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From Pimpin’ to Prison

By Karen Hoover, Fall Intern

Shelby’s Sentence

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan

Shelby Shaandor Lewis, born April 4, 1967, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for prostitution and human trafficking during an intensive sentencing hearing with Judge Sullivan in DC Federal District Court yesterday. Lewis’ family, children, and two out of four of his victims were present, along with numerous other individuals. Lewis’ attorney, Christopher Davis, began his opening statements by asking for the judge to sentence Lewis on the ‘low-end’ of the sentencing guidelines, therefore asking for 180 months (15 years) instead of the recommended and suggested 200 months (20 years). Davis argued that Lewis “stepped up to the plate and accepted responsibility to this issue.” Davis introduced previous cases (relating to different charges not including human trafficking or prostitution) for “equally egregious conduct” where defendants received only 96, 100, and 110 months. Furthermore, he tried to convince Judge Sullivan that Lewis would be “well into his 50s” before he would get out of prison. This, he assured us, would cause Lewis to change his behavior and leave this lifestyle of prostituting minors for commercial purposes. Davis also tried to minimize Lewis’ over 25 previous arrests for charges such as battery, assault, theft, solicitation for lewd purposes, impersonating a police officer, and use of handguns.

 

The hearing then took a spin when Lewis began saying he was sorry for his actions and for the situation he got himself and his family into. He said he was trying to “help” the girls he victimized, take them under his wing, provide for them, and be a father figure. Judge Sullivan jumped on these statements and immediately confronted Lewis. “You weren’t helping anyone out. You were gaining money from using those young girls and helping yourself.”

Life sentence for a victim

Bridgette Tillman, Assistant U.S. Attorney, read from a victim impact statement written by one of the young girls. When asked how the victim felt about herself she answered “angry, embarrassed, and self-pity.” When asked what the pimp (Lewis) should know about her, she said that the experience and abuse made her “angry and stronger.” Tillman went on to say that Lewis took advantage of the unsettled lives of these girls and promised them a home life, food, clothes, and shelter. Instead he put them on the street and made them work for him while he drove the streets looking for more vulnerable girls. Tillman argued that it made no sense for Lewis to serve only a 15 year sentence when these victims would be living a life sentence of shame, hurt, and pain, never able to get the years of life back that he violated them.

A helping pimp?

Is 20 years enough time for Lewis to reform?

Judge Sullivan offered Lewis time to reconcile himself and say what he wished in regards to the hearing. Lewis again tried to convince the judge and audience that he was helping these girls and “never used or abused” any of them despite when the written plea clearly stated that he was an appointed guardian over four minors ages 12, 13, 14, and 16, of whom he prostituted. Each of these girls was living in his house alongside his own children. He transported them in his black, Ford Mustang and champagne, Chevy Tahoe between Temple Hills, M.D. and Washington, D.C., where he forced them to engage in street prostitution. They were required to give him all the money they earned.

After Lewis alleged that he never used or abused the victims, Judge Sullivan inquired whether Lewis pled guilty because he was guilty or rather to get the trial over with. Judge Sullivan appeared slightly confused and asked Davis and Lewis whether the plea of guilty still stood or whether Lewis was suddenly changing his mind and wanting to plead not guilty. Lewis declined answering some questions and instead motioned for the hearing to continue with the plea agreement of guilty.

20 years enough?

Judge Sullivan handed down a sentence of 200 months (20 years) to be served concurrently in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  He signed the sentence after Lewis voluntarily waived his right to attend his upcoming restitution hearing scheduled for December 16, 2010. In addition to the 20 years, Lewis must provide a DNA specimen for the sex offender registry, which he is required to register for life. He is to have no contact with children under age 18 (including his own children) or with the victims. Lewis must also attend sex offender treatment and abide to corresponding employment restrictions.

Lewis’ last words before leaving the courtroom were “I’m ready to go.” He appeared distressed, shook his head, and took his wedding band off. Judge Sullivan concluded his statements by telling Lewis that if he could make the sentence consecutive he would do so, extending the sentence of 20 years to 80 years.

Court discernment

During the sentencing the atmosphere was tense as the audience wondered whose arguments would carry more weight in influencing the judge’s decision. Occasionally the victims got up and left the courtroom; one girl left crying, overwhelmed by the situation. Some news repor

ters took opportunities to interview others present in the courtroom. By the end of the sentencing, the audience seemed to be in a damper mood, recognizing the consequences imposed on Lewis. However, most of the audience seemed pleased with Judge Sullivan’s decision, perhaps even wishing that he could have sentenced Lewis consecutively.

A pimp’s consequences

Lewis' case will set a precedent for future sex trafficking cases

This case is monumental in fighting against human trafficking specifically in the United States. Judge Sullivan did a great job sentencing Lewis, as well as being true to the law. Those in attendance saw the concerned side of Sullivan when he encouraged the family to have Lewis’ four-year-old son leave the courtroom, stating due to the nature of the case it would be unwise for the boy to be present. In the end, is it fair that Lewis only received 20 years due to the type of plea agreement when in fact these four victims—all of whom were minors at the time of the offenses—will live with these memories for the rest of their lives? Is it true that Lewis will mellow and get away from this behavior once he is in his 50s and out of prison? The case and sentence provide ample deterrence factors to other pimps. Lewis will not only spend the next 20 years locked away, he will also potentially lose relationships with his children and family.

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Political Asylum for Trafficking Victims in the TVPA: Rule or Exception?

An article by intern Kate Noontz

Full of hopes and aspirations, thousands of women and children end up trafficked into the United States each year by false promises of a better opportunity, school or the fulfillment of a vocational dream, only to later realize that they have been forced into sex slavery. This is a story we hear too often, but what legal action has been put in place to prevent these foreign victims from being trafficked? The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) has helped numerous trafficking victims, domestically and internationally, however, I believe this Act could be revised to generate more aid and programs for international trafficking victims. The TVPA allows immigrant women and children to report crimes committed against them to law enforcement and grants political asylum to victims of trafficking through a temporary T-VISA. This T-VISA allows the trafficked persons to receive aid from the Federal government. There are several limitations within the TVPA that facilitate the revolving door  for trafficking victims; when they are deported it is most likely they will inevitably be subjected to human trafficking and sexual exploitation again in their home country.

The most prevalent critiques of the TVPA are:

1.      Victims must qualify as a, “victim of severe trafficking.”

2.      The victims must testify against their traffickers to receive asylum.

3.      If the victim is not deemed eligible for the T-VISA they receive no protection, safe housing, and are ultimately deported.

To be considered a victim of severe trafficking, adult victims must prove they were coerced by fraud or force into sex trafficking. Language and education barriers prevent many trafficked victims from being able to convey their specific situation. The Honorable Mark P. Lagon states the specific shortfall of the differentiation between severely trafficked victims and trafficked women in the hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Out of the Shadows: The Global Fight Against Human Trafficking. Lagon asserts, “Despite global trafficking foci and flashpoints, there are no “lesser” victims of trafficking. Since TIP’s essence is groups denied equal dignity, let us not in our anti-TIP policy privilege some victims over others. They are all of equal value in humankind.”

Testifying for trafficking victims can be dangerous. In most circumstances traffickers threaten to kill victims’ families if they tell authorities about their captivity, so most remain silent. This also draws a clear distinction between international victims and domestic victims in that they are unable to receive assistance for their sexual exploitation through organizations who provide safe housing, protection from traffickers, medical and psychological attention, and training so victims can become functioning members of society.

When a victim of human trafficking has been determined a “severe trafficking victim,” or a prostitute, the care provided is drastically different. If a victim is unwilling to cooperate with the prosecution of the trafficker or is determined a prostitute by the Attorney General only after cooperating with federal and local law enforcement officials, deportation is most often their fate. But at what point does a victim of severe trafficking and prostitution cross? Is it only minors that are victims of trafficking?

During the “Out of the Shadows” hearing Mark Lagon states, “First of all, if lured into the sex trade as a minor, does it suddenly become a choice the day someone turns 18? Moreover, we know that numerous adult females in the global sex trade are subject to force, fraud, or coercion – including subtle psychological terror and trickery – making them trafficking victims even under the strict standards of the Palermo Protocol.” Yet this standard does not extend to the TVPA.

Ambassador at large, Luis CdeBaca, from the Office to Monitor & Combat Trafficking in Persons of the U.S. State Department, declares the Office’s goal is to, “Strengthen trafficking victims’ protection and assistance by encouraging cooperation between governments and NGOs, and enhancing the capacity of civil society organizations so they might provide comprehensive services that fully address the needs of victims. We will support evidence-based research to evaluate the impact of our programs and fill core data gaps. We will partner with the private sector to leverage resources and expertise to develop innovative solutions to this age old problem.” To echo the advice of CdeBaca, Lagon also insists the utilization of services such as, “NGOs and more efficacious international organizations – like the International Organization of Migration (IOM)” to aid in the support and protection of sex trafficking victims.

To mirror the suggestions of the anti-sex trafficking movement, there needs to be more services available to victims of this tragedy. Turning away victims because they do not fit into specific criteria is counter-productive. The greatest majority of women and children do not choose this life; they are virtually always thrown into this situation by force, coercion, or economic disparities they cannot overcome. Currently, political asylum is not the rule it is the exception; this should be altered so we treat every sexually exploited human as a victim.

