and difficult to enforce. Sheriff's spokesman John McDonald said he was unaware of any arrests stemming from the law.
"Protection of children to me is not a political issue," said Jeffrey Lalloway, the Irvine City Council member who wrote a memo April 27 urging the ordinance.
On April 15, Rackauckas and Nelson sent a letter to the Irvine City Council urging a similar ordinance, because the county law does not cover city parks. Similar letters were sent to each mayor and city council not covered by the county ordinance.
"The law's purpose and intent is clear: to protect children from registered sex offenders by restricting sex offenders' access to locations where children regularly gather," the letter states.
Lalloway said he hoped the Irvine ordinance would cover all 18 of the city's community parks, plus the Orange County Great Park, but added that there could be exceptions.
"This is not a blanket prohibition," he said. "There are situations where people might have jobs working in parks."
Originally, the Sheriff's Department said the law would be enforced on a "case by case" basis.
But last week, Hutchens sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors stating that she does not "foresee any circumstance under which I would grant permission for registered sex offenders to enter county parks."
Peace Corps Volunteers Speak Out on Rape
by SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
WASHINGTON — Jess Smochek arrived in Bangladesh in 2004 as a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer with dreams of teaching English and “helping the world.” She left six weeks later a rape victim after being brutalized in an alley by a knife-wielding gang.
When she returned to the United States, the reception she received from Peace Corps officials was as devastating, she said, as the rape itself. In Bangladesh, she had been given scant medical care; in Washington, a counselor implied that she was to blame for the attack. For years she kept quiet, feeling “ashamed and embarrassed and guilty.”
Today, Ms. Smochek is among a growing group of former Peace Corps volunteers who are speaking out about their sexual assaults, prompting scrutiny from Congress and a pledge from the agency for reform. In going public, they are exposing an ugly sliver of life in the Peace Corps: the dangers that volunteers face in far-flung corners of the world and the inconsistent — and, some say, callous — treatment they receive when they become crime victims.
“These women are alone in many cases, and they're in rough parts of the world,” said Representative Ted Poe, Republican of Texas, who says the Peace Corps' promises do not go far enough and is sponsoring legislation to force changes in the way it treats victims of sexual assault. “We want the United States to rush in and treat them as a victim of crime like they would be treated here at home.”
Founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps has 8,655 volunteers and trainees, as young as 21 and as old as 86, serving in 77 countries. For most, service is, as the agency's Web site boasts, “a life-defining leadership experience.”
But from 2000 to 2009, on average, 22 Peace Corps women each year reported being the victims of rape or attempted rape, the agency says. During that time, more than 1,000 Peace Corps volunteers reported sexual assaults, including 221 rapes or attempted rapes. Because sexual crimes often go unreported, experts say the incidence is likely to be higher, though they and the Peace Corps add that it is difficult to assess whether the volunteers face any greater risk overseas than women in the United States do.
On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will convene a hearing to examine what its chairwoman, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, called “serious crimes” committed against Peace Corps volunteers, including murder; in announcing the hearing, her office cited reports of “gross mismanagement of sexual assault complaints.”
Lois Puzey, whose daughter Kate was murdered in 2009 while posted in Benin, will testify. So will Ms. Smochek, now a board member of First Response Action, a fledgling advocacy group founded by another former volunteer, Casey Frazee. Ms. Frazee was sexually assaulted in South Africa in 2009 and came home, she said, determined to not “let the Peace Corps toss me off like I was an isolated incident.”
In an interview Monday, the director of the Peace Corps, Aaron S. Williams, said he was committed to revamping the agency's practices to create a more “victim-centered approach.”
He insisted that it was safe for women to serve in the Peace Corps. “We do not place Peace Corps volunteers in unsafe environments,” he said.
But he said the agency must modernize its procedures to “make sure that we provide compassionate care” to crime victims. Already, Mr. Williams has made some changes, including hiring a “victim's advocate” who began work on Monday and signing an agreement with a nationally known rape crisis group to re-examine his organization's training and policies.
The changes reflect the work of Ms. Frazee, who has spent the last 18 months tracking down Peace Corps sexual assault survivors by reaching out through social networking sites and her blog. Last year, her work attracted the attention of the ABC News program “20/20,” which ran a segment on the women in January. In recent months, Ms. Frazee, 28, has collected more than two dozen affidavits from other women, who have shared stories that Mr. Williams called “tragic.”
In interviews and documents, they paint a picture of what many call a “blame the victim” culture at the Peace Corps.
Jessica Gregg, who was drugged and sexually assaulted in 2007 in Mozambique, said a Peace Corps medical officer “made me write in my testimony that I was intoxicated” and suggested that “I willingly had sex with this guy.” She and a number of other women complained that a training video the Peace Corps uses places too much emphasis on the role of alcohol in sexual assaults; in response, Mr. Williams said the video would be replaced.
Many, like Kate Finn, who was raped in Costa Rica and now works in the district attorney's office in Denver as a victim's advocate, complain that they are not advised on how to prosecute their attackers; a 2010 survey of Peace Corps volunteers revealed that nearly 40 percent of those raped and 50 percent of those sexually assaulted did not report their attacks. Ms. Finn said that her attacker's family was on the police force and that she “did not feel safe” reporting what had happened.
Still others say they are given inadequate information about counseling. Karestan Koenen, who sought therapy on her own and is now a psychologist who teaches at Columbia and Harvard, said she was shocked to discover that women today were confronting the same difficulties as she did when she was raped in 1991 in Niger.
“My own experience,” she said, “was that the treatment by the Peace Corps was worse than the rape.”
The women say Mr. Williams's efforts, while promising, are not enough. They want Congress to pass legislation requiring, among other things, that the Peace Corps develop “sexual assault response teams” to collect forensic evidence and provide emergency health care and advocacy for victims after attacks. Mr. Williams said he was open to such legislation but has not committed to supporting it.
But whether such a bill would pass Congress is unclear. Representative Niki Tsongas, Democrat of Massachusetts, is co-sponsoring Mr. Poe's bill, but other Democrats are skittish about it. They worry that the legislation, and Wednesday's hearing, might be used to undermine the Peace Corps — the legacy of a Democratic president — and cut its funding.
The women of First Response Action insist that was never their intention; they say they want to improve the Peace Corps, not destroy it. Ms. Smochek, now 30 and a graduate student, said her primary goal was to alert future volunteers, and in the process perhaps bring some solace to other sexual assault survivors “to let them know they are not alone.”
by BESSEL A. van der KOLK
AS a young psychiatrist, I worked with Vietnam War combat veterans and confronted the astonishing lack of resources to help these men and women who had sacrificed so much for their country. Three decades later, that situation has greatly improved. First, we named the problem — post-traumatic stress disorder — and then in 1989 Congress created the National Center for PTSD to help suffering veterans.
Their plight has also led to a greater recognition of the impact of violence on children. For every soldier returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with symptoms of depression or PTSD, there are around 10 children in the United States who are traumatized by exposure to family violence, sexual abuse, neglect and assault, with consequences comparable to those of adult exposure to war-zone violence. We have made progress in treating these children, but that progress is threatened by a drastic budget cut proposed by the White House.
Rather than being subjected to bullets and bombs, children are victimized by those who are meant to care for them. These are children like a 3-year-old girl in Anchorage who was found by a police officer in her crib, hungry, underweight and covered in her own feces; an 11-year-old boy in New York City who has had violent outbursts since he was sexually molested, and whose terror of being alone makes him a subject of ridicule by his classmates; or a 14-year-old girl in Boston who set fire to a church and repeatedly attempted suicide after being beaten at home. The Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that the annual cost of childhood maltreatment like this is $103.8 billion.
Inspired by the work of the National Center for PTSD, Congress authorized the establishment of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network in 2001 to evaluate and develop treatments for traumatized children nationwide, with a budget that is now $40 million — about the cost of keeping 40 soldiers fighting in Afghanistan for one year.
President Obama's 2012 budget has proposed a 70 percent reduction in financing for the network. That would be devastating for these children. The network has knitted together 130 clinics and universities in 38 states that specialize in helping traumatized children and adolescents. It has allowed the members to develop treatment programs and to hire and educate the staff to run them, enabling 322,000 children nationwide to get treatment from July 2002 to September 2009.
According to the latest figures available, 2.9 million children were mistreated in 2006, many of whom manifested serious behavioral and psychological problems. The network has started to document how trauma affects developing brains differently from those of adults exposed to wartime violence.
It has also been evaluating what interventions are most effective for different groups of children. Two have been most thoroughly studied and found to be effective: cognitive behavioral therapy and treatments to help children regulate their emotions. Children who receive these treatments were shown to function substantially better afterward.
Most traumatized children now do not even receive a proper mental health assessment. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of them are numbed by powerful drugs that help control their “bad behavior,” but that don't deal with the imprint of terror and helplessness on their minds and brains. Drugs can sedate, but they do not help children deal with trauma — in fact, they may prevent recovery by interfering with learning and the formation of relationships, essential preconditions for becoming functioning adults.
