Friday, July 5, 2013
Saturday, March 23, 2013
HUMAN TRAFFICKING CHARITIES SUED FOR FRAUD, STEALING GOVERNMENT MONEY, DONATIONS, GRANTS
Sex Trafficking Charity organization faces lawsuit
AG: Ahava Kids misused thousands of dollars
- Story by: Tina Detelj
- News 8 (WTNH)
Hartford, CT, USA (WTNH) - The operator of a Connecticut, shoreline charity is in big trouble with the state. The operator of the Old Saybrook-based " Ahava Kids" is accused of misusing thousands of dollars in charitable contributions.
A lawsuit was filed in Hartford Superior Court. It says that nearly half of the quarter million dollars in contributions collected by the charity in the past five years have been squandered.
It was a worker on the Ahava Kids website who apparently blew the whistle on the operator of the charity.
Raymond Bechard claimed to help victims of human trafficking and distribute AIDS medications to orphaned children in third world countries.
"This individual, essentially, wasted, squandered, misused and misappropriated this money," said Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
At one time, Ahava Kids operated from a small office in a building in Old Saybrook and, according to the lawsuit, they spent donated money in department stores, grocery stores, sporting goods stores, gasoline and ATM cash withdrawals.
In addition, it is alleged that Bechard operated four businesses out of his home on Bay View Road and channeled $67,000 through the phony firms called "Disciple Makers Workshop," "Son Celebration," "Gift Catalog Online," and "Compel Communications."
"As much as $100,000 was taken from the cause of aiding orphan children with AIDS and victims of human trafficking," Attorney General Blumenthal said.
In a statment, a lawyer for Bechard said, "Any alleged financial disclosures, which are alleged to be inaccurate, have been rectified. We believe that the investigation and civil suit against Ahava Kids is misguided. It is unfortunate that the State of Connecticut is now focusing its resources to malign a small organization that has done so much good."
The Attorney General also claims that this so called 'safe house' that Bechard told News Channel 8 the charity was operating has been seldom, if ever, used.
Bechard's attorney said the safe house has been used three times. Attorney General Blumenthal is seeking repayment and penalties. The lawsuit was filed in coordination with the State Department of Consumer Protection.
Updated: Thursday, 01 Oct 2009, 11:18 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 01 Oct 2009, 7:46 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 01 Oct 2009, 7:46 PM EDT
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Atlanta Georgia Hugely Exaggerated Sex Trafficking of Women to get government funding.
The U.S. City of Atlanta, Georgia, and Attorney General Sam Olens hugely inflated the number of Korean and other Asian women trafficked into the city's sex trade so as to extract federal government funds, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Monday.
An internal police memo in 2005 claimed "some 1,000" Asian women and girls between 13 to 25, many of them Korean were being "forced to prostitute themselves" in the city.
Atlanta police in 2005 asked the U.S. Department of Justice for money to form a taskforce to eradicate human trafficking, which was a much-publicized subject during the Bush administration. The Justice Department allotted a budget of US$600,000 based on a report from the Atlanta police which identified 216 women supposedly trafficked to the city for sex between 2005 and 2006.
But an audit in July 2008 found only four, the paper reported.
email@example.com / Jan. 02, 2013 12:28 KST
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The situation was dire, police warned. The City of Atlanta was under siege by human traffickers.
Some 1,000 Asian women and girls ages 13 to 25 were being “forced to prostitute themselves” in the city, a 2005 internal police email said. Many of the victims, police said, were Korean.
To free them, police forged ahead with a $600,000 task force.
Had agency leaders questioned the estimate, they would have found it defied common sense. If it were true, one in eight of the city’s Asians would have been sex slaves.
Perhaps, then, it’s little wonder that the program had such poor results that it drew scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice. An initial report said Atlanta police had found more than 200 victims, but auditors could only confirm four.
The APD project is an example of how government officials have charged into the fight against human trafficking without a clear sense of who is being exploited and how, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.
While the term “human trafficking” conjures images of foreigners smuggled into the U.S. to work at brothels and sweatshops, its definition shifts, sparking complaints that public dollars are being spent the wrong way.
Mexicans have been brought to Gwinnett County and forced into prostitution. Was this the area’s biggest problem? Was a case of Nigerian maids held in Suwanee a sign of a larger trend?
What about gay male teen runaways pushed to have sex for money? Or homegrown girls sold by local pimps?
Despite more than a decade of federal and local initiatives and millions of dollars spent, policymakers don’t have information that can answer these questions. What does exist suggests that government officials either don’t understand the problem, or are failing victims.
“You have to raise big questions on whether policies are appropriate in the first place,” said Ronald Weitzer, a George Washington University professor and expert on human trafficking. “More resources spent on sex trafficking means they’re lost elsewhere.”
Money and results
Atlanta launched its search for Korean prostitutes as hundreds of millions of dollars began to pour into anti-trafficking efforts nationwide. The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 gave special assistance to foreign victims in the U.S. and paved the way for a 2004 Department of Justice initiative to fund local human trafficking task forces.
The goal: To increase rescues of foreign victims by 15 percent each year.
City officials argued they desperately needed the money. “Human trafficking is now beginning to get a foothold in Atlanta and must be stopped before it becomes entrenched,” police told Justice Department officials.
The Atlanta Police Department won a $450,000 three-year grant, and the city chipped in an additional $150,000. Two investigators and a sergeant joined forces with a Korean translator.
At first blush, the task force seemed to be a success.
The Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance reported that Atlanta police identified 216 potential victims from January 2005 through December 2006.
But this count was later revealed to be grossly inaccurate. Auditors for the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General could find documentation for only four victims, a July 2008 report said.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance made a mistake that added 93 victims to the count. Atlanta had actually reported 123 victims. The city could not explain the 119 that auditors couldn’t track. Police said the figures were reported by a city employee who retired before the Justice Department inquiry.
The team disbanded in 2007.
In a recent written statement to the AJC, Atlanta police conceded that the unit was “ineffective in identifying victims of human trafficking, and had not produced the expected results.”
“The Atlanta Police Department came to the belief that while the issue of human trafficking is a true concern, the scope of the problem inside the city limits had declined from what was once thought during the inception of the grant,” the statement said.
Such problems weren’t unique to Atlanta. Auditors found victim over-counts by task forces across the nation, although none was as bad as Atlanta’s.
The City of Los Angeles, for instance, identified 49 victims and the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., found 51. Auditors confirmed none of them.
Auditors also found that nearly $32 million in federal funds for victim assistance groups aided far fewer people than expected.
The conclusion: Not enough victims were being helped.
“[H]uman trafficking grant programs have built significant capacities to serve trafficking victims, but have not identified and served significant numbers of victims,” the Office of the Inspector General reported.
Horrific abuses do take place, but evidence that foreign trafficking victims are pouring into the country is scarce.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement busted an international trafficking ring that operated in Atlanta’s suburbs from spring 2006 through June 2008.
The operators tricked 10 girls and young women, mostly from rural villages in Mexico, to come with them to America. Then they forced them to become prostitutes in Norcross.
Ringleader Amador Cortes-Meza initiated them into the trade by making them have sex with upwards of 20 men on the first night. Four of the victims were juveniles. One was only 14, investigators said.
One victim pleaded to return to her family. Cortes-Meza dunked her head in a bucket of water until she thought she would drown. Another tried to escape. He beat her with a broomstick so badly she was permanently disfigured.
Cortes-Meza was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 40 years.
A years-long FBI investigation uncovered labor trafficking victims held in Gwinnett County. Bidemi Bello took two impoverished young women – one 17, the other 20 - from their Nigerian homes to live with her in Suwanee.
Their new home had four bedrooms, but Bello made them sleep on a couch or the floor. Bello owned a lawnmower, but made them cut the grass with their hands. They cooked meals but were only allowed to eat spoiled leftovers. When the food made one of them sick, Bello forced her to eat her own vomit.
Bello beat them when they disobeyed her. One ran away with the help of friends. The other found refuge in a Marietta church.
Bello was sentenced in 2011 to 11 years and eight months in federal prison on forced labor, trafficking and other charges.
While these prosecutions make headlines, such cases have been rare.
“We are told by the State Department that every year 15,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. But then, where are they?” said Elzbieta Gozdziak, research director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University.
If the problem were pervasive, more victims might have applied for special visas created by the 2000 anti-trafficking law. But between fiscal year 2002 and June 2010, the U.S. issued fewer than 1,900 of the visas, which allow victims to stay in the U.S., the Congressional Research Service found in a December 2010 report.
“Why are the numbers so small? Is it because the scope of the problem is not as big as they say? Or is it small because we don’t know how to find them?” Gozdziak asked.
Those numbers are proof that the fight against human trafficking has gone wrong, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a November 2011 report on a bid to reauthorize the trafficking law. While he supported it, he sought more accountability.
“Either the government is doing an unconscionably poor job of finding victims or there are not that many total victims in the first place,” Grassley wrote.
And if the number of foreigners is inflated, the government may be spending money on the wrong programs. In an unpublished 2011 report obtained by the AJC, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, said Congress needs to ensure domestic victims aren’t being overlooked.
“Over the last decade, Congress has failed to conduct the oversight necessary to ensure the programs and agencies tasked with fighting these terrible crimes are operating in an efficient and effective manner,” the report said.
Information problems stunt state-level programs, too. Programs in Georgia focus on underage girls sold for sex, leaving boys nowhere to turn.
The Georgia Care Connection Office, the state’s anti-child prostitution program, served no male clients in its first two years. Researchers who surfed Craigslist for the state’s count of minors who were sex trafficking victims did not search for boys.
Had researchers looked, they might have seen the Craigslist ads by a Douglasville man pimping a slender teenage boy for $160.
Steven Donald Lemery lured troubled gay teen runaways to his home and forced them to peddle sex online. Some of their sex ads would receive hundreds of responses.
They lived with Lemery’s wife, his boyfriend, his wife’s fiancé, and a rotating cast of characters that included broke drag queens, drug addicts and friends of friends.
The case came to light only when a 16-year-old showed up at an Alabama rape crisis center in 2011. He had with what looked like cigarette burns on his arms and chest and said he got them when he refused to have sex with two men Lemery booked as his clients.
Lemery was convicted in August for trafficking the teen from Alabama and another teen from South Carolina, as well as molesting a Georgia boy. His housemate Christopher Andrew Lynch pleaded guilty in the trafficking of a local transgendered boy.
Prosecutors sought services to help the victims recover, but all the programs were designed for girls, said Rachel Ackley, an assistant state attorney in Douglas County, where the teens were kept.
Kaffie McCullough, a longtime trafficking opponent, said that this may be advocates’ fault. “We thought, maybe wrongly, that there were more female victims instead of male victims,” McCullough said.
Whether Georgia is overlooking scores of boys sold for sex is anyone’s guess.
A 2011 Bureau of Justice Statistics report counted victims in cases opened by the nation’s 42 federally-funded anti-trafficking task forces from 2008 to 2010.
Of the sex trafficking victims, fewer than six percent were male.
But 24 of the 42 task forces gave such low-quality information that the bureau could not include their victim numbers. None of these units are located in Georgia. Furthermore, these counts reflect only the cases that investigators know about.
Trafficking is a hidden crime. Gay runaways duck police to avoid being sent home. Girls confuse investigators by calling pimps their “boyfriends.” Foreign victims stay in the shadows because they fear deportation.
“There really isn’t any concrete information,” said Meredith Dank, an Urban Institute researcher who studies domestic and foreign trafficking.
Local police agencies plan to collect data on human trafficking starting in 2013 as part of the Justice Department’s nationwide crime statistics program.
Yet a better understanding remains years into the future, said Amy Farrell, a Northeastern University professor who oversees the program to count federal task force cases.
“It’s going to be a decade for us to have good data, if we ever have good data,” Farrell said.
Trafficking victims fall through cracks of programs built on guesses, distortions
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An Atlanta police officer took the teen to the station because she looked so young. She was trembling when he found her. She wasn’t wearing much.
The girl told investigators she was from Arkansas and her journey to the streets of Atlanta began when she climbed into the car of a relative’s boyfriend. Mariece Sims and another man drove her to a Texas hotel room and raped her, she said.
They left for Mississippi, where Sims told her to make money by having sex with men at a truck stop, court records said. In Atlanta, he told her to do it again. He hit the girl when she did not make enough or tried to escape.
In the nine years since this girl walked the streets, the public has been told over and over again that hundreds of girls in metro Atlanta meet her same fate every night. It’s why this area is notorious as one of the nation’s worst human trafficking hubs.
That reputation ignited a decade of efforts against what is described as modern-day slavery. Now it is cause célèbre. Nonprofits, religious groups and celebrities have joined the crusade, and politicians are pouring millions of tax dollars into the fight.
But an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that the initiatives are based on facts and figures that, while preached as gospel and enshrined in legislation, are guesses or distortions. Even the widespread belief that Atlanta is one of the nation’s child exploitation capitals stands on shaky ground. In this information vacuum, government officials have created programs that promise to find and help victims, but too often don’t.
The AJC found:
• Agencies have failed to keep accurate information that could tell them whether taxpayer-funded initiatives have been effective. Participants in a $1 million program did not record basic information such as why a victim was in the system.
• State-backed attempts to track trafficking trends were not designed to be scientific, and national estimates are widely discredited.
• There is little proof that initiatives bring a significant percentage of traffickers to justice. Special sweeps by local and federal task forces have turned up few exploiters. Clients of a state program to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children cooperated in only four convictions in its first two years.
