Tag Archives: Dangerous Environment

TX State And County “Posse” Roundup And Put Away Sex Trafficker

.jpg photo of Texas Attorney General Office Logo
Texas Attorney General’s Office Logo

AG’s Office, Jefferson County DA Bob Wortham Obtain Conviction, 60-Year Prison Sentence in Sex Trafficking Case Involving Women and Underage Victims

AUSTIN, TX  –  As a result of a joint effort by his office and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that a jury found Johnny Ray Matlock guilty on charges of continuous trafficking of persons, a first-degree felony.  Matlock waived his right to appeal and accepted a 60-year prison sentence, which is the equivalent of a life sentence in Texas.

 Attorney General Paxton’s Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime section, led by Deputy Criminal Chief Kirsta Melton, was invited by District Attorney Wortham to partner with his office on Jefferson County’s first human trafficking case.  Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Pipkin worked with Melton on the trial.

“This collaboration between my office and the district attorney’s office in Jefferson County is an outstanding example of how we’re fighting to ensure that justice is served upon those who commit the despicable crime of sex trafficking,” Attorney General Paxton said.  “I want to thank the prosecutors and law enforcement agents for their efforts on this investigation to put away a despicable human trafficker.”

Last March, a grand jury indicted Matlock, of Silsbee, on charges he used social media and apps to recruit two underage girls and two women, causing them to be victims of sex trafficking.  In court today, Matlock also agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge of possession of a firearm.  A 10-year sentence for that will run concurrently with his sentence on human trafficking.

In July, a joint effort by the attorney general’s human trafficking unit, the Travis County District Attorney’s office and the Texas Department of Public Safety culminated in a 40-year prison sentence for the trafficker of a 14-year-old girl.

Attorney General Paxton has made combating human trafficking a top priority.  Two years ago, he launched his office’s Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime section, which prosecutes human traffickers across the state.  In April, the section’s prosecution of Backpage.com resulted in the company pleading guilty to human trafficking in Texas and its CEO, Carl Ferrer, pleading guilty to money laundering.  The attorney general’s office also assisted the U.S. Department of Justice with permanently shutting down the website, which was considered the largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Paxton unveiled a powerful training video to teach Texans how to spot and report suspected human trafficking activity. “Be the One in the Fight Against Human Trafficking” is available for viewing online at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/initiatives/human-trafficking

CHILD SAFETY IS A FULL TIME JOB

.jpg photo of Child Abuse graphic
Teach Children To Recognize Tricks.

Going To And From School More Safely

by NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN®

Millions of kids ride a bike, take the bus or walk to school every day.  Help get them to and from school more safely by following this checklist.

.jpg photo of Child Abuse graphic
Wait With Younger Children.

Review the four rules of personal safety with your children.  Remind them to:

  1. Check first with you or the adult in charge before going anywhere, helping anyone, accepting anything or getting into a car.
  2. Take a friend when going places or playing outside.
  3. Tell people “NO” if they try to touch you or hurt you.  It’s OK for you to stand up for yourself.
  4. Tell a trusted adult if anything makes you feel sad, scared or confused.

Walk the route to and from school with them pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they need help.  Tell them not to take shortcuts and to stay in well-lit areas.

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Take A Friend.

If your younger children take the bus, wait with them or make sure they’re supervised by someone you trust at the bus stop.

Teach your children to recognize the tricks someone may use to abduct them such as asking for help or offering them a ride.  Tell them to never approach a car without getting your permission first.

Encourage your children to kick, scream and make a scene if anyone tries to take them.

Instruct your children to get away as quickly as possible if someone is following them.  If they are being followed by someone in a car, teach them to walk in the opposite direction from the one in which the car is driving.

Be sure your children’s school has up-to-date emergency contact information.  Learn about their pick-up procedures so only those you’ve authorized can pick up your children.

Make sure your children know how to contact you in case of an emergency.

For more information about child safety, visit MissingKids.com

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®
CyberTipline

KS Steps Up For Children In Hot Vehicles

.jpg photo of director of kidsandcars.org shows how to break glass and save child from hot vehicle
Amber Rollins, director of KidsAndCars.org, demonstrates how to safely break a window using a device, the Resqme emergency window breaker and seat belt cutter.

Kansas removes lawsuit fear for rescuers of
children, pets trapped in hot cars

Beginning Sunday, good Samaritans in Kansas won’t have to think about getting sued for busting out the window of a hot car to save a child or pet trapped inside.

A new state law underscores that lives are more important than property when it comes to hot cars.  Kansas joins 18 states — including Missouri — in giving rescuers legal immunity when they believe a person or a pet is in imminent danger.  Two additional states have laws protecting pets only.

Amber Rollins, director of the non-profit Kids and Cars, on Monday demonstrated how a simple device can in seconds shatter the window of a locked vehicle, making rescue possible.  Rollins used a disabled SUV at the 129 Auto Parts salvage lot in Spring Hill, Kansas.

A hand-held, spring-loaded device called “resqme” was the only tool she needed.  It must be used on a side window because windshields and rear windows are made to not shatter.  The device, which shoots a metal pin at the glass, should be applied to a corner of a side window.  Applying it to the center of the window will not work.

The tool “resqme” can be ordered from kidsandcars.org for $7.50.

Regular nail punches available at hardware stores can also be used.  In fact, Johnson County MedAct units each carry nail punches. A crowbar or stone or any other implement also can be used.

Some things to consider when busting out a window:

  • First check to see if the vehicle is locked. Obviously, if it is not the window does not need to be broken.
  • Call 9-1-1.
  • Use appropriate force against a side window furthest away from the child or animal inside as the glass can fly.
  • Get the victim to a cool place, remove clothing and apply water.
  • Stay until emergency responders arrive.

In addition to Kids and Cars, the Kansas law was championed by Safe Kids Kansas and the Humane Society Legislative Fund of Kansas.

Although Kids and Cars is not aware of any case in which a rescuer was later sued for causing property damage to a vehicle, Rollins pointed to a New Mexico hot-car death in which two witnesses told police they saw the victim in distress but did not act.

Rollins keeps two resqmes handy.  One is attached to the driver’s seat belt of her car so it will be immediately available to use in escaping if the vehicle becomes submerged in water.  The resqme also has a blade to cut the seat belt if necessary.

Rollins keeps her other resqme on her key ring in case she notices a vulnerable child or pet in a hot car.

“A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult,” said Cherie Sage, state coordinator for Safe Kids Kansas.  “Their developing bodies are not as efficient at regulating their temperature.  When a child’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees major organs begin to shut down.  And when that child’s temperature reaches 107 degrees that child can die.”

During Monday’s demonstration, the outside temperature was in the low 80s but the temperature inside the SUV was over 100 degrees.  The air inside a vehicle can jump that much in a matter of minutes, even if the windows are partially open, because the windshield has a greenhouse effect.

There have been 18 child deaths in hot cars in the United States so far this year, about par with the average of 37 a year.  But there are three other suspected cases this year awaiting autopsy results.

In most cases the parent did not know or simply forgot that their child was in the back seat.

Kids and Cars suggests that parents make a habit of putting their smart phones in the back seat so they will have to go there to retrieve them.  Another idea is to keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and move it to the front seat when a child is strapped in to serve as a visible reminder for the parent.

LESS VIABLE OPTIONS FOR TRAFFICKED CHILDREN

.jpg photo of U.S. Department of Justice Building
United States Department of Justice Building

Trouble Ahead for Wrongly Criminalized
Trafficking Victims

In a major blow to survivors of human trafficking, the US Department of Justice has announced that it will no longer allow funding to be used to help survivors get legal representation to clear their criminal records that resulted from their victimization. The decision by the Office for Victims of Crime will affect $77 million of human trafficking grants this year.

The abrupt policy reversal was initiated by the Trump administration and goes against the consensus of survivors, advocates, and law enforcement.  The new funding restrictions are expected to go into effect in just a couple of weeks.

In an opinion piece in The Hill, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan District Attorney, and Kate Mogulescu, an Assistant Professor of Clinical Law at Brooklyn Law School, write:

It is widely acknowledged that victims are frequently arrested when they are trafficked.  A 2016 National Survivor Network survey found that over 91 percent of respondents reported having been arrested, over 40 percent reported being arrested 9 times or more.

No one questions the detrimental impact this has on survivors’ ability to move forward.  Criminal records act as concrete barriers for survivors, and lead to denial of employment, housing, and other services.  Furthermore, the message to survivors living with criminal records because of their trafficking is clear — you did something wrong, you deserve this, this will live with you forever.

That’s why Manhattan prosecutors screen every prostitution arrest for evidence of trafficking and dismiss prostitution cases after individuals receive counseling sessions and other services.

But the most effective legal response to correct the injustice of past convictions is vacatur or expungement, laws that provide survivors a way to clear their record of charges they were convicted of that were a result of trafficking.  New York was the first state to pass such a law in 2009, and almost every state in the country has taken some steps toward relieving survivors of the burden of a criminal record since then.

In one example, Vance and Mogulescu point to the case of a young woman who was sex trafficked for five years in New York, starting when she was just 16.  During that time, she was arrested for prostitution six times.

Yet, because of collaboration between the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Brooklyn Law School, her convictions were vacated, ensuring that she would she would not be haunted by them for the rest of her life.

Prosecutors have come to rely on partner organizations to help identify trafficking victims and bring vacatur motions or expungement petitions.  Under the new funding rules, victims who can’t access legal representation will be forced to file petitions on their own — a significant burden to those seeking justice.

As Vance and Mogulescu conclude, this policy will have tremendous impact on the ability for trafficking survivors to simply live their lives:

“Funding for this work is critical — for the survivor trafficked into prostitution over two decades ago, who has focused on her education, earned a Masters degree in counseling, but is prohibited from taking a state licensure exam because of her criminal record;  for the survivor parent of a nine-year-old child who faces humiliation at being fingerprinted to chaperone a school trip;  for the survivor who secures an entry level service sector job but has the offer rescinded when a background check reveals her criminal record.”

Severe Abuse Suspected In Indiana Case

.jpg photo of man arrested for severely abusing children
Shannon Breaux, 33

Couple arrested in Child Abuse case out of West Lafayette

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN  –  A man and woman are facing charges after two children were abused in West Lafayette, according to the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office.

.jpg photo of woman arrested for severely abusing children
Ashley Stigers, 32

Deputies were called to investigate the case in the 6100 block of Warrior Dr. Tuesday evening.

The investigation was eventually turned over to detectives, who later arrested 33-year-old Shannon Breaux and 32-year-old Ashley Stigers.

Breaux is facing charges of neglect of a dependent, battery by strangulation, and confinement, all level 6 felonies.  Stigers has been charged with neglect of a dependent.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Stigers had posted bond and Shannon remained in custody at the Tippecanoe County Jail.

Authorities did not provide details regarding the suspects’ relation to the victims.