The proposed budget cut for the network would mean that it no longer can develop and test effective treatments for these children. This is unfortunate since we are just beginning to look at what treatments can produce the best outcomes, and to learn from the cases in which these treatments do not work.
Untreated, traumatized children become failing adults who populate our jails and overwhelm our human services agencies. Cutting the development of effective treatments will produce many years of increasing costs and unquantifiable human misery.
Bessel A. van der Kolk, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, is the founder and medical director of the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute.
Additech, Inc. to Distribute AMBER Alerts at Murphy USA Gas Stations
Additech, Inc. and Murphy USA today announced that urgent information about abducted children will now be displayed at all Murphy USA gas stations. In support of the U.S. Department of Justice's AMBER Alert program, Additech will work with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC) as a secondary AMBER Alert distributor and will place AMBER Alerts on the video screens located by the gas pumps at Murphy USA locations in the area of a child abduction. The screens are part of Additech's automated fuel additive system, which is available at Murphy USA.
Kirt Scott, Chief Technology Officer at Additech, Inc., voiced, “We are hopeful that by reaching more people with information about abducted children in their area, we can help more children come home safe. Additech and Murphy USA are proud to bring this service to their home communities.”
When Additech is notified that an AMBER Alert has been issued in the area of a Murphy USA gas station, they will render a digital image for the video screens that will include information about the child and also possibly a photo of the child, information about the abductor, information about the suspected vehicle used in the abduction, and details of the abduction.
Don Miller, Manager for Business Alliances at Murphy USA noted, “As people pump their gas at Murphy USA, they will see, on the Additech video panels, the latest localized and geographically-targeted alerts. This new way of distributing AMBER Alerts will advance efforts to utilize the eyes and ears of the general public to assist with the recovery of an abducted child. We want to encourage any Additech and Murphy USA customer who spots a child, adult, or vehicle fitting the AMBER Alert description, to immediately call the telephone number given in the AMBER Alert and provide authorities with as much information as possible.”
The AMBER Alert program, also known as America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response Plan, was created in 1996 and is named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, TX. The program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and others to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. The goal is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the child. Since the program began AMBER Alerts have been credited with the safe recovery of 538 children nationwide.
“The success of the AMBER Alert program relies on the fact that every day people going about their lives really can make a difference just by paying attention. We just have to reach the person who has the information we need,” said Ernie Allen, President and CEO of NCMEC. “Through Additech's role as a Secondary AMBER Alert distributor we can mobilize many more people and bring additional resources to our efforts to save lives and reunite families.”
About Additech, Inc.
Additech, Inc, based in Houston, Texas, provides consumers with a proprietary and automated system for cleaning and maintaining their vehicle's fuel systems - right at the gas pump. A clean fuel system can lead to better gas mileage, a car that lasts longer, and reduced levels of emissions harmful to the environment. Additech's uniquely blended fuel additives are guaranteed to increase gas mileage by up to 10%. Learn more about Additech's products at www.additech.com.
About Murphy USA
Murphy USA, based in El Dorado, Arkansas, owns and operates over 1,000 stores in 23 states throughout the United States. They are the fourth largest gasoline retailer in America. They are committed to providing patrons with quality fuels, convenient locations, the best possible prices on gas and superior customer service. Most Murphy USA locations are uniquely positioned near the parking lots of the number one retailer in the world, WalMart. Learn more about Murphy USA at www.murphyusa.com.
Amber Alert Issued For 4-Month-Old After Mother Found Dead
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – An Amber Alert has been issued by the TBI for a four-month-old infant after her mother's body was found in the Cumberland River.
Police are searching for four-month-old Zaylee Grace Fryar. She was last seen with her mother, Shauna Marie Fryar, on Sunday, May 1 at their home in Millersville.
At this point, investigators said everyone is a suspect until they can figure out if they're dealing with an accident or foul play.
Millersville police have questioned Fryar's husband, Michael Fryar. He told NewsChannel 5 on Tuesday evening that he wants everyone to know that he was not involved in their disappearance.
"My son would never hurt anyone like that, and especially, they were friends," said Michael's father, Cliff.
Fryar, who is not Zaylee's father, told Millersville Police that he left their apartment around 9 p.m. Sunday, May 1, to go to the store. When he returned, his wife and Zaylee were gone, although her vehicle, cell phone, wallet and the child's diaper bag were still at the residence.
Michael Fryar and his family believe that's further proof someone took them against their will.
"We're still just in shock, but we trust God will keep the baby safe and bring her back," Cliff Fryar added.
Cliff Fryar also said that Michael and Fryar separated years ago, but remained close friends who could always count on each other.
"You know, Mike wanted to help her out and give her a place to stay because she was more or less homeless," Cliff said.
On April 29, they moved into this Millersville mobile home park along with Zaylee. Neighbors remember when they arrived.
"They just moved in, they sat on their porch, walked their baby around, that's about it. They didn't really talk to nobody," said neighbor Rachel Dixon.
"She was love with life and in love with that baby. I mean that was her life that baby," Cliff added.
On Tuesday, Metro police confirmed that the body found in the Cumberland River on Saturday night was Shauna Marie Fryar. Michael Fryar had reported her and Zaylee missing on Thursday, May 5.
The body was spotted by someone on the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge who called 911 on Saturday night. Dive teams recovered the body.
Police said there was no trauma to her body that suggested the cause of death, which remains undetermined. Police have also not determined whether Shauna died before entering the water. An autopsy is underway.
Metro police have been checking the area around the Cumberland River for Zaylee with helicopters, though they said there is no evidence at this point that she is in the water.
"If we get more information then we may put boats in, but right now its just aerial and if it gets down to the point where we need to use divers we will," said Metro Police Lt. Steven Lewis.
Millersville police had originally issued an endangered child alert for Zaylee on Monday. It was upgraded on Tuesday after police identified Shauna's body.
Detectives have confirmed that Fryar and the child were fine on Saturday, April 30, when they visited a relative in Pegram.
Zaylee has black hair and brown eyes and weighs 12 pounds. She also has a quarter size brown birthmark on her right leg.
Police said Fryar has a history of drug addiction, and that she may have been trying to obtain illegal drugs at around the time she was last seen.
In all, police said Fryar had seven children, including Zaylee, ranging in age from four months to 12-years who live with other relatives.
Zaylee's biological father was incarcerated in the Robertson County Jail at the time mother and daughter disappeared. He remains in jail on unrelated charges, and is not a suspect at this time.
If you have information about the whereabouts of Zaylee, please contact the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND or Metro Crime Stoppers at 74-CRIME.
Police Searching For Missing Teenage Girl
Taylor Cranford Missing Since Monday
SAN ANTONIO -- San Antonio police are asking for help finding a 13-year-old girl who went missing Monday afternoon.
A San Antonio Police Department press release stated Taylor Anne Cranford disappeared from school after her first two classes.
The press release stated police believe she may be with a 22-year-old person she met online. She has blue eyes, brown hair, weighs about 85 pounds and is 4 feet 10 inches tall.
Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call the San Antonio police missing person's unit at 210-207-7660 .
Legislature agrees to strengthen Mo. human trafficking laws
JEFFERSON CITY - The state House offered unanimous approval today to a bill aiming to strengthen the state's human trafficking laws, sending the measure to Gov. Jay Nixon for approval.
The Senate gave its unanimous endorsement of the measure last month.
Notably, the measure would introduce harsher punishments for human trafficking crimes, including sex trafficking and trafficking for forced labor.
"This is something that is long overdue," said Rep. Sharon Pace , D-Northwoods.
Under the measure, trafficking would carry a prison term of up to 20 years and a fine of as much as $250,000. Victims of trafficking or forced labor would also be able to seek restitution.
The proposal has been well received by both sides of the aisle this session.
Earlier this year, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Anne Zerr , R-St. Charles, said the bill could be "the most important thing we do this session."
House Speaker Steve Tilley , R-Perryville, agreed, and at the beginning of the year identified the measure as one of his priorities for the legislative session.
Task Force: Human Trafficking Problem Is Here
Task Force Taking Action Following Target 13 Investigation
by JAMES JARMAN
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A Task Force with the mission of helping Human Trafficking victims is taking action after our hidden camera investigation into prostitution at some local businesses.
The Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado told us we've uncovered a much deeper problem than most of the community realizes - there are human trafficking victims in our region being forced to have sex for money.
Task Force Chairwoman Betty Edwards told us they want to raise awareness and money for law enforcement to crackdown. She said the group will look into grants for local law enforcement.
Metro VNI told Target 13 Investigates they don't have the money anymore to run stings like we did. Edwards said one officer told the Task Force there are sex trafficking victims in the Colorado Springs area, but law enforcement's hands are tied.
He says, 'I'm sure that they (prostitutes) were trafficked,' but he said the way the laws are written and the way things are now, 'there was nothing I could do about it,' Edwards told us.
During a Tuesday night Task Force meeting they were raising awareness about the the Colorado Springs non-profit Restore Innocence.
The founders, Michelle and Jason Korth, are trying to build a home for the children who are the victims of human trafficking in Colorado.
"Most people think, 'Oh it's over in Cambodia or some other foreign country,' but it's right here, it's right next door, it's in Colorado Springs," said Michelle Korth.
Like the Task Force, the Korths have met victims and work with law enforcement. They told us most people don't realize the victims are being manipulated to keep them from getting help.
"They (pimps) instill in them (victims) fear of law enforcement," said Jason Korth, describing why the victims don't just contact police. The federal government's 2010 human trafficking report confirms most victims are manipulated to keep them from seeking help.
Target 13 Investigates has not been able to independently verify any of the prostitutes who offered our employee sex are human trafficking victims. Some officers tell us they wouldn't doubt it.
Colorado lawmakers are now trying to attack the prostitution problem by beefing up penalties against "Johns" - raising the fine to $5,000.
Target 13 Investigates is talking to a couple of high ranking lawmakers from our region, and we'll get you more information in a few a days.
Oregon Senate OKs Crackdown on 'Johns'
SALEM, Ore. -- The Oregon Senate approved a bill Tuesday that makes a significant change to how the crime of paying for sex with an underage prostitute is prosecuted in Oregon.
HB 2714 increases the fine for paying for sex with a minor from $6,250 to $20,000 and separates in statute the crime of soliciting prostitution from the crime of offering prostitution.
Tuesday's vote came following an event held by the Women's Health and Wellness Alliance to raise awareness around women's issues. HB 2714 is a priority bill for the alliance this session.
“Sex trafficking victims are not criminals and should not be treated like criminals,” said Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland), co-chair of the alliance.
“This bill separates the crime of paying for sex from the crime of offering it," Rosenbaum said. "In most cases, an underage person who is involved in prostitution is in many ways a victim, stuck in an abusive and controlling relationship with a pimp. The consequences should be different for a sex-trafficked young woman and a man who pays money to abuse her.”
Currently, state law treats both buyers and sellers of sex as equally guilty.
HB 2714 separates out the offense of prostitution in statute, recognizing the difference between the crime committed by a person offering sex for money and the crime of purchasing sex. Advocates argue that this is an important distinction because most persons who are trafficked into prostitution are victims themselves and those who pay for prostitution should be more harshly punished.
Additionally, HB 2417 eliminates the defense that a “john” is unaware of a prostitute's age if that person is a minor. This component of the bill complements a bill passed earlier this session in the Senate, SB 425, which eliminates a pimp's defense that he is unaware of an underage victim's age. Together with steep increases in the fine for paying for sex with a minor, advocates hope HB 2417 will act as a deterrent to this crime.
“This is an incredibly predatory and devastating industry. The illegal sex trade is a serious issue across Oregon, especially for young girls who are sold into prostitution or who turn to a pimp and can't find their way out of an abusive relationship,” said Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham). “This bill is a critical step toward recognizing the problems our law enforcement and social services have encountered in Oregon and will help us better provide services to victims of sex trafficking.”
An amendment introduced in the Senate adds a mandatory seven day jail stay for second offenses.
“This bill is important because it will hold people accountable to their actions, especially if they pay for a sexual act with a minor,” said Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), who carried the bill on the floor. “Claiming ignorance of a victim's age is not an acceptable defense. House Bill 2714 makes this clear while significantly increasing the punishment for paying an underage person for sex.”
HB 2714 was introduced by Representative Carolyn Tomei (D-Milwaukie). The bill now goes back to the House for concurrence.
Pa. Girl, 9, Found Dead; Neighbor in Custody
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
May 10, 2011
SOUDERTON, Pa. (AP) — A 9-year-old girl who disappeared while playing outside her suburban Philadelphia apartment complex has been found dead, and a man who lives nearby is in custody.
State police issued an Amber Alert on Monday night for Skylar Kauffman when she didn't come home for dinner after playing with her friends in a parking lot in the small town of Souderton.
The girl's body was discovered a few hours later in a nearby trash bin. She would have turned 10 next month.
Souderton police Chief James Leary says there's an "overwhelming" amount of physical evidence linking the suspect to Kauffman's death.
Leary did not release the suspect's name.
Judge to decide on sealing Jaycee Dugard testimony
by Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer
May 10, 2011
After an El Dorado County judge sentences Phillip and Nancy Garrido for the kidnapping and rape of Jaycee Dugard, he must decide how much the public ought to know about a case that fueled wide outrage and international headlines.
Judge Douglas Phimister will hold a hearing June 2 - just after sentencing the Garridos, who both admitted their guilt in a plea deal April 28 - on whether to release grand jury transcripts that include testimony by Dugard. He is expected to rule at a later date.
Dugard offered what a prosecutor described as "very detailed facts" about being grabbed off a South Lake Tahoe street at age 11 and held for 18 years at a home outside Antioch, where she was repeatedly sexually assaulted. She had two daughters, both fathered by Phillip Garrido.
The transcripts are, without question, the stuff of news. But whether it is illuminating or merely salacious is at the heart of a debate that pits several media outlets, including The Chronicle, against prosecutors and defense attorneys who have found a rare topic of agreement.
Dugard opposes release
Also opposed to the transcripts' release is Dugard, now 31, the author of an upcoming memoir that her publisher says will tell "the full story" of her time in captivity. Her spokeswoman says the book is not as explicit as she was required to be on the witness stand.
It is an unusual dispute, as California courts rarely keep such documents sealed after a case ends. But the Garrido matter - with its layers of depravity and notoriety - is anything but ordinary.
"It should be sealed forever," said Stephen Tapson, the attorney for Nancy Garrido. "This was years of abuse. Why should she (Dugard) relive it?"
Nancy Seltzer, a spokeswoman for Dugard, agreed, saying her client "is entitled to her rights of privacy and has asked that her privacy be respected."
Karl Olson, an attorney representing the media outlets, acknowledged that the subject matter was sensitive but said coverage of it has been responsible.
'Right to know'
The public, he said, has an "overwhelming right to know" about a case in which the state paid Dugard $20 million because of parole officers' shortcomings in monitoring Phillip Garrido after an earlier conviction. Had the monitoring been more effective, Dugard could have been rescued well before the Garridos were arrested in August 2009.
"Since there isn't going to be a trial, the grand jury transcripts are the only window on what happened," Olson said. "We don't know exactly what it's going to reveal, but the facts are pretty important."
California law states that a grand jury transcript should be released to the public 10 days after it is given to the defendant, unless a judge finds that the release could taint the jury pool and make a fair trial impossible.
Judge Phimister did just that in the Garrido case, sealing the transcript. However, his ruling focused solely on protecting the integrity of a trial that has now been avoided.
"It seems to me that once they've been sentenced," Olson said, "it should be released as a matter of right."
After the grand jury indictment, El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson did not ask for the transcript to be sealed permanently. In a filing in October, he said the document should be sealed until a jury is sworn in for the Garridos' trial.
"The media is clearly entitled to access," he wrote, "just not yet."
However, after Phillip and Nancy Garrido entered guilty pleas April 28 that will probably result in both spending the rest of their lives in prison, Pierson indicated outside court that he would seek to keep the transcripts sealed to protect Dugard.
He declined a subsequent interview request. But his filing in October went beyond the fair-trial argument, saying the chief consideration was Dugard's privacy.
The prosecutor cited a 2005 appeals court decision that sprang from music star Michael Jackson's child molestation case. When the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles affirmed a judge's decision to seal a grand jury transcript and other records before trial, the justices said one of the documents "would likely be embarrassing, if not devastating, to the minors."
Veteran Los Angeles media attorney Alonzo Wickers said the appeals court would probably have gone the other way if the case involved financial fraud, for example, rather than alleged child sex.
In keeping with deal
Retired prosecutor Dara Cashman, who headed Contra Costa County's sex crimes unit, said she had never heard of a criminal grand jury transcript being sealed permanently. But she said the attorneys' request was a logical extension of their plea deal, which spared Dugard from testifying at trial.
"One of the important factors we take into consideration in pleading out a case," she said, "is trauma to the victim, who not only has to relive it but to relive it in public, and have strangers know the details of these horrible crimes inflicted on them."
But the public pays for the criminal justice system, said Olson, adding, "It's not a private club."
Another consideration for the judge, he said, may be the fact that Dugard and the crimes she endured are already well-known.
On Monday, publishing house Simon & Schuster announced that Dugard's memoir, "A Stolen Life," will be published July 12. In it, Dugard will tell "the full story of her ordeal," the publisher said.
Seltzer, Dugard's spokeswoman, said she saw no contradiction between the publication of the memoir and the need to protect Dugard's privacy by keeping her testimony sealed.
"What is in her book is what she wished to reveal," Seltzer said. "What is in the grand jury testimony is what was necessary to help indict two criminals."
As for the tragic nature of the case, Olson said, "There are a lot of cases that are pretty egregious. The public has a right of access to cases that people care about, not just to mundane disputes that people don't care about."
No news in the search for Tracy Winslow
Primary suspect in jail, silent after three months
by Adam Duvernay
Tracy Winslow has been missing since late January, and authorities believe only one man knows where she is — and he isn't talking.
Caddo sheriff's office detectives say they've exhausted every lead, gone in circles after every interview and stalked every piece of ground from Oil City to the Texas state line. They've found nothing, and now they are getting desperate.
"I hope she's alive, but we've had no sign that's the case," said Caddo's Lt. Bill Rehak, the case's lead detective. "Unfortunately, her absence speaks a lot."
Rehak said the search area for Winslow, a 30-year-old mother of three, has encompassed all of north Caddo Parish. He said deputies have combed the area around Oil City, Winslow's home, on foot, four-wheeler and horseback.
The extended search has taken them into the deep woods and along oil field roads, Rehak said. They've dragged lakes and water treatment ponds in grim expectation, but have found nothing.
Following a rumor Winslow had been taken across the state line into Texas, detectives even contacted the Harrison County sheriff's office to expand their search. The search turned up empty and rumors continue to be unreliable and circular, Rehak said.
Authorities are sure they have their man already sitting in prison. Rehak said the suspect's knowledge of Oil City, its surrounding area and even his professional contacts could have made it easy for him to get away with her disappearance.
Eddie Lee Jackson, Winslow's 40-year-old ex-boyfriend, was arrested days after she was reported missing. Since then, he's been charged with her kidnapping and arson for burning Winslow's vehicle. On April 12, his bond was increased from $800,000 to $1.5 million.
Though he could be sitting in jail for up to 40 years on those charges, "none of that really helps us find her, and we've wanted so badly to find her since the first day," Rehak said.
Winslow was on the phone moments before her abduction, and the person on the other side of the call heard Jackson's voice as she vanished, Rehak said. Jackson's phone records show he was in Oil City near where Winslow's vehicle was found burned at the time, he said.
Rehak said Jackson lied repeatedly in interviews, and family members recounted years of domestic trouble and abuse.
It's possible, even likely, Jackson acted alone, Rehak said. Still, his work repairing heavy farm machinery gave him access to heavy equipment — means Rehak said could be used to hide or destroy evidence.
This case has been hard on detectives, but even rougher on a family waiting and praying for any sign at all.
"I don't know how much more the kids will be able to take. That's the hardest part," said Felicia Holden-Starkes, Winslow's cousin. "It's not over until God says it's over."
Thursday is Winslow's birthday, and Holden-Starkes said her children will have suffered through Mother's Day without answers.
While she trusts detectives are working to find her cousin, Holden-Starkes said she's searched high and low on her own time and won't stop searching until someone finds Winslow.
Holden-Starkes still wants anyone in the Oil City area to come forward with information.
She said she doesn't believe Jackson acted alone and knows someone knows something.
Winslow's case isn't typical of missing person cases. Generally, missing persons are young or very old and typically turn up after a few days.
A majority of missing person cases in Shreveport are runaways younger than 17 years old, said Detective Sgt. Bobby Grant, Shreveport Police Department Youth Services. He said problems with parents and authority figures are the usual cause.
Runaways are usually picked up within a few days, and are often found with friends or family, Grant said.
He said Shreveport police follow a list of unusual circumstances when a person is reported missing to decide whether the person is in real danger.
Black and Missing Foundation Names National TV and Radio Journalist Jacque Reid as Spokesperson
Landover Hills, MD
May 09, 2011
( PR.com )-- Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. (BAM FI) announced today that Jacque Reid will be its spokesperson. As spokesperson, Reid will assist the organization in bringing awareness to missing persons of color – adults and children – on a national level.
"We are delighted and honored that Jacque has accepted our invitation to assist in taking Black and Missing Foundation Inc to the next level," said Derrica Wilson, President and CEO. "Her energy, passion and dedication to our mission are an asset in our fight to reunite families."
Co-founder Natalie Wilson added, "At a time when there has been an increase in the number of persons of color who have simply vanished from our communities, Jacque will be instrumental in bringing awareness to their disappearance."
Reid is a contributor for the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show, New York's WNBC TV and is a contributing editor for TheRoot, a website owned by the Washington Post. Reid is also a frequent guest cohost on ABC's The View and has appeared on the Joy Behar Show.
With more than 15 years in the business, Reid has reported from Sudan, South Africa and Mexico City and she has interviewed, one-on-one, with Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama and entertainers Tom Cruise, Jay Z and Aretha Franklin.
Reid is a former CNN Headline News anchor and was the sole news anchor for BET Nightly News from 2001-2005. She also covered the Republican National Convention as a special correspondent and commentator for Larry King Live. And, in 2005, she created Jacque Reid Media, a one-stop media resource for television, radio and the Internet content.
"I am honored that BAM FI has asked me to join in their mission to literally save lives by making the names and faces of missing persons of color more prevalent," said Reid.
Ms. Reid received a bachelor's in Print Journalism from Clark Atlanta University and a master's in Broadcast Journalism from Northwestern University.
Black and Missing Foundation, Inc is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization whose mission is to bring awareness to missing persons of color; provide vital resources and tools to missing person's families and friends; and to provide educational training on personal safety.
BAM FI's offers a free clearinghouse, which highlights profiles and information on missing persons of color, nationally.
To learn more about BAM FI, visit www.bamfi.org or call 877-97BAMFI ).
Beacon Hill Weighs Changes To Sex Trade Laws
by Marielle Segarra
May 10, 2011
BOSTON — The Massachusetts House is considering a bill that would change the way the state prosecutes criminals in the sex trade. The proposal would define the people who manage prostitutes, or “pimps,” as “human traffickers.” It would also impose much stiffer penalties on pimps and the johns who pay for sex.
Some say the law would help put an end to trafficking by making it easier to prosecute those who benefit from prostitution. But others say it would do little to curb the sex trade.
Tanee Hobson, 21, is among the bill's supporters. As a teen, Hobson felt unwanted and ugly, and she had little support from her family. At 14, she ran away from home. Soon after, she started dating and living with a man she met at the Dudley Square T station in Dorchester.
“We strive, in most cases, to take the young woman out of the harmful situation and focus our prosecutorial energies on the pimp, the human trafficker.” –Suffolk County DA Daniel Conley
A month later, the man Hobson was dating told her he was a pimp. He was physically violent, and he pushed her into prostitution.
“When he hit me, he hit me so hard that I think my mind was kinda just stunned and I just wanted to do whatever it was so he wouldn't hit me again,” Hobson said.
One she got into “the life,” it was hard to get out, Hobson says. She needed the money, she couldn't go home, and she was addicted to the self-esteem boosts she got every time someone paid to have sex with her. She makes it clear: people don't sell themselves unless they're desperate.
“I don't think anyone wakes up one day saying, ‘I want to sell my body for money,' ” Hobson said. “Things have to be going on in your mind, you had to be going through some things to make you want to go to that part where you think your body isn't worth it.”
Hobson says people often feel trapped soon after they start to engage in prostitution. But she got out. Now, working for the Justice Resource Institute program My Life My Choice, she helps girls leave “the life” behind.
Treating Prostitutes As Victims
These girls might soon be getting help from another corner, as prosecutors rethink the way they define the sex trade.
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley regrets that his staff used to arrest and charge young women for prostitution while pimps and johns went free. He is also troubled by the fact that in the United States, on average, girls get into prostitution between the ages of 12 and 14. Boys and transgendered youth usually start between 11 and 13. This harsh reality is one of the reasons Conley decided prosecutors should change the way they approach prostitution.
“I concluded that the best way to deal with this problem is to treat the prostitutes, especially the young ones, as victims,” Conley said. “It's classified by our office as human trafficking, instead of just prostitution, because the phrase prostitution or the concentration on the prostitute emphasizes their criminal behavior. So we strive, in most cases, to take the young woman out of the harmful situation and focus our prosecutorial energies on the pimp, the human trafficker.”
Conley says state laws do not reflect this shift in thinking. Massachusetts is one of five states with no law against human trafficking. Prosecutors can only go after pimps and johns under state prostitution laws that have minimal penalties.
Currently, pimps could face three months to two years in prison or a few hundred dollars in fines. Under the new trafficking law, they could be sentenced to 20 years for selling adults in the sex industry and sentenced to life for exploiting children.
Someone caught paying for sex now could get one year in jail or a $500 fine. If the bill passes, a john could face a maximum of two-and-a-half years, or 10 years for underage prostitution.