• The program’s clients struggle under its care. One-third of girls it took in during its first two years returned to prostitution, some coaxed back by their pimps. More than half of those placed in safe homes in fiscal year 2011 ran away.
Despite the flaws, trafficking opponents have made some significant strides, and each rescued child is a victory.
“Atlanta and Georgia really are in the forefront of the U.S.,” said Kaffie McCullough, deputy director of youthSpark, a Fulton County juvenile justice nonprofit that fights child sex trafficking.
The legal system now takes the crime seriously. The Legislature passed tough laws, and Georgia established a statewide system to help girls who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation, noted former Fulton juvenile court judge Nina Hickson, who is credited with starting Atlanta’s movement.
“I’m not totally saying these have all been successes. There have been disappointments. But a lot of good work is being done by a lot of good people,” said Hickson.
They face long odds, Hickson and others said. Programs close within years because funding dries up. Inexperienced decision makers ignore the advice of front-line workers. Victims dodge police by calling their pimps their “boyfriends” and are beaten when they try to leave.
Yet independent experts and federal authorities say that problems here and in other communities run deeper. Poor accountability and bad data hobble the effort.
David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, cautions against using any of the estimates to make policy.
“The data are very poor, and are not really to be relied upon for any conclusion,” he said.
‘Facts’ really estimates
Atlanta’s anti-trafficking movement coalesced around the image of a 10-year-old girl, her ankles in shackles. It was November 2000, and the runaway was in juvenile court accused of prostitution. She was being kept in detention because there was nowhere else for her to go.
A series of stories in the AJC described how she and other girls sat in jail while their adult pimps went free. The problem was dire, and child advocates asked the Justice Department for money.
Nationally “an estimated 300,000 victimized children” were “living on the streets,” the Juvenile Justice Fund, now known as youthSpark, said in an application for federal funds.
Over the years, trafficking activists have repeated this and other grim statistics to decision-makers and before ballrooms full of potential donors and volunteers.
In 2005, the FBI added Atlanta to its list of 14 field offices with the highest incidence of child prostitution or trafficking. An FBI official testifying in Washington, D.C. cited law enforcement intelligence as well as information from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
A study commissioned by a local anti-trafficking campaign came up with another bleak figure. Research firm The Schapiro Group reported that 251 underage girls were being trafficked in Georgia in August 2007. Researchers cautioned, though, that the actual count could be closer to 400.
The Governor’s Office for Children and Families agreed to take over funding for the research. From 2009 through this spring, it paid The Schapiro Group nearly $245,000 to produce a regular count, which varied between 200 and 500. The results appeared on the agency’s website.
Now these alarming numbers appear in pamphlets, recent state legislation, and even on an anti-trafficking-themed tote bag passed out at a recent forum.
“240 Girls Were Trafficked in Georgia Yesterday,” the bag warns.
But a detailed look at the numbers shows that the most widely-used facts and figures are crude estimates, unsubstantiated, or inaccurate.
An FBI spokesman declined to explain why Atlanta is a top trafficking city.
Atlanta’s size and location may well mean the metro area plays a big role in the trade, experts said. But while the FBI official said information from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children helped the FBI develop its list, a center spokeswoman said it does not issue rankings.
In the absence of hard numbers, news articles and advocacy groups have claimed the title of the nation’s human trafficking capital for Wichita, Kan., Toledo, Ohio, and Baton Rouge, La.
Some widely-used “facts” about the scope of trafficking misinterpret actual estimates.
For instance, the claim that 300,000 minors are victims of commercial, sexual exploitation in the U.S. misquotes a 2001 estimate by University of Pennsylvania researchers.
Their report said that on the high side, these children are at risk – not actual victims. This includes runaways, children living in public housing and female gang members. Critics warn the estimate may double-count kids who are part of multiple risk groups.
The study’s authors emphasized they did not conduct a head count, and a better estimate would require more research.
Other estimates of U.S. child victims range from fewer than 2,000 to more than 2 million. The gap is so wide the numbers mean next to nothing.
“Somewhere between there is the truth, but we don’t know where,” said Mary A. Finn, a professor at Georgia State University and lead author of a report evaluating a major Atlanta anti-trafficking effort.
Figures on the trade’s profitability and victims’ average age have similar problems, yet officials continue to use them.
“They gain a life of their own,” said Ronald Weitzer, a George Washington University professor and expert on sex trafficking. “They’re repeated, recited and reproduced by the media and commentators and pretty soon become conventional wisdom, although the claims are way beyond what is warranted.”
As for the Governor’s Office for Children and Families findings on child exploitation, scholars say they are fundamentally flawed. Basic rules of research require that findings be verifiable and replicable.
These results aren’t. The Schapiro Group released some, but not all, of its methodology to the AJC, saying it was proprietary.
The firm estimated the number of victims by surfing ads on the website Craigslist, driving through high-prostitution neighborhoods, calling escort services and sitting in hotel lobbies counting what its observers think are underage call girls.
It multiplies that count by 0.38. Firm President Beth Schapiro said that’s because her company’s research showed that, conservatively, observers accurately guess a female in a sexually suggestive photo is underage about 38 percent of the time.
These reports are a waste of taxpayer money, Weitzer said. The methodology is a guessing game.
“If I showed that report to anyone here in my department, they would laugh,” he said.
Numbers have power
Yet these numbers have incredible power. The Schapiro Group’s count transformed child sex trafficking into a statewide crusade.
In 2001, Georgia legislators changed state law to make the pimping of a child a felony instead of a misdemeanor. Most headway took place on the local level.
Angela’s House, one of the nation’s residential treatment homes for trafficked girls, opened in 2002. The six-bed safe house launched with $1 million in private and state funds.
Two years later, the Juvenile Justice Fund won a $1 million grant to raise awareness and to overhaul responses by service agencies and law enforcement.
In 2005, Atlanta’s then-mayor Shirley Franklin issued a thick research report outlining the problem. She followed up with the launch of the “Dear John” campaign to target johns and boost enforcement.
But the release of the Schapiro Group’s 2007 data changed everything, said state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, a supporter of tougher laws against child prostitution.
“That’s when I could go to the floor of the Senate and say, ‘Did you know that 400 children are being prostituted on the streets of Atlanta?’” Unterman said.
In 2008, the Legislature created a commission to study the commercial sex trafficking of children. Legislation passed in 2009 added child prostitution to the forms of abuse teachers and others must report to authorities. That same year, the Governor’s Office for Children and Families opened the Georgia Care Connection Office to coordinate victim treatment and other services.
It was “the nation’s first statewide response to address the needs of child sex trafficking victims,” a 2010 news release said.
Legislators toughened laws once more in 2011 and placed the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in charge of child sex trafficking investigations.
On Dec. 6, Unterman and about a dozen lawmakers from other states took the cause to the White House. President Obama’s policy advisers wanted to know what they could do to help.
Reality is messy
The well-publicized advances belied a messy reality. Mobilizing money and resources proved far easier than creating programs that find and help the exploited.
Six nationwide anti-human trafficking sweeps dubbed “Operation Cross Country” recovered nine child victims in and around Metro Atlanta in six years, according to news accounts and FBI press releases.
Angela’s House closed when it came under new management. Funding and referrals dried up, and the new provider felt the beds weren’t needed because other safe houses had opened.
At a Dec. 21 legislative committee meeting on human trafficking, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter complained that after years of efforts, policymakers know far less about the problem than they should. While The Schapiro Group’s figures indicate the crime is widespread, Porter said, his office rarely sees cases.
“We really haven’t embarked on a process of finding out what we’re dealing with,” Porter said.
It’s unclear how many victims were helped by the $1 million awarded in 2004 to the Juvenile Justice Fund.
The program began because “serious overlaps and gaps” were causing children to fall through the cracks, advocates told the U.S. Department of Justice in a grant application.
One goal was to fill information gaps that keep victims from getting needed care and protection, the grant proposal said. Participating agencies would meet regularly and install a case tracking database for victims of child sex trafficking and other abuse.
Many fissures, however, remained, according to a $450,000 federally-funded evaluation by Georgia State University researchers. Key agencies such as the Division of Family and Children Services failed to enter basic data into the system.
Of 50 victims recorded in the child abuse database, only one entry said whether the pimp was arrested. Of the 54 clients of Angela’s House, 29 were not in the database.
The agencies said they had other priorities. Human trafficking was rare compared to child beatings, sex abuse and neglect cases, said Finn, the evaluation report’s lead author.
“We found it was not even in the front fore lobe of their consciousness. They had to struggle to remember the last time a kid they saw brought this up,” Finn said.
Whether the program improved victim care remained a mystery. There wasn’t enough information, the report said.
Deborah Richardson, now executive vice president of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, was executive director of the Juvenile Justice Fund. She said gathering information was not its central goal.
“That was never the intent of the project,” she said. “It really was about system change.”
The change wasn’t enough for victims.
Their parents and guardians reported that police and courts were helpful. So was the counseling. But it did not stop the children from dropping out of school or running away.
The teens wondered whether their futures were any brighter.
“In general, there was no clear sense of whether or not youth felt that they had ‘gotten better’ or that they were somehow at the end of a process,” the evaluation report said.
Help often lacking
Years later, it’s still not clear victims are getting better or that the government response has improved.
The Georgia Care Connection Office’s goal is to help underage girls who are commercially sexually exploited, but its own data show a majority of its referrals were not victims at all.
The office reported that it received 400 referrals during its first three years of operation. About 190 were victims. That is fewer than six per month.
About 40 children were only “at risk” of becoming prostitutes. Yet they still joined the caseload of the seven-person office. The rest were referred to other agencies or did not complete screening.
The help it did give to victims often fell short, according to a 2011 evaluation the office commissioned.
During the office’s first two years, about 35 percent of its 136 clients, all female, returned to prostitution while they were receiving state help.
Thirty-eight were arrested, some more than once. Twelve became pregnant.
Pimps were rarely brought to justice. Written statements from eight victims led to charges. Only four exploiters were convicted, the report found.
Katie Jo Ballard, executive director of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, cancelled an interview to discuss the program’s performance. She stopped responding to repeated requests by email, telephone and in person to comment.
The evaluation report did contain success stories. One client ran away from a safe house, returned to her exploiter, became pregnant and got arrested. But with help of the office, it said, she returned to treatment, continued her education and reunited with her parents.
“Without the focused approach of GCCO, the hard-earned progress noted in this report would not exist,” the report said.
Experts who help women leave prostitution recognize that small victories are rare.
At the GCCO, even the most dedicated clients stumbled as they tried to leave their old lives, said Katrina Owens, a trafficking survivor who worked for two years as a peer support worker.
The program directed survivors to mental health services, but exploiters remained free. They called the girls relentlessly or knocked on their doors, Owens said.
Some teens could not get needed help because their parents could not afford it. Others lacked transportation to attend programs that they could afford.
Girls balked at applying to college because their criminal histories could make them ineligible for federal financial aid. They failed to find work, and the cost of books was so high they were tempted to pay for them through stripping or prostitution, Owens said.
She left the program after two years. Though civic groups lined up to ask her to speak at luncheons and fund-raisers as statewide interest in sex trafficking climbed, she was becoming a token survivor, not someone with growing expertise.
“I feel the … movement here has become somewhat of a fad,” Owens said. “That’s the truth. Once the dust settles, I’m curious to know who will still be standing up for the cause.”
Meet the reporter
Willoughby Mariano started at the AJC in 2010 as a reporter for the PolitiFact Georgia team. Previously, she worked for the Orlando Sentinel in Florida, where she covered criminal justice and wrote a blog that chronicled the lives of those affected by years of record-breaking murder rates. She is co-winner of a National Headliner Award in investigative journalism for her coverage of laborers at Orlando theme parks and hotels who worked under conditions that amounted to indentured servitude. She was born in Brooklyn, raised outside of Chicago, and lives in East Atlanta with her husband and cats.
How We Got the Story
AJC reporter Willoughby Mariano looked into evidence that Atlanta is a top human trafficking hub and discovered that it and other oft-repeated claims about the crime were unsubstantiated or incorrect. Documents revealed through freedom of information act requests and other reporting showed that anti-trafficking programs in Atlanta and across the nation struggle to find and help victims. She reviewed thousands of pages of internal government files, scholarly research, federal research reports, and court records for this story, and conducted dozens of interviews with lawmakers, academics, advocates, program organizers, members of law enforcement, and others.
Overspending, poor oversight vexed Atlanta trafficking program
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta police program to rescue Korean prostitutes from traffickers raised concerns at the U.S. Department of Justice in more ways than one.
Not only were auditors unable to verify the number of victims police had reported, the task force also had begun to run out of its $600,000 in grant money by January 2007, more than a year before the three-year program was to end.
Federal authorities were surprised that police could spend so much money so quickly.
“Is it really true that the investigators make more than $100,000 per year??” a federal administrator asked in a March 2007 email.
It was, because of overtime, a police budget manager replied. Investigators made more than the sergeant supervising the unit.
The feds had other concerns. Atlanta Police Department reported it spent more than $92,000 in salaries and benefits for a victim services consultant.
“Do you have any idea at all what work this person has done (we don’t)?” that email asked.
Police blamed the spending problems on a budgeting snafu.
“The short answer is the original budget grossly underestimated personnel costs,” a June 2007 APD memo said.
Still, there was enough money to stock the unit’s supply closet.