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Law Enforcement Resources: A Missing Link in Aiding DMST Victims

By Shared Hope International intern Karen Hoover

After all the hype over Craigslist and the new lawsuit brought against Backpage.com for knowingly promoting the sale of a minor for sex, more Americans are beginning to open their eyes to human trafficking of young girls happening in their neighborhoods and communities. With this new-found awareness comes a new responsibility on the part of all individuals—especially law enforcement personnel. There is a strong need for law enforcement to adapt their responses, pursue deterrence options, and utilize proactive policing techniques to address the crime of human trafficking as it continues to evolve. With the rise of domestic minor sex trafficking,law enforcement seem to struggle to find the appropriate resources needed to deter minors from being prostituted while also charging traffickers and buyers with current laws on the books.

Vednita Carter, founder of Breaking Free, an anti-human trafficking organization in Minnesota geared toward education, rescue, and services for trafficked girls, believes that law enforcement need to stop focusing so much on the pimps and instead target the “johns” or buyers of domestic minor sex. While it may seem easy enough to turn law enforcement’s focus toward johns, the process of implementing this change is not a simple task. More commonly girls, boys, and women are arrested for their “prostituting actions” and put into jail, while buyers go free or experience minimal penalties, usually at most a fine. Ironically, Kristy Childs, founder of Veronica’s Voice a recovery program in Missouri for victims of commercial sexual exploitation, said that this jail time becomes a desired vacation for the victims as they finally receive a break from their work of being forced to have sex with a quota of men per day.

However, arresting victims, booking them, placing them in jail, and consequently giving them a police record is not and cannot be the only available solution; yet this is what we are encountering time after time. For example, a Washington, DC law enforcement officer, whom I spoke to regarding this issue, stated multiple reasons for the lack of proper response to victims. One of the main problems facing law enforcement is the general lack of awareness. He admitted that he only received training after voluntary choosing to attend a supplemental training program outside of his professional requirements. He also stated that lack of resources greatly contributes to the choices law enforcement make in arresting minor victims and putting them in jail instead of finding shelters or alternative options for them. In some cases, education, language, and cultural barriers of the victims present a huge issue for inexperienced law enforcement in identifying these individuals as victims of trafficking or providing accurate and understandable options for victims.

This officer also mentioned two interesting aspects related to domestic minor sex trafficking victims. The first surrounds the harsh reality of the situation at hand and shows that even when victims are placed into a halfway house or shelter, if that agency is not specifically trained and geared toward victims of trafficking the victims will often run away and return to the streets, therefore putting them at risk to be trafficked once again. This happens when the alternative housing facilities do not adequately supply the needs of the victims that their traffickers fulfill, such as love/attention, food, clothes, shelter, etc. The second viewpoint asks individuals to determine whether law enforcement or judges should be making the determinations to place victims in alternative housing and shelter programs. The officer posed a scenario in which the police choose to place the victim in a house only to result in her escaping because she decides she does want to be there. The issue becomes further complicated if a reporter runs a story placing blame on law enforcement for not charging the individual and instead letting her go to become a public nuisance.

These are just some of the problems that law enforcement face on a daily basis when encountering victims of domestic minor sex trafficking. However, some counties have seen improvement through their policing efforts by offering training to officers, providing shelters and choosing not to arrest the victims. These efforts are a work-in-progress that must continue to adapt to the dynamic needs of our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable victim groups.

It is worth noting the necessity of shelters and alternative options for victims. Shelters will allow law enforcement to cease placing victims into detention homes and will undoubtedly provide appropriate rehabilitation and services victims so badly need. One such development moving in this direction is the imminent need to pass legislation that will enable both law enforcement training and the building of domestic minor sex trafficking-specific shelters. Currently H.R. 5575, the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010 is attempting to get block grants that will provide for increased training, resources and money that will go toward law enforcement and shelters working directly to impact victims and offer them improved services. America is finally beginning to notice these hidden victims and taking action to help them. Bills such as this one take another step in moving toward better solutions for victims of domestic minor sex trafficking.

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Walking in Memphis

Since when has Memphis, Tenn. – the heart of America’s heartland – been a place for brothels and human trafficking?  

 “They’ve got catfish on the table. They’ve got gospel in the air,” Marc Cohn sings in his 1990s hit “Walking in Memphis” where he becomes nostalgic for America’s Bible belt. “Tell me are you a Christian child,” And I said ‘Ma’am I am tonight.” 

But Memphis wasn’t so wholesome for the little girl Fernando Reyes-Santillan, of Memphis, Tenn. and his conspirators enslaved. Reyes-Santillan pleaded guilty to one count of commercial sex trafficking of a minor, the Justice Department reported on January 11.  