The law would also allow courts to seize the money pimps make and give it to their victims. And it would create a task force to study trafficking and come up with strategies to end it.
Debating The Legislation
But some say the bill is out of touch with reality. Among the critics: Cherie Jimenez, the director of Kim's Project, a Boston-based group that gives women the resources to leave prostitution. Jimenez, who spent 20 years in prostitution and got out when she was 39, said many people end up in the sex trade because they're poor and have no other options. Telling these people you've freed them from their pimps won't change their situations or compel them to leave prostitution, she said.
“You could say to some young person, ‘You know what you're doing is harmful, this is going to hurt you,' well they're going to look at you too, like, ‘What are my options here?' ” Jimenez said. “So it's up to us to create those options so that so many young people don't get into this. But if we don't come at it from a real perspective here, we're not going to solve it.”
Jimenez says defining everyone who engages in prostitution as a trafficking victim is problematic, because it sensationalizes the sex trade and disempowers the people in it.
“It's the imagery I'm uncomfortable with,” Jimenez said. “When you look at in the context of, oh, these sorry victims, or passive victims, or in order to be a victim to you have to be passive, or you have to be enslaved… it's not like that. You know, I've met young women that are very edgy. It's not that they're passive. They have incredible strength and resilience, and yeah, they're edgy because they've had to endure a lot.”
But Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley says the proposed law takes a fair approach, because it targets the people who are responsible for prostitution.
“We want to look at the market here,” Coakley said. “Who is making the demands, who is making the profit? And certainly the least fair thing is to focus the criminal law only on the young women who are the people who are being exploited by this.”
Coakley says the proposal would fill gaps left by the federal government to prosecute traffickers. It would also give the state a way to gather concrete statistics on trafficking so advocates can fund resources for victims, she says.
Still, one aspect of the bill seems to clash with the rest. It would uphold current criminal penalties for prostitutes. Someone caught working in prostitution could still be arrested, charged and sent to jail for a year.
Coakley says that's because prostitution is still a crime.
“Keep in mind, the act itself is criminal, so we're not excusing that criminal behavior,” she said. “We're just saying we want to have the broadest focus as possible on it, to make sure that we can provide for the resources, prevent a life of crime for some of these young folks, and intervene in a way that's much more fair.”
That intervention could include referrals to programs like Kim's Project and My Life My Choice. DA Conley says prosecutors would probably only enforce penalties against people who refuse to accept this kind of help to get out of prostitution.
New Jersey a hub for human trafficking and sex trade
May 9, 2011
by JILLIAN RISBERG
It is an industry hidden from view but the heinous crimes against innocent victims are going on right in our midst.
“Trafficking is quite prevalent,” said Asha Vaghela, deputy state attorney general and director of the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force. “North Jersey is a hub; (there's) a lot of prostitution in Newark and Atlantic City, but no county is exempt.”
Labor trafficking males, mostly Hispanic migrant farm workers in Cumberland County significantly increase during the growing season, according to Kate Keisel-Stagnone, program coordinator of Polaris Project New Jersey.
Polaris also works with transgendered youth forced into survival sex or commercial sex, Latino residential brothels and Asian, Eastern European, Brazilian, Ukrainian and Russian women trafficked into massage parlors throughout the state.
“We did a 2010 survey and (found) there were over 525 massage parlors that are a front for commercial sex in New Jersey,” Keisel-Stagnone said.
New Jersey met three out of 10 criteria on the state ratings chart as of August 2010 when it came to key human trafficking provisions and Polaris is
currently working on getting safe harbor implemented here.
The legislation would prevent children from being arrested on solicitation charges under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), which brought to light what was then a little known crime domestically.
Polaris also compiled their “Dirty Dozen” – twelve states lacking basic anti-trafficking laws or failing to effectively combat the crime. The list includes: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Keisel-Stagnone said that half the clients they work with are domestic citizens trafficked into the commercial sex industry between the ages of 12 and 14.
It is the only client service office in the state for human trafficking victims and many of the young girls and boys they serve are locals.
“I think it's a very common misconception that these are people coming from other places, not right down the street from us, whereas that's what's happening,” Keisel-Stagnone said. “It's the girl next door.”
Modern-day slavery is alive and thriving, with more than 12 million people worldwide exploited, the United Nations estimates in its latest report.
This lucrative business nets a “commodity” used over and over again. The crime is widely under-reported and victims are vulnerable men, women and children, from every country, ethnicity and economic background. They are lured by promises of a better life and often unaware they're being illegally persecuted. Traffickers typically use force, coercion or threats of violence, which is difficult to identify and disclose.
New Jersey is a prime breeding ground for trafficking because of its positioning near I-95, a major Eastern artery, as well as the proximity to airports in Newark, Philadelphia and Manhattan.
In 2005, the task force passed the New Jersey Anti-Trafficking Initiative and Vaghela said the goal has remained the same — to identify and rescue victims, improve the ability to detect trafficking, learn where it occurs and successfully prosecute those responsible.
“This really can and does happen everywhere in New Jersey and it's not always in the urban areas, lots of traffickers are in suburbia,” said Amari Verastegui, former New Jersey State Director of the Not For Sale Campaign and Staff Advisor for Rutgers Campus Coalition Against Trafficking (RUCCAT).
Sex trafficking gets the most press, but Verastegui said labor exploitation is also a serious issue for the state and additional forms of trafficking exist here, including organ trade and mail order brides.
While men are pimps and traffickers, there are women who are increasingly becoming involved as intermediaries.
“The other issue we're still struggling with is housing,” Verastegui said. “When victims are identified, we have limited places where they can go. Initially they've been placed in domestic violence shelters (and) hotels, but it doesn't provide them with the long-term support they need.”
Consistent services are necessary for a year and a half to three years to get survivors to a point where they can rebuild their lives and trust. That's the next key hurdle Verastegui said we have to solve.
According to Deirdre Mars, New York State Director of Not For Sale, the first step to getting involved on a personal level is to educate yourself.
The more you know about human trafficking, the easier it is to see how your own skills, talents and resources could be put to good use to help end it.
Take action by exploring the Not For Sale website and figuring out which platforms you resonate with — then get together with your friends, co-workers, family and other community members and do something! There are many options: screening a documentary, holding a fundraiser (via a Not For Sale platform or one of your own devising) or writing letters to companies and political representatives.
Your attitude is also an important part of the process: in the complex situations of life, Mars said a victim can all too easily be labeled a villain — "illegal immigrant," "prostitute" and so on.
How we label people affects how we, as a society, treat them and "villain" labels can cloud our judgment to the point where we can perpetrate further injustices while thinking that we're doing the right thing.
Jessica Minhas, Media Activist and Youth Advocate for The Blind Project recommends buying and endorsing fair trade products (companies that can guarantee no slave labor), supporting rehabilitation and conscious organizations, as well as discouraging the buying and selling of sex (where there is demand, there will be girls).
“We are deeply committed to raising awareness about human trafficking and, in particular, empowering youth audiences to become a part of the solution,” Minhas said. “Our entire team is comprised of volunteers so that 100 percent of funds raised can go back to the women.”
Though there is still more work to be done, Verastegui said some momentum has been sustained, New Jersey was one of the first states to implement an anti-trafficking law and we have built a strong network.
Last May, pimp Allen “Prince” Brown of Jersey City got 18 years for running a prostitution ring in Hudson County and the task force continues to tackle other active investigations involving labor and sex trafficking.
In the first half of 2011 alone, there were three rescues as
a result of tips from the state trafficking hotline. Vaghela said people who live in the neighborhood are in the best position to observe what's going on there and she encourages everyone who sees something to call.
“What seems innocuous today may not be tomorrow.”
Recognizing the Signs (courtesy of Polaris)
Common work and living conditions: The individual(s) in question
- Is NOT free to leave or come and go as he/she pleases
- Under 18 and providing commercial sex acts
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp/manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is NOT allowed breaks or suffers unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations: opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.
Poor mental health or abnormal behavior
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
- Avoids eye contact
- Poor physical health
- Lacks health care
- Appears malnourished
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement or torture
Lack of Control
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is NOT in control of his/her own money, no financial records or bank account
- Is NOT in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is NOT allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or does not know what city he/she is in
- Loss of sense of time
- Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
For more information
To report tips, get help, connect with anti-trafficking services in your area or request training:
New Jersey Human Trafficking Report as of May 7, 2011
Total tip and crisis calls: 95
Total NHTRC hotline calls: 480
Child sex trafficking: what can I do?
Second Chance, a social service organization from Toledo, will be at the Sutton Center to present a program on Child Sex Trafficking from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, in the Sutton Center Conference. Children with few visible choices are often recruited, coerced or kidnapped into the sex industry. When a child sells sex at the hands of an exploitative adult, it is generally a means of survival.