APD purchased three desktop computers at $2,000 each, three laptop computers at $3,000 each, a $900 digital camera and a $900 camcorder, among other things, according to an internal inventory audit.
Grant money also filled three spaces in APD’s parking lot. In 2006, the human trafficking unit bought two new Ford Explorers — one in gold and another in silver — and a red, unmarked Crown Victoria with tinted windows. They were designated for undercover work.
Atlanta police realized the program was off track when a new commander took over in 2006, according to a recent written statement by APD to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It “lacked adequate supervisory structure and appropriate internal oversight,” the statement said.
The task force disbanded in 2007, but police continue to investigate local pimps. They say they are still committed to the fight.
“Human trafficking within the city borders is intolerable, and the Department will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners to pursue and prosecute these acts,” the statement said.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Proposition 35 - the California law banning all forms of anything sexual.
STOP CALLING ADULT CONSENSUAL SEX, - HUMAN TRAFFICKING !!!
Early polling suggests that Proposition 35 looks like a sure winner in November — buoyed by voters who haven’t read or understood it but who like its title. Unfortunately, either through accident or design, Prop 35 is badly drafted — potentially turning even misdemeanor offenses dealing with prostitution, solicitation, non-marital sex, sex with minors, “sexting,” pornography, obscenity, and extortion into major, multi-year felonies.
One doesn’t have to think that such activities should be legal to think that they should be addressed with some sense of punishment being proportional to the crime. It must be fixed before it enters our Penal Code.
Prop 35 is a joint effort of Californians Against Slavery and the Safer California Foundation. Californians Against Slavery bills itself this way:
A nonprofit, non-partisan human rights organization dedicated to ending human trafficking in our state. Our mission is to defend the freedom of every child, woman and man by empowering the people of California to fulfill our obligation to stop human trafficking.
Now there is a group that is hard to oppose! Not many people outright celebrate slavery these days. And human trafficking, the prototypical example is where women are imported into the U.S. with false promises of legitimate work, held captive, and forced into prostitution for the benefit of American men. This is about as offensive as a practice can get. (Of course, “human trafficking” has another meaning as well: prostitution in any form, which is less offensive. This ambiguity will, as we’ll see, create problems.)
The group’s leader, Daphne Phung, was inspired to create Prop 35 by MSNBC’s excellent documentary on human trafficking, “Sex Slaves in America,” the transcript for which is available at http://on.today.com/nxLNI2. Please do read it. If such activities were legal and Prop 35 addressed only such horrors, I’d support it.
The Safer California Foundation bills itself this way:
… dedicated to supporting efforts to protect Californians from all forms of criminal exploitation. Created by Chris Kelly, former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer and a Silicon Valley attorney and philanthropist, the Safer California Foundation looks forward to the day when every neighborhood in California is as safe as our most secure neighborhoods today.
You may remember Chris Kelly as a well-funded 2010 Democratic candidate for Attorney General who lost to Kamala Harris in the primary. His address — business, probably — is listed as being in Garden Grove. He provided the lion’s share of funding for Prop 35, $1.66 million. (Perhaps I’ll be excused for suspecting that once Prop 35 passes, he’s not going to let us forget that, either.) As “criminal exploitation” is better known as “crime,” the above description is about as vague as they come: Chris Kelly is against crime.
Prop 35 would enact the “CASE Act.” CASE stands for “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation,” which is intended as a model law for other states to adopt. Notice that we’ve gone from opposing “Slavery” — a pretty well-defined concept — to opposing “Sexual Exploitation,” which is a lot broader and more nebulous. That is our first hint (not counting lavish sponsorship by what the Sacramento Bee calls ”a politically ambitious financial angel”) of the problems with Prop 35.
That notwithstanding, it is hard to imagine a more “motherhood and apple pie” measure than this. What sort of monster, after all, could argue with opposing modern day slavery?
Here’s what kind of monster: someone who has actually read the bill, rather than just the title, and analyzed what its language would do. Such a monster may come to view Prop 35 as a “bait and switch” for voters.
Jane Fonda as a streetwalker in Klute & Cambodian child prostitute -- does all "sex trafficking" deserve the same legal treatment?
Surprise! Current Law Does Punish Pimping Minors. (Unbelievable!)
The website from which the photo at right came (and I’m taking their word that the girl in question is in fact a child prostitute) begins with these sentences:
Debbie was 15 when she was abducted from her Phoenix home late one night. Four men took her to an apartment from her home 25 miles away and continually raped and abused her. She spent days and days in a dog kennel, where her kidnappers forced her to eat dog biscuits and have sex with any man who came to the apartment. Unfortunately, this is a situation more than 2 million women and children find themselves in around the world annually.
(I support Prop 34, which will eliminate the death penalty, because it is too costly and sometimes has led to execution of the innocent. I have to admit, though — if I knew for sure that someone in their right mind had done this sort of thing, I wouldn’t shed a tear at their execution if it came to pass.)
Prop 35 demands our attention with these sorts of lurid and horrific stories of real prototypical human trafficking — usually foreign women lured into the U.S. with the promise of legitimate work, held captive, beaten, and forced into prostitution. It then uses our revulsion at this abominable practice to induce us to pass a bill that doesn’t necessarily have all that much to do with prototypical human trafficking.
Consider the paragraph above about “Debbie.” Does it strike you that we already have laws against all of this? It should — and that should make you wonder what is actually going on here. Here’s what’s going on here: rather than going after prototypical human trafficking, the law goes after the broader definition of human trafficking:prostitution. Proponents of Prop 35 will disagree with this assertion: on its face, Prop 35 only deals withforced prostitution. That will raise the question of what constitutes “force.”
As aside: If you’re wondering why almost no politician will feel able to oppose Prop 35, whatever their private misgivings, look at that last couple of sentences. What politician wants to parse what constitutes “force” in the activity of prostitution? Isn’t prostitution bad? The answer is that one can be perfectly comfortable with making all prostitution illegal — and yet not consider it all equally bad. Prostitution involving a 33-year-old woman who engages in it freely and voluntarily as a means of earning income may be bad, but it is clearly not as bad as prostitution involving a 13-year-old girl who can’t speak English held captive and forced into the sex trade. The greater crime should carry the greater penalty; that should be non-controversial. How does the CASE Act fare by that standard?
One thing that the CASE Act does is to raise the penalties for various crimes as indicated in this table from its FAQ page:
As you can see, a lot of what the CASE Act does is simply increasing sentencing. That’s fine, in prototypical human trafficking cases (especially including minors) where the accused has has primary rather than incidental involvement — and it’s something that I’ll bet the legislature would happily pass without a ballot initiative. But there’s something about this chart that undermines the credibility of proponents. Can you spot it?
Look in the column listing “current state” penalties for various activities, three and four lines down. And then ask yourself: do you honestly believe that there is currently no state penalty for sexual trafficking of a minor without force? Really?