Seven other defendants have pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and commercial sex charges in connection with brothels operated in this Memphis trafficking ring. Four other defendants remain under indictment in the same case for crimes including child sex trafficking, conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, conspiracy to commit money laundering, enticing an individual to travel in interstate commerce to commit prostitution, and failure to file a factual statement about an alien.  

The suspects admitted that neither they nor any of the other operators of the brothels had filed a factual statement with the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization setting forth the names of the aliens, the place at which they were kept, the date of their entry into United States, their ports of entry, or their ages, nationality or parentage. 

It would have appeared to their victims that the chance of rescue was slim at best. But as the song says, “When you haven’t got a prayer, but boy you’ve got a prayer in
Memphis.” Reyes-Santillan faces up to 40 years in prison while at least two others face 10-years each.

Human trafficking prosecutions are a top priority of the Department of Justice, according to their press release about the arrests. In the last six fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, has increased by six-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court, quadrupled the number of defendants charged, and tripled the number of defendants convicted.

In 2006, the Department obtained a record number of convictions in human trafficking prosecutions. 

“The dark and reprehensible world of human trafficking all too often involves minor girls who are forced into prostitution,” said Wan J. Kim, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute these crimes of outrageous victimization.”

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Why so many predators?

Police in Florida arrested 28 men in another undercover operation aimed at catching sexual predators, FoxNews reported on April 2.

Officers posed as 13-and 14-year-old girls and boys in online chatrooms and agreed to rendezvous with the pedophiles. The sting lasted only four days but it was long enough for police to be in contact with more than 250 men.

“We arrested people in BMWs, in Mercedes, in rental cars, Disney employees, Boys and Girls Club employees, vice presidents of a big corporation,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told FOXNews in an interview. “Every walk of life, we put them in jail.”

The FoxNews article profiles the predators as pedophiles, which makes it easy for the reader to dismiss these men as monsters. But is anyone asking how they got to the point that they would drive to an unknown location to have sex with a 13-year-old?

It is easy to quickly categorize these men as disturbed perverts in need of therapy rather then asking the question of why so many are doing this. It seems that our newspapers and TV shows are over run with stories of such child exploitation throughout the country. TV specials such as Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator,” show a variety of sting operations suggesting that there aren’t enough hours in the day to capture all the men who would use teenagers for sex.

Can we continue to write such men off as pedophiles? Or is there a greater force leading them in this exploitation? Yes, pedophiles exist and victimize our children, but there is another side to this crisis that few want to acknowledge — A cultural normalization of a sex industry that presents little girls and boys as sexual commodities. The marketing is aimed at all men. Why are people surprised when such advertising works and average men want to buy the advertised product?

Perhaps there needs to be a societal outcry against these norms rather then simply shunning those that happen to walk through the door of a sting operation.  

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Judge issues life-long ban from Internet

A federal judge lowered the gavel on a Keesler airman Dec. 19, by sentencing him to a lifetime without Internet access.

According to the Air Force Times, Airman 1st Class Joshua Lee Griffith, pleaded guilty to possessing images of children engaging in sexual acts. They were stored on Griffith’s hard drives, thumbdrives, CDs and floppy disks.

Although the judge could have given Griffith 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, perhaps his sentence was even more costly.

Griffith was sentenced to three years in federal prison after which he is to register as a sex offender, undergo drug testing and never again access the Internet.

While few have much sympathy for a man who enjoys looking at images of statutory rape, we should also question a sentence which may hinder the man’s ability to ever again contribute to society.  Of course we all lived without the Internet as recently as 15 years ago, but things have changed so much now it is the standard avenue of business. 

Griffith will never again be able to check his online balance on his checking account, send or receive emails (more and more a primary form of communication) or participate in corporate teleconferences.  With such a restriction can this former pilot find employment after his jail time?

Sure I’m glad this predator won’t be lurking around my child’s inbox, but was there a better way to handle this?

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Baby Factory

Human vanity is sinking to all-time lows and human traffickers are cashing in.

According to the Associated Newspapers, some wealthy Western women are so desperate for a child but unable to carry their own, they are turning to illegal baby factories.

Authorities recently uncovered one such factory in Athens, Grease where pimps impregnate their sex slaves to fill orders by women willing to pay more than $39,000 for a blue-eyed bundle of joy.

The baby factory in Athens was run by Albanian and Russian mafias who use only the most beautiful girls to fill orders. The girl is forced to become pregnant then the mob cares for her to ensure she has a healthy baby for them to sell.

Have we really sunk to this level — the commercialization of babies?

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