Join in to learn more about what is being done and what can be done to reduce or eliminate child sex trafficking in our area. Space is limited for the event, sponsored by Ottawa County CASA. RSVP by calling 419-301-0225 or by email at
Prostitution expected to surge for APEC
Isle officials are beefing up security in preparation for the global conference
by Allison Schaefers
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference will put Hawaii on an international stage in November, and officials here want to make sure Waikiki's seedier side doesn't hog the spotlight.
Local politicians, hoteliers and law enforcement officials are planning heavier security to combat an expected increase in prostitution as pimps bring more sex-trade workers to the islands to meet higher demand.
"When big events come to town, the number of prostitutes increases on the street, and APEC is a big event," said Ben Rafter, president and chief executive of Aqua Hotels & Resorts, operator of Aqua Waikiki Wave.
APEC Leaders' Week — Nov. 7 to 13 — will bring about 20,000 attendees, including President Barack Obama, other heads of state from APEC's 21 countries, ministers, political staff, business leaders and media.
The Pro Bowl, military exercises and the Asian Development Bank meeting in 2001 all drew more prostitutes to Waikiki, said Bob Finley, who has been a Waikiki resident since the 1970s and is chairman of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board.
"I'll hate to see it, but certainly it's going to surge for APEC," Finley said.
Unless law enforcement and lawmakers prepare for APEC, it could become a huge sex trafficking problem for Hawaii, said Kathryn Xian, director of advocacy for the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.
"It will bring hundreds of Asian businessmen with diplomatic immunity that may not view prostitution as a crime," Xian said.
During APEC meetings in Thailand and in Australia, sex trafficking made the news. The Bangkok Post reported that Thai police rounded up more than 1,000 prostitutes in an effort to spruce up for the APEC summit that it hosted in 2003. However, police told the newspaper that the prostitutes returned soon after being fined.
Secret service agents and international convoys helped boost business at Australia's legal brothels for the APEC Summit held in 2007, according to the Sydney Sun-Herald. The newspaper reported that some adult businesses were up 300 percent for the event and that interstate prostitutes were brought in to offer APEC-themed specials such as the "Condi Combo," the "UN Duo" and the "Presidential Platter."
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, who is an ex-officio member of the APEC Hawaii Host Committee, said there will be increased law enforcement in Waikiki during the international meeting and that several city departments have met and will continue to meet in preparation for the event.
"Learning from previous events of this nature such as Asian Development Bank and RIMPAC exercises, law enforcement resources are typically increased," Carlisle said. "During APEC, in addition to the (Honolulu Police Department), there will be federal and state law enforcement authorities already present in Waikiki for the conference."
Hopefully, the extra security presence will deter sex workers during APEC, said Keith Vieira, senior vice president and director of operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii and French Polynesia.
"My personal view is that there'll be so much security in Waikiki that it will be the last place that anyone doing anything would want to be," Vieira said. "But we need to get prostitutes off the streets of Waikiki, period."
Prostitution hurts tourism and increases security costs for businesses, he said.
The number of prostitutes might increase during major events, but sex workers remain an unresolved concern year-round for Waikiki, said Kaleo Keolanui, president of the Hawaii Hotel & Visitor Industry Security Association, whose members include hotel, condo and shopping center security.
"We have travelers from all over the world mixed with our military population, which makes for an ideal prey for the prostitutes," Keolanui said. "Why??Because they have money, and they're here for a very short period of time. It's a huge concern."
Waikiki sex workers are typically brought in from cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta and Las Vegas, said Bulla Eastman, director of security and risk management for Aqua Hotels & Resorts. Pimps fly sex workers to Hawaii and keep them here for up to four months before moving them to another state, he said. When pimps pick up local runaways or local girls with problems at shopping centers, they are often sent to other states rather than put to work here, Eastman said.
The problem doesn't stop with the sex trade.
"Generally, with organized criminal activity there tends to be money laundering, narcotics and other criminal offenses co-occurring," said Major Susan Dowsett, commander of HPD's Narcotics/Vice Division.
Hoteliers have few tools to keep prostitutes out of their hotels, Keolanui said.
"Management is usually notified after the fact, when a guest reports he has been robbed or has property missing from his room," he said. "We're relying on the guest to be smart and not engage in this sort of activity. If they choose to engage in this type of behavior, then there's really not a whole lot that we can do."
HPD arrested 271 people, mostly in Waikiki and downtown, for prostitution offenses last year.
About 20 prostitutes roamed the state's primary retail and tourism corridor last week on a rainy Thursday night at 9 p.m. Wearing mostly short skirts and tall heels, the women aggressively solicited tourists and locals as they walked the damp streets and loitered along the fences and door frames of local hotels, shopping plazas and businesses.
One sex worker blatantly sat on the curb of the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel, about half a block from the Honolulu Police Department substation, fastening the 6-inch pumps that loosened during her continuous stroll.
A buxom woman chatted up passing men underneath a warning sign outside of the Waikiki Town Center that read, "Private Property. No loitering. No soliciting." While a few men stopped to hear her pitch, a couple of moms rapidly pulled their kids across the street.
Just a block or so away, a statuesque woman worked the Waikiki Trade Center's nightclub crowd as blue lights from a nearby police car danced in the distance.
"If I were the APEC, I'd be worried about prostitution," said Aqua Hotels CEO?Rafter. "I can't even walk five blocks without a dozen prostitutes trying to stop and talk to me. If that's happening to me, it's happening to every single tourist out there."
Tom Kabrovich, a visitor from Dearborn, Mich., who has vacationed in Hawaii 14 times since 2001, said he was appalled by the visible sex trafficking in Waikiki during his most recent stay.
"There must have been a hundred pavement princesses out there, and if you look closely enough you can see their pimps hustling in the background," Kabrovich said. "It creates an uneasy feeling."
Prostitution gives Oahu a black eye and ruins vacations, Kabrovich said.
"It shouldn't be tolerated," he said. "Visitors and residents deserve more."
Victims of sex trafficking need better protection, too, said a California woman who was defrauded into becoming a Waikiki sex worker last year. The woman, who is in her early 20s, said a man she regarded as her boyfriend brought her to Hawaii under the guise of a vacation and then forced her to work the streets.
"I had to make $500 or more every time I stepped outside or he would whup my ass," she said.
Once, when she returned to the hotel without his quota, the woman said that he held her over a 20th-story railing and threatened to drop her.
"I thought that I was going to die," she said.
The woman, who escaped with the help of a cabdriver, is now part of PASS's lobbying efforts to get House Bill 240 signed into law. The bill passed the state House and Senate and is awaiting a decision by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
HB 240 would give law enforcement better tools to fight prostitution, said Carlisle, who was formerly the city prosecutor.
"The problem with investigating and prosecuting pimps and traffickers is getting victims and witnesses to testify against the pimps and traffickers," he said. "Without their assistance or cooperation, we usually don't have enough evidence to prosecute the cases. And as you would expect, the victims are often intimidated by the traffickers and threatened with retaliation."
Tourists question why prostitutes are allowed to roam Waikiki freely; however, police cannot solve the prostitution problem without support from lawmakers, Keolanui said.
HB 240 assigns greater penalties to those who promote prostitution and provides witness protection for sex workers, Xian said.
"We want APEC money spent on legitimate businesses," she said. "Hawaii has a huge opportunity with HB 240 to keep conference attendees' eyes on the ball."
ICE arrests US Army soldier on child pornography charges an ICE HSI special agent escorts 23-year-old U.S. soldier following his arrest on child pornography charges
EL PASO, Texas - A local U.S. Army soldier was arrested Friday on child pornography charges, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
ICE HSI special agents arrested Spc. Ethan Larman, 23, at Fort Bliss, Texas, where he is assigned. Fort Bliss U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) assisted ICE HSI special agents assigned to the Cyber Crimes Group with the arrest.
A federal grand jury indicted Larman on April 27. He is charged with one count of receiving and distributing child pornography, and one count of possessing child pornography.
On March 23, ICE HSI special agents, U.S. Army CID, and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers executed a search warrant at Larman's residence in the 4500 block of Hercules Street. ICE HSI agents seized a desktop computer, PlayStation 3 gaming system, and several media storage devices.
A forensic examination of the seized items revealed images containing sexually explicit images depicting child exploitation. If convicted, Larman faces between five and 20 years in federal prison on the receipt/distribution charge, and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the possession charge. Larman remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing later this week.
"Sexual exploiting children is a despicable crime," said Manuel Oyola-Torres, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in El Paso. "Our ICE special agents work full time to identify and arrest individuals who victimize innocent children."
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers. ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE . This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com .
Riverside police seek leads in child abduction case
May 8, 2011
Riverside police are searching for a man who allegedly abducted a 9-year-old girl over the weekend.
The girl showed up in a Riverside neighborhood early Sunday morning, disoriented and knocking on doors to get help. She told police she’d been asleep with two siblings at her home in a nearby neighborhood when an unidentified man climbed through a window and carried her away. Police said the girl’s mother, a single parent, was not home at the time. The girl said she’d been taken in a car and later dumped out.
The girl was taken to Loma Linda Medical Center and was listed in serious condition with injuries related to the abduction, police said. Anyone with information is asked to contact Riverside Police Det. Roberta Hopewell at (951) 353-7124.
A Bleak Life, Cut Short at 4, Harrowing From the Start
by N. R. KLEINFIELD and MOSI SECRET
She died in September by the ugliest means, weighing an unthinkable 18 pounds, half what a 4-year-old ought to. She withered in poverty in a home in Brooklyn where the authorities said she had been drugged and often bound to a toddler bed by her mother, having realized a bare thimble’s worth of living.
The horrid nature of Marchella Pierce’s death produced four arrests. This week, Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, is convening a grand jury to explore what he called “evidence of alleged systemic failures” in New York City’s child welfare agency, which had monitored the girl’s family.
An examination of Marchella’s bleak, fleeting life, drawn from interviews with relatives, neighbors and law enforcement authorities, as well as from legal documents, shows that almost nothing went right for her. She entered the world prematurely with underdeveloped lungs. When she was not in a hospital, she was being raised in the uproar of a helter-skelter, combative family struggling with drugs. And when she came under the watch of the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, an agency remade a number of times after child deaths, her well-being fell to caseworkers who, prosecutors say, essentially ignored the family.
Marchella’s household was brought to the agency’s attention in late 2009, yet for several months after that it appears no one there knew that the girl, hospitalized for most of her life, even existed. After she was taken home from a nursing home, she was supposed to be looked after by not one but two sets of caseworkers, one set from the city and one from a private agency under contract to the city.
Although Children’s Services ended that contract last year, records make clear that it had known for years that the private agency had troubles, including making insufficient visits to families.
Marchella’s mother, Carlotta Brett-Pierce, 31, is charged with murder, and her grandmother, Loretta Brett, 56, with manslaughter. Both are in jail awaiting trial. Damon Adams, 37, a Children’s Services caseworker, and his supervisor, Chereece Bell, 34, are charged with criminally negligent homicide; it is thought to be the first time that city child welfare workers have been incriminated in a death. Prosecutors said that Mr. Adams had not made required visits to the family and lied about it, and that Ms. Bell had failed to supervise him. Both have left the agency.
All four have said they are innocent. None would comment for this article.
Other relatives of Marchella are dismayed about what happened to her. “It’s wrong,” the child’s great-aunt, Levonnia Parnell, said. “That’s not a child that asked to be here. No child deserves what she got. She got a nightmare.”
The Marcy Houses public housing project in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, is where Marchella’s parents grew up and where their futures seemed to freeze.
Her great-grandmother Leola Brown lived in a jampacked apartment with her daughters, Loretta and Martha, and eventually Martha’s two children and Loretta’s daughter, Carlotta. Martha, a nurse, died young of cancer. Husbands and fathers were absent.
Loretta Brett and Carlotta, both wafer-thin, were known as truculent people with fiery tempers. Neighbors said they regularly smoked marijuana and crack. The police arrested Carlotta twice for criminal possession of marijuana and once for assault.
“Carlotta was a troublemaker,” a neighbor, Evelyn Rizzo, said of Marchella’s mother. “You’d look at her and that was enough to make trouble.” She said Ms. Brett-Pierce once threw a padlock at her, hitting her in the face. Another neighbor said in a police report that Ms. Brett had punched her while Ms. Brett-Pierce smashed her with a bat.
“They were just evil,” said Elizabeth Soto, who also lived in the building. Ms. Brett cut her in the head with a razor blade, she said. When Ms. Soto was pregnant, she said, Ms. Brett-Pierce threatened “to give me an abortion.”
The police were called several times, and Ms. Soto said she got an order of protection against the two women.
Ms. Brett-Pierce listed herself on her MySpace page as a model and an entrepreneur, but relatives said she never worked. Years ago, she began dating Tyrone Pierce, who lived in a companion building. In 1996, at 16, he was arrested twice on drug charges.
Antagonized neighbors finally began a petition to have the Bretts kicked out. And the Bretts had another problem: The lease was in Leola Brown’s name, and she died in 2001.
Court papers say Ms. Brett and Ms. Brett-Pierce forged Leola’s name on documents after she was dead, to try to claim the apartment. In 2005, the New York City Housing Authority evicted them. They moved nearby, and then to a third-floor apartment on Madison Street, also in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Mr. Pierce, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to robbery in 1998 after being accused of a string of thefts as well as drug possession. In June 2004, he was released from prison on parole, which he violated several months later by going to South Carolina for his mother’s funeral without permission. Returned to prison, he was in a cell when his son was born. He got out in September 2005. Soon, Ms. Brett-Pierce was again pregnant, with twins.
The Longest Odds
Marchella weighed 1 pound 4 ounces when she was born, prematurely, on April 3, 2006. A relative recalls thinking she was about the size of a one-liter Pepsi bottle. A twin sister, born first, died. Her name was Miracle.
Marchella had a fluty whisper of a voice. Too fragile for the outside world, she lived amid a swirl of doctors and nurses, shuffled among at least six health care facilities. To help her breathe, she had a tracheal tube, which required regular cleaning.
In mid-2009, in final preparation for family life, she entered the Northwoods Rehabilitation and Extended Care Facility at Hilltop, near Schenectady, N.Y., about 170 miles from Brooklyn. For years, the State Health Department had faulted it for myriad violations, including neglect and medication errors. In 2007, regulators put Northwoods on a federal watch list of homes with persistent serious problems. It was in bankruptcy until a new owner bought it last summer.
Marchella’s parents visited her and told relatives they got training at Northwoods to care for her. Ms. Brett-Pierce would take a cab, for $130 each way. “She took cabs everywhere,” Shaquanna Parnell, her sister-in-law, said. “That was her.”
By then, the parents had separated. Ms. Brett-Pierce was also pregnant with her third child.
The household was anything but peaceful. “They fought a lot,” Ms. Parnell, a school crossing guard, said. Ms. Brett-Pierce, furious that Mr. Pierce did not help financially, would refuse to let him see his son, Ms. Parnell said.
“She would call me and leave messages on my machine, ‘I’m going to hurt him,’ ” Ms. Parnell said, adding, “Carlotta talked a lot of mouth.”
On Feb. 9, 2009, Mr. Pierce called the police, saying his wife would not let him get his clothes. When they arrived he was gone. That October, the authorities said, she called the police about him, saying he had slapped her. The police said she had a cut inside her lip. He was gone when they arrived. They returned several times but did not find him.
Mr. Pierce, 31, would not comment for this article. After Marchella’s death, he said he knew nothing of her being abused.
In November 2009, the family came to the attention of the child protection agency. Ms. Brett-Pierce gave birth to another son and tested positive for drugs. The case was assigned to the Child Development Support Corporation; since 1987, it had had a contract to furnish preventive services to at-risk Brooklyn families. Ms. Brett-Pierce was enrolled in drug treatment but was far from compliant. And according to Children’s Services, the private agency never made anything near the specified number of visits to the home.
On Dec. 7, the police stopped by Madison Street again, following up on the October assault complaint. Ms. Brett-Pierce would not let them in, but they found Mr. Pierce outside and arrested him. It is unclear what happened to the case, but he served no jail time.
Police protocol is to notify the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment when domestic abuse occurs and children are in the home. The police did not do so, because, they said, they were unaware there were children in the home.
Two months later, on Feb. 9, 2010, after 10 months at Northwoods, Marchella was discharged. It is not clear if the nursing home knew that the parents were feuding and that the mother was a drug user being monitored by Children’s Services. Both Children’s Services and the private agency said they doubted they knew then that Marchella even existed; she was still in the nursing home when the complaint about her mother’s drug use came in, and it is not known whether caseworkers had compiled a full family history.
And so a girl weighing a slight 26 pounds entered the chaotic world of her mother to begin the final sequence in a life that had had no good ones.
The Madison Street apartment was cramped. One bedroom was used for storage. Ms. Brett-Pierce shared another with her two sons. Marchella slept with her grandmother in the third. Ms. Brett-Pierce’s cousins took the living room.
Things quickly fell apart. A month after Marchella came home, Ms. Brett-Pierce took her to the hospital because the breathing tube had malfunctioned. Doctors found the mother oddly insouciant, and she refused to be taught how to tend the tube. A call was made to the child abuse registry.
Children’s Services sent an investigator to the home, about the only action it found appropriate in a blistering post-mortem investigation of its actions in the case. The mother was reported to be hostile and in need of evaluation.
The agency assigned the family to one of its own caseworkers, Mr. Adams, who had joined it in 2006. He was a graduate of Tufts University, where he studied psychology and childhood development and was a star athlete. For the next three months, both he and the Child Development Support Corporation were supposed to be looking out for Marchella.
In 2005, the city had put the support corporation on a watch list for poor performance, and the next year the city gave it a “needs improvement” rating. In March 2008, an audit by the city comptroller found it made insufficient visits to families and did not test parents in substance abuse treatment.
The corporation’s contract expired at the end of 2008. Despite the negative audit, Children’s Services renewed the contract to June 30, 2010.
According to Children’s Services, the private agency recommended in May that the Pierce case be closed, saying the home was stable and the children were safe. Yet there was only one visit in which Marchella was reported seen. Moreover, the drug treatment program had told the private agency that Ms. Brett-Pierce continued to abuse drugs and had threatened an employee.
When Ms. Brett-Pierce tested positive again for marijuana, Children’s Services decided to keep the case open.
Marcia Rowe-Riddick, the executive director of the support corporation, said it felt its work was improving. But in April 2010, when the city announced new contracts, it was not allowed to bid because of “performance issues.”
Ms. Rowe-Riddick said that Children’s Services had the records from the Brett-Pierce case and that she did not know whether her agency had done anything wrong. Those assigned to the case, she said, are gone, laid off after the city contract ended.
John B. Mattingly, the Children’s Services commissioner, declined to be interviewed for this article, saying it was inappropriate with the pending grand jury inquiry.
In the Madison Street home, drugs remained common. In June, Loretta Brett was arrested for possession of marijuana; she had four prior arrests, including ones for robbery and assault.
By July 1, Mr. Adams was the only caseworker for Marchella’s family. Colleagues said that he was diligent and that caseworkers juggled impossible workloads. They said they were forced to assign their own priorities and decide which households to visit and which to skip. “You ask yourself, if I don’t do a visit, will this child die?” said Kelly Mares, a city caseworker supportive of Mr. Adams and his supervisor, Ms. Bell. “That’s horrible. But that’s what we have to do. The truth is any child can die if you don’t make a visit.”
The arrests have made things worse, she said. “I don’t know how to do this job,” she said. “We’re terrified.”
Children’s Services, in its own investigation, said it was “questionable” that Mr. Adams had ever seen the family. After the child’s death, the agency said, Mr. Adams documented visits he supposedly had made, and Ms. Bell documented meetings she said she had had with Mr. Adams. Ms. Bell had been with the agency 12 years, a married mother of two young children who was working on a double graduate degree.
Her lawyer said Ms. Bell had wanted Mr. Adams transferred because his work was substandard. Mr. Adams, his lawyer said, knew of no transfer plans.
Relatives of Marchella said the girl had spent much of the time with her grandmother, Ms. Brett. As for Ms. Brett-Pierce, “she would shop, shop, shop,” Shaquanna Parnell said.
Marchella kept losing weight. “She was thin but she didn’t seem like a difficult child,” said Keyba Wright, a sister of Mr. Pierce. She had trouble with solids, and Ms. Brett-Pierce sometimes fed her liquid nutrition products.
Levonnia Parnell, the great-aunt, invited Ms. Brett-Pierce and her children to a party in Harlem last July for her own son’s high school graduation. It was the last time she saw Marchella. She wrapped the child in her arms. She said Marchella’s bones were visible through her flesh. She recalled, “People said, What happened to her?”
Twine on the Bedposts
Carlotta Brett-Pierce called 911 a little after 7 a.m. last Sept. 2 to say her daughter was unresponsive, her hands cold.
When an ambulance arrived, Marchella was dead. The police found marijuana and crack in the apartment, and signs of a horrifying existence.
Twine was knotted to the child’s bedposts. Ligature marks scarred her ankles. The authorities said Loretta Brett, the grandmother, told them Marchella had been tied up for part of each day for months, though Ms. Brett’s lawyer denied she had said this. The girl had multiple bruises suggesting beatings, which prosecutors say both mother and grandmother inflicted. Blood speckled the wall and a video case the police fished out of the trash.
Prosecutors said Ms. Brett-Pierce had starved Marchella, force-fed her antihistamines and beaten her with the video case and a belt. Ms. Brett-Pierce told an officer she had tied Marchella to the bed because she was “wild” and would wake up at night to get food.
The coroner ruled the death a homicide and ascribed it to child abuse syndrome involving drug poisoning, blunt impact injuries and malnutrition.
Marchella’s brothers, who were in good health, were taken by the authorities. Before her arrest, Ms. Brett, the grandmother, tried to gain custody, but she tested positive for marijuana.
Mr. Pierce is not working. Relatives say he never did. Since leaving prison in 2005, he has had 10 more arrests, including one in February for driving without a license and one in March for marijuana possession. He lives in Brooklyn with a girlfriend, a home health care aide who has several children.
Despite his instability and persistent arrests, he hopes to get custody of Marchella’s brothers, now 6 and 1. They are with a foster family. He sees them one hour a week. At a recent hearing, his lawyer told the judge that Mr. Pierce wanted more time with them. A representative for the boys said that the older son had been asked and did not want to see his father longer — that an hour a week was enough.
Hawaii Gets A Human Trafficking Bill
by Sara Lin
What a difference a year makes.
Victims advocates came very close to seeing Hawaii's first human trafficking legislation become law last year. But after law enforcement, prosecutors and public defenders alike filed protests, then-Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed it.
Fast forward a year.
Both a labor trafficking bill and one to toughen existing prostitution laws — and address sex trafficking — have made it to the governor's desk. And this time, law enforcement and victims advocates appear to agree. There's no indication Gov. Neil Abercrombie will veto them.
That law enforcement and human trafficking victims' advocates managed to agree on the issues is remarkable, given that they started with conflicting positions at the beginning of the session.
Lawmakers introduced six human trafficking bills this year. But from the get-go, law enforcement adopted the same refrain as last year: A new law isn't needed, existing laws are adequate.
Mid-session, President Barack Obama's personal ambassador on human trafficking visited Hawaii and met with stakeholders, including the governor and Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro.
Luis CdeBaca, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, told Civil Beat that it's important for states to pass anti-trafficking statutes even if they think the problem is covered by existing laws.
All the while, federal authorities continued to pursue criminal human trafficking charges and civil damages. Last month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a discrimination suit against six Hawaii farms and Global Horizons, a labor contractor, for unfair employment practices.
The headlines of stories we've written tracking the bills' progress show the tough road human trafficking measures have traveled this session:
|Deja Vu for Hawaii Human Trafficking Bill?
Bill Watch: Hawaii Human Trafficking Bills Appear Dead
Two Hawaii Labor Trafficking Bills Still Alive
Why Can't Hawaii Agree On Human Trafficking?
Hawaii Labor Trafficking Bill One Step From Governor's Desk
First Attempt to Address Sex Trafficking in Hawaii Teetering on the Brink
Lawmakers Finally Agree On Anti-Prostitution Bill
A separate sex trafficking statute didn't survive, but victims advocates worked closely with Kaneshiro and many of the same principles made it into the prosecutor's prostitution bill.
Credit also goes to Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland and Rep. John Mizuno, who fought in their respective chambers to keep the bills alive.
If Abercrombie signs the human trafficking bills into law, Hawaii will be able to lose the ignominious status of being one of just four states without a human trafficking law.
Demi Moore and CNN Documentary Highlight Human Trafficking
Erin La Rosa
May 8th 2011
Demi Moore and husband Ashton Kutcher have been trying to end the sex trafficking industry by raising funds for their DNA Foundation and their controversial PSA campaign called “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls.” But now Demi is going into the frontlines with a new documentary project called Nepal’s Stolen Children.
The film is part of a CNN Freedom Project aimed at exposing human trafficking in Nepal. In the report, we see Demi join 2010 CNN Hero of the Year Anuradha Koirala and her anti-sex trafficking organization, Maiti Nepal, at a shelter in Nepal to hear first-hand accounts from women who were forced into the sex trade industry.
Demi and Anuradha travel from the human trafficking capitols of Kathmandu to Bhairahawa to document how women are smuggled from Nepal and into India to work as sex slaves. Additionally, Demi meets with the Prime Minister of Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal, to confront him about his country’s problem and uncover if he’s taking the proper measures to address it.
The great news is that this documentary will not be the end of the anti-trafficking campaign, as the CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery will continue throughout 2011 in an effort to expose the modern-day horrors of the sex trade industry. It will include special reports on trafficking that aims at solution-oriented information and motivating viewers to get involved so they can have a hand in effectively eliminating the practice.
“The inhumanity of those who trade humans is truly shocking and should be stopped,” said Tony Maddox, the Executive Vice President and Managing Director of CNN International. “Our coverage will spotlight not just those responsible, but the many courageous groups and individuals on the frontlines doing genuinely admirable work.”
As CNN is a huge news platform, we think it’s fantastic that Demi is taking advantage and helping to bring awareness to this issue.
The special is set to air on June 11th, so please tune in and support this cause.