There is a penalty for pimping; there is a penalty for kidnapping and false imprisonment; there are penalties for conspiracy and for solicitation to commit statutory rape. I’m probably leaving others out. So there are two possibilities here: either they authors of this chart are misleading (if not actually lying) — as if their argument that “yes that can be penalized but the specific label ‘sexual trafficking of a minor’ is not used so it doesn’t count” — or what they’re calling “sexual trafficking” is not what we think of when that term is used.
From what I can tell, it’s probably both.
Prop 35 Apparently Creates Big New Penalties against Underage Sex and All Prostitution
Prop 35 has been promoted largely by Christian religious activists who presumably generally oppose prostitution and underage (or even all non-marital) sex. That’s their right. If they can get voters to decide that prostitution and soliciting should be punished by 20 years in prison, they have the tools of the initiative process at their disposal. I’ll oppose them, but they can try it. However, they should be very clear and honest about what they’re actually doing.
In this case, under cover of fighting human trafficking, they would have raise the penalties for commercial sex to an outlandish degree — and define commercial sex extremely broadly.
The CASE Act is more of an anti-prostitution law than an anti-modern-day-slavery law. More than that, it’s an law that is anti-”statutory rape” — a term meaning simply underage sex.
Statutory rape, even with the minor’s consent, is considered rape because the minor is considered not to have the legal capacity to consent to sex. This renders all sexual activity, even consensual activity with someone whom the partner believes to be of age, as technically being “rape.” (Of course, in states like Arizona the age of consent is 16, not 18, so we’re not dealing with universal rules of nature here. This is a choice of the state regarding the mental capacity of minors — one often honored in the breach.)
The shocker is that CASE Act could literally make penalties for statutory rape greater than those for violent rape.
I have no problem with treating those engaged in real human trafficking as worse even than rapists. But the CASE Act is so broadly written that in the hands of aggressive police and prosecutors it could sweep illegal (but not uncommon) sexual encounters into the category of “human trafficking” — and that is simply wrong. It does so by expansively defining legal terms such as “commercial sex,” “force,” and “coercion.”
When examining a criminal law, one useful exercise is to consider the broadest possible expansion of each term and see how many acts it sweeps into its scope.
Redefining “commercial sex”
Here’s a riddle:
Q: Under §6(h)(2) of the CASE Act, what makes a sexual act into a “commercial sex act”?
A: That it occurs on account of anything of value being given or received by any person.
Here’s another riddle:
Q: Gee, does “anything of value” include buying someone dinner? A ticket to a movie? A drink?
A: “Anything of value” is not defined — but if it meant “money or its equivalent” it would say so.
Here’s a final riddle:
Q: Do you really think that prosecutors will think that they can get a jury to convict for a 19-year-old boy who takes a 17-year-old girl (or boy) to a concert, leading her to be grateful and to engage in a sexual act with him, under the CASE Act?
A: Maybe not. But if it’s your son facing 12 years in prison and being branded for life as a registered sex offender as a result of the conviction, would you be more likely to tell him to accept a plea bargain just in case? And don’t prosecutors like plea bargains to pad their conviction statistics? And have they ever been known to deploy their prosecutorial discretion somewhat selectively?
(By the way, that could be your daughter in the above example rather than your son.)
Many sexual activities, including those involving minors, may be facilitated in part by the gift or receipt of “something of value” without being what we’d normally think of as “commercial.” Gift of receipt of “something of value” like a meal or drink, in the course of dating or even a casual encounter, is one way of showing that the potential sexual partner is valued, which in turn is may facilitate sexual activity. I can quote song lyrics to underline the point, but it’s probably unnecessary.
We don’t (unless we are jealous and/or mean) generally call the receipt of a gift that leads to a decision to engage in sexual activity a prostitute, nor do we call the person giving such a gift a john. Even if we did, the stakes under current law would simply be that the giver involved could be charged with solicitation and the recipient with being a prostitute; of such things are sitcom episodes made. It becomes a lot less funny, though, when what’s at risk is being charged with human sexual trafficking and registered sex offended status.
Under §4 of the CASE Act, though, only the one giving the gift could be charged with a crime; the recipient cannot be charged: “evidence that a victim of human trafficking … has engaged in any commercial sexual act as a result of being a victim of human trafficking is inadmissible to prove the victim’s criminal liability for any conduct related to that activity.” Furthermore, evidence of any “history of commercial sexual act of a victim of human trafficking … is inadmissible to attack the credibility or impeach the character of the victim.” (This is a great sort of provision when it comes to rape cases, for example, but in the context of human trafficking it can have some unintended consequences.)
Broadly increasing potential penalties for non-marital sex with adult partners, obscenity, etc.
Under §6 of the CASE Act, a person “is guilty of human trafficking” ”who deprives or violates the personal liberty of another with the intent to effect or maintain a violation of” existing portions of the California Penal Code dealing with:
- prostitution or “illicit carnal connection with any man” (§266)
- living or deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution (§266(h))
- procuring prostitutes (§266(i))
- transporting minor prostitutes for immoral purposes(§266(j))
- taking away from guardians a minor for purposes of prostitution (§267)
- importation, publishing, possession, &c of real or simulated child pornography (§311.1)
- importation, publishing, possession, &c of obscene material, of real or simulated child pornography, or providing same to minors (§311.2), or using minors to produce such material (§311.4)
- visually depicting a minor having sex with a person or animal, experiencing penetration of their vagina or anus, masturbating, engaging in sadomasochistic activity, urinating, defecating, or revealing sexual organs for the purpose of sexual stimulation of the viewer (§311.3)
- any trafficking in obscene matter (§311.5 — a misdemeanor offense)
- engaging or participating in, sponsoring, &c, obscene life conduct in public, with or without admission fee (§311.6 — a misdemeanor offense)
- extortion (§518)
(A quick note about this last one. ”Extortion” is defined as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, or the obtaining of an official act of a public officer,induced by a wrongful use of force or fear, or under color of official right.” So literally, under the CASE Act, one who “deprives of violates the personal liberty of another” — we’ll define that shortly, but extortion necessarily does so — becomes guilty of human trafficking even if there’s nothing sexual about it. That is sloppy, sloppy legislative drafting.)
If “prostitution” and “obscenity” and the like were narrowly defined, this would be as much of a problem. But, as seen above, they aren’t. Take the definition of prostitution in California Penal Code § 266:
Every person who inveigles or entices any unmarried female, of previous chaste character, under the age of 18 years, into any house of ill fame, or of assignation, or elsewhere, for the purpose of prostitution, or to have illicit carnal connection with any man; and every person who aids or assists in such inveiglement or enticement; and every person who, by any false pretenses, false representation, or other fraudulent means, procures any female to have illicit carnal connection with any man,
You can see how the CASE Act may seriously deter patronage of prostitutes overall, even though it’s not being marketed that way. That’s fine if one’s intent is to eliminate prostitution by attaching the potential of extremely severe penalties to it — but, again, that’s not how the CASE Act is being marketed.
Similarly, it may seriously deter non-marital sex, sexual activities (even short of intercourse) involving minors, pornography, obscenity, and anything that is conceivably extortion. This little proposition has the potential to make a major felony out of all sorts of deviations from sexual probity — and no one seems to realize it or debate it in those terms.
Of course, inducing or engaging in all of these activities is only a problem if it “deprives or violates the personal liberty of another,” which I helpfully put in bold above. What does that mean? Luckily for us, this term is defined in §(h)(3):
“Deprivation or violation of the personal liberty of another” includes substantial and sustained restriction of another’s liberty accomplished through force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or to another person, under circumstances where the person receiving or apprehending the threat reasonably believes that it is likely that the person making the threat would carry it out.
(This is what statutory analysis is like, by the way. Now we have to look through a bunch of other stuff.)
Turning “commercial sex acts” into “human trafficking”
How likely is it, though, that someone giving a minor a gift that results in a agreement to perform a sexual act could be charged with involvement in freaking human sexual trafficking? Well, it depends on the definitions assigned to a set of related terms like “force,” “coercion,” and “duress.”
With a long list like “force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or to another person,” the chain is as weak as its weakest link. Many of these terms for how one could engage in deprivation of liberty are defined in the statute; I’ll just pick out a few of them.
Let’s start with “coercion,” defined in §(h)(1):
Coercion includes any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process; debt bondage; or the provision and facilitation of any controlled substance to a person with the intent to impair said person’s judgment.
So sharing drugs with someone could be enough for “coercion.” That does happen in some relationships, doesn’t it? (I’m not sure whether, for someone under 21, alcohol would be considered a “controlled substance,” but I wouldn’t be surprised. Marijuana certainly is.) What interests me, though, is the phrase “serious harm” — how is that defined? Check §(h)(8):
“Serious harm” includes any harm, whether physical or nonphysical, including psychological, financial, or reputational harm, that is sufficiently serious, under all of the surrounding circumstances, to compel a reasonable person of the same background and in the same circumstances to perform or to continue performing labor, services, or commercial sexual acts in order to avoid incurring that harm.
So if a woman without many resources stays in a relationship with a man — not someone who is abusing her physically or psychologically, mind you, just some guy — feels that she has to stay in the relationship because of a “pattern” (meaning it need not be intentional) that would mean that if she left him she would suffer psychologically or financially, that could constitute “serious harm.” Or if a high school junior dating a high school senior is worried about breaking up because of the prospect that he will tell others at school that she was performing oral sex on him, that also counts as “serious harm.” And if either the man or the boy are providing the woman or girl with drugs that impair judgment — that too could be “serious harm.”
Of course, “serious harm” only puts one in jeopardy for arrest for “human trafficking” if it leads to “commercial sexual acts,” so maybe this shouldn’t be worrisome. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, the term “commercial sex acts” can also be stretched to include sex that involves gift or receipt of “anything of value.”
I think I won’t bother going over the definitions of “fear,” “deceit,” “duress,” and the rest. (Well, OK, I can’t resist — “duress” is defined to include an “implied threat of hardship.” How often does that happen? Prop 35 could almost be entitled the “Don’t You Dare Break Up With Your Girlfriend” Act.)
OK, seriously — could people really get prosecuted for all of this?
The first question is whether someone could get arrested for it.
One problem with a law that may literally be broad enough to take
- production of obscene materials
- any sex act (not just intercourse) with someone underage, even if you’re underage too
- rooming with someone you should realize is engaged in commercial sex acts (broadly defined)
- having sex with a prostitute who (whatever his or her appearance) may turn out to be underage (and “she looked like she was 25″ is explicitly ruled out as a defense in the CASE Act itself)
- creating a situation where a financially dependent lover or one worried about her reputation or one to which you’ve provided marijuana, &c, does not feel that she can exit a relationship without “serious harm”, &c
and turn them from non-crimes or misdemeanors or in some cases penalties with little punishment into arrests for human freaking trafficking (with the punishments set forth above) is that it gives the police a lot of discretion. Remember, you could now be arrested on suspicion of “human trafficking”; it doesn’t have to be something that your partner demands of the police.
Now, you’re looking at a prospect of many years in jail, having to register as a sex offender, having to notify the government every time you create a new internet account — it’s all in there — and more. And you’re waiting for word to get out that you’ve been arrested for human trafficking – like the people who kidnapped that 15-year-old in the paragraph with which this story begins.
Let’s say the prosecutor comes to you and says “OK, we’re willing to put aside the human trafficking charge if you’ll plead guilty to this misdemeanor” (“which we otherwise couldn’t prove,” the prosecutor will not add.) What are you going to do?
I don’t know whether the furthest reaches of this law as written would pass muster in court. I am confident that a lot of people will, in order to avoid the worst consequences of the law, will plead guilty to almost anything to escape that possibility. So the question is less “what will happen in court” than “what will happen to people desperate not to find out what happens to them in court.”
I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that the police discretion possible under this law could mean that it could be selectively aimed at gays and lesbians, at political dissidents, at interracial couples, at religious minorities, etc. Someone calls in a tip that they think that “human trafficking” is taking place and we’re off to the races. It’s areally broad law.
The perverse effect of Prop 35 could be less police focus on real prototypical human trafficking
Perhaps the saddest thing about Prop 35 is that by expanding and diluting the meaning of “human trafficking,” it makes it easier for police and prosecutors to ignore the real thing, where it occurs. Why is that? It’s because once relatively minor activities get lumped into the category of “human trafficking,” police and prosecutors can get credit for fighting “human trafficking” by pursuing those minor violations rather than trying to find the people who killed and enslaved that 15-year-old girl in the first example above.
Real human traffickers are likely to be dangerous. What this law does is to create so many “soft targets” that police and prosecutors could get awards for fighting “human trafficking” without ever having to confront anyone who is actually engaged in what you and I currently think of as “human trafficking.”
There is precedent for this. Marijuana joins heroin, meth, cocaine, PCP, and the like on the DEA’s “Schedule 1″ of dangerous “hard” drugs. Are police more likely to take the risk to break up a meth lab, or to arrest some high school student for having a quarter-ounce of pot, if both lead to their being able to proclaim their success in fighting the “War on Drugs”?
My fear if Prop 35 passes is that we see a lot more bogus “success” against human trafficking while real human traffickers bribe police to look the other way.
Take it back to the workshop and FIX IT before it becomes law
I think that society does need to focus more on fighting real human trafficking. Some parts of the CASE Act strike me as useful; others as worth considering. As a whole, though, it’s an example of sloppy and reckless legislative drafting with little regard for civil rights or for creating perverse incentives.
It didn’t have to be that way. This is why we send laws through the legislature, to allow legislative committee staff to check their every implication and fix the problems before they become law. If a bill is passed as an initiative like this, the ability of the legislature to amend it is constrained.
The Sacramento Bee, in a very sympathetic article about Daphne Phung, the sponsor of the bill, said this:
Phung spent enough time in the Capitol to realize she could not persuade Democrats in the Legislature to approve longer sentences for human trafficking. Lawmakers are trying to reduce the prison population because of the federal court order requiring it and to cut costs.
If ever a red flag existed, this is it. (Yes, the idea that, as with marijuana laws, bogus prosecutions of people for human trafficking could push real criminals out of jail is just one of the many problems I haven’t yet mentioned.)
I would like to credit Daphne Phung with a big success here. The notion that the legislature would not pursue a normal statute, with the normal protections that process entails, after the preliminary success of Prop 35 in initial polls and endorsements is almost absurd. Congratulations, Ms. Phung, you have gotten the legislature’s attention. That is, no sarcasm here, a serious accomplishment. The question is: what do we do now?
One possibility is to pass Prop 35. It seems like few people are reading this law, though, because they think that they can’t politically afford to oppose it due to its title and the horror stories it invokes. That is a dereliction of duty on the part of the political and legal community, who are supposed to be willing to stand up and take a hit if necessary to prevent a dangerous law from getting onto the books. The mere fact that the CASE Act may suddenly change a current misdemeanor into a 12-20 year felony should be of grave concern, shouldn’t it? Doesn’t the way that it turns extortion into human trafficking — read §6(b)! – should give anyone pause.
The other possibility is to take the CASE Act back to the workshop, eliminate the bugs in it, and send it back through the legislature, where the unexpected problems that arise can be more easily fixed.
A final note: By the way, the law also applies these same terms against “human trafficking” to employment situations. Some workers are held in slavery conditions and that needs to be fought much harder. But there, too, the reach of this law is astoundingly broad. (Just try applying that analysis of “coercion” to a sweatshop.) I expect that, once Prop 35 passes, as a plaintiff’s employment lawyer I’ll be making great use of the CASE Act bycharging employers, when appropriate, with coercive human trafficking; if the law gives me that power, I’d be derelict not to use it. Is that really what the voters of the state want?
[This story is also available at http://tinyurl.com/Prop35]
As you might be aware there is a ballot measure this fall in Los Angeles County for voters to decide upon – Ballot Measure B – the condom initiative. What you might be unaware of is another ballot measure that could also severely impact porn and the people that work within it. Proposition 35 is a state-wide ballot initiative that will re-write and grossly broaden police power over pimping, pandering and prostitution, basically turning all of it into “human-trafficking.”
What you have to be aware of is that if you work as an escort, even if you are independent and it is your choice, you are subject to this law. And you more importantly, you and those in your life that receive any money from you can have your assets seized and sold at auction and the money given to groups that are fighting human-trafficking. Basically, the government has decided to treat prostitution like the war on drugs. If you make money as an escort, California law enforcement will be able to seize your house, your car, your bank accounts as profits from an illegal activity. If you care for and provide for an elderly parent(s) with the money you make as an escort the government will also be able to seize their home, their car and their bank account. And you and those around you might have to register as “sex-offenders” under Proposition 35.
Be aware of this poorly written law and vote against it and tell those you know to vote against it.
Here are some bullet points from Maxine Doogan, who heads the Erotic Service Providers Union in San Francisco ( http://espu-ca.org/wp/ ). You can also follow @OpposeProp35 on Twitter for more information ( https://www.Twitter.com/OpposeProp35 ).
- Prop 35 relies on junk science to lie to voters about human trafficking cases so they can benefit from 100% of the new fines imposes.
- Prop 35 relies on the failed polices of police engaging in sexual contact in prostitution sting operations to identify human trafficked victims will force the sex industry further underground, making it harder for law enforcement to find and identify actual human trafficking victims.
- Prop 35 relies on the failed polices of mandating cities and counties to spend millions of dollars to implement and train police officers to enforce this law that doesn’t provide basic protections such as access to equal protection for those who are working in the sex industry or undocumented.
- Prop 35 could result in children and domestic partners of prostitutes, who are supported financially from a prostitutes’ labor, to be convicted of human trafficking and forced to register on the California sex registry as sex offenders.
- Prop 35 is overbroad – it could result in the arrest of and prosecution of teenagers for human trafficking who date, consume alcohol or a controlled substance, and engage in sexual activity an unintended consequence.
- Prop 35 is overbroad – it will give police too much discretion and will likely result in further police abuse of homosexuals and other disfavored minority groups.
- Prop 35 relies on the failed polices of further criminalization of consensual private adult sexual activity.
- Prop 35 will cost the state of California substantial funds to support Proponent’s chosen anti-prostitution trafficking non-profit groups with no oversight or accountability.
- Prop 35 will cost the state of California untold sums to defend it in court challenges and will be struck down as unconstitutional.
- Prop 35 penalties which include registering all internet user names infringes upon protected free speech activities such as the right to engage in political dialogue anonymously on the internet and will cost voters money when it is challenged in court and ruled unconstitutional.
- Prop 35 unconstitutionally limits a defendant’s right to assert a defense at trial – by preventing a defense attorney from questioning an alleged victim about voluntary work in the sex industry and will cost voters money when it is challenged in court and ruled unconstitutional.
- Prop 35 is overbroad – it makes duplicating and selling obscene materials depicting children a form of human trafficking and will cost voters money when it is challenged in court and ruled unconstitutional.
- Prop 35 is overbroad – it would require individuals who engage in any kind of extortion to register with the CA sex registry as sex offenders even though the particular crime may not have been a sexual offense and will cost voters money when it is challenged in court and ruled unconstitutional.
- Prop 35 is unconstitutionally vague – a law must be clearly written so as to give adequate notice regarding what is the illegal activity and will cost voters money when it is challenged in court and ruled unconstitutional.
If you would like additional information please feel free to download this informational packet authored by Norma Jean Almodovar. Ms. Almodovar is the Executive Director of COYOTE ( Cast Off Your Tired Old Ethics http://www.coyotela.org/ ). COYOTE is a sex worker activist organization. Almodovar worked as a traffic control police officer for ten years. In 1982, she quit her job with the Hollywood Division of the Los Angeles Police Department and began working as a call girl. In 1984, she attempted to recruit a former coworker from the LAPD to begin working as a prostitute. Her actions resulted in an arrest and conviction for pandering. In 1986, Almodovar ran for lieutenant governor in the California gubernatorial election, as a Libertarian. Almodovar’s autobiography was published by Simon & Schuster in 1993.