Supporting H.R. 1690 - Hazel’s Law

DATE: June 18, 2013
TO: Board of Supervisors
SUBJECT: SUPPORTING H.R. 1690 – HAZEL’S LAW  (DISTRICTS: ALL)

SUMMARY
Overview
The Department of Justice estimates that more than 250,000 American youth are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The average age of entry for female prostitutes in the United States is between 12 and 14 years, and children and youth older than 12 are prime targets for sexual exploitation by organized crime units.

Many of these children are former foster youth, homeless youth, or runaways with no immediate family members to watch out for their well-being. As a result, they become prime targets for sex trafficking.  Child predators know where to find these vulnerable youth who might have a history of trauma or escaped a home of parental abuse and neglect.  They step in and establish an artificial sense of belonging and care before manipulating them and forcing them into the sex trade.   

When traffickers are caught by authorities and eventually prosecuted for sex trafficking, delays occur because law enforcement is spending time struggling to determine whether the trafficker was knowledgeable of the victim’s age at the time of the abduction. Under current law, the knowledge of the victim’s age at the time of abduction greatly determines the resulting penalty of the trafficker.

As a result, Congressman Juan Vargas (CA-51) recently proposed H.R.1690, the “Child Protection Act of 2013”, also known as “Hazel’s Law”, which attempts to correct a loophole in the judicial process.  By amending Title 18 of the United States Code, H.R. 1690 would remove the knowledge of age requirement for child sex trafficking cases to ensure a successful and timely prosecution. 

With today’s action, the Chief Administrative Officer will add to the County’s Legislative Program the Board’s support for H.R. 1690 as an advocacy priority.

Recommendation(s)
CHAIRMