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Prosecution raises awareness of human trafficking

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When it comes to human trafficking, most people who are unfamiliar with the crime visualize one person holding another hostage and giving them limited contact with the rest of the world. Some envision a basement in a dungeon-like setting with chains or other restraining devices, say advocates for victims of human trafficking.

The reality, they say, is far more commonplace. In many cases, the victims are able to leave to run errands or meet with others, but considering the psychological and emotional torture – not to mention possible debts to their oppressors – they don’t end up leaving on their own.

One case in point is the Jan. 25 conviction of Chris Smiley on human trafficking charges by a jury in Marion County. On Feb. 9, Smiley was sentenced to 10 years.
 

IL_Human_Traffick04-15col Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Mary Hutchison has worked on human trafficking cases for a few years. She was the prosecutor on the first conviction for human trafficking in Marion County. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

While this is not the first known case of human trafficking in Marion County or Indiana, it is the first time a case has gone to trial in Marion County. And it is among the first, if not the first, in the state, said Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Mary Hutchison. She and Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Jody Hilger have worked on cases involving victims of human trafficking, and they represented the victim in this case.

In previous Marion County cases that involved human trafficking, either the defendant(s) fled the country, the victim(s) chose not to be witnesses, or the defendant(s) agreed to a plea to other charges that carried the same weight as the human trafficking charge.

This Marion County human trafficking case involved a woman – a U.S. citizen and Indianapolis resident – who was forced into prostitution as a result of someone else’s drug debt, an all-too-common scenario, Hutchison and Hilger said.

In addition to the human trafficking sentence, Smiley was sentenced to four years on a battery conviction, four years on an intimidation conviction, and 545 days on a strangulation conviction. The sentences will run concurrently. He will also serve five years on a possession of cocaine conviction that will run consecutively.

In this particular case, Hutchison said, the victim, B.A., worked in a strip club and was forced into prostitution to pay off the drug debt. In actuality, she earned more than the original debt. The money she earned covered expenses for her, Smiley, and four others.

B.A.’s name will remain confidential in accordance with the Indiana human trafficking statute that went into effect July 1, 2007, I.C. 35-42-3.5-4.

B.A.’s ordeal began in February 2010. She was 19 years old and Smiley was a friend of a friend. She had been missing for three or four weeks before it was reported to police, also fairly common in these kinds of cases.

There are a number of reasons why victims like B.A. aren’t reported as missing immediately, Hutchison said. Typically, the family prefers not to get involved with police or they assume the missing person is OK.

B.A. and the other women in her group were found by police March 19, 2010, and Smiley was charged in July 2010. Start to finish, B.A.’s ordeal lasted about one year.

B.A. was located when a 17-year-old, who was in charge of setting up B.A. with clients, used the cell phone to call her mom and tell her she had been raped. Based on that call, the police found B.A. and the others the next day in a hotel room on the eastside of Indianapolis where they had been staying. B.A. was found hiding in the bathtub, where she was told to stay by the others in the group.

Hutchison said Smiley moved B.A. and the others from hotel to hotel. Hotel records helped in the prosecution of the case. Moving around a lot is also fairly common for trafficking cases, she added.

Much of the time, trafficking involves victims staying in hotels, which is another way of isolating them, Hilger said. To help combat that, Hilger, Hutchison, and a statewide taskforce of law enforcement officers, lawyers, and service providers are working together to provide resources that will help hotel personnel recognize warning signs. In this case, a hotel employee noticed the victim had a black eye but didn’t recognize any other circumstances as unusual.


kuzma-abigail-mug Kuzma

Abigail Lawlis Kuzma, a member of the taskforce and director and chief counsel of the Consumer Protection Division of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, first came in contact with human trafficking victims when she was executive director of the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.

She and others are working on training detectives and police officers to recognize trafficking cases. There is a sense of urgency because many involved in preventing human trafficking are concerned that when the Super Bowl comes to Indianapolis in 2012, there will be an increase in the number of detected and undetected trafficking incidents. The taskforce plans to work with individuals and businesses in Indianapolis who may have contact with those who are here for the event, as well as possible victims, to ramp up awareness, recognize warning signs, and know who to call for help.

“Getting the word out is critical. The victims themselves are like domestic violence victims. They are always isolated. If they are immigrants, they often have language barriers and physical barriers that make them isolated. They don’t ask for help. We have to find them. That’s a huge challenge,” Kuzma said.

Hutchison said it is also important for lawyers to be aware because if they have a client who’s a victim, they can alert the prosecutor to check out the situation.

After she was found, B.A. received counseling. She worked closely with the deputy prosecutors and the detective. Hilger and Hutchison told her that she would only need to address Smiley once, to identify him, and the rest of the time she would be addressing the jury.

“During the trial process, the dynamic of power is flipped in favor of the victim,” Hilger said.

After she learned Smiley was convicted, B.A. called Hutchison. “This means they listened. They listened to me and believed me,” B.A. told her.

To report an incident of suspected human trafficking, call 911 if there is an immediate danger, or contact the Indianapolis Trafficked Persons Assistance Program 24-hour hotline at (800) 928-6403.•

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  1. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  2. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

  3. Low energy. Next!

  4. Had William Pryor made such provocative statements as a candidate for the Indiana bar he could have been blackballed as I have documented elsewhere on this ezine. That would have solved this huuuge problem for the Left and abortion industry the good old boy (and even girl) Indiana way. Note that Diane Sykes could have made a huuge difference, but she chose to look away like most all jurists who should certainly recognize a blatantly unconstitutional system when filed on their docket. See footnotes 1 & 2 here: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html Sykes and Kanne could have applied a well established exception to Rooker Feldman, but instead seemingly decided that was not available to conservative whistleblowers, it would seem. Just a loss and two nice footnotes to numb the pain. A few short years later Sykes ruled the very opposite on the RF question, just as she had ruled the very opposite on RF a few short years before. Indy and the abortion industry wanted me on the ground ... they got it. Thank God Alabama is not so corrupted! MAGA!!!

  5. OK, take notice. Those wondering just how corrupt the Indiana system is can see the picture in this post. Attorney Donald James did not criticize any judges, he merely, it would seem, caused some clients to file against him and then ignored his own defense. James thus disrespected the system via ignoring all and was also ordered to reimburse the commission $525.88 for the costs of prosecuting the first case against him. Yes, nearly $526 for all the costs, the state having proved it all. Ouch, right? Now consider whistleblower and constitutionalist and citizen journalist Paul Ogden who criticized a judge, defended himself in such a professional fashion as to have half the case against him thrown out by the ISC and was then handed a career ending $10,000 bill as "half the costs" of the state crucifying him. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/ogden-quitting-law-citing-high-disciplinary-fine/PARAMS/article/35323 THE TAKEAWAY MESSAGE for any who have ears to hear ... resist Star Chamber and pay with your career ... welcome to the Indiana system of (cough) justice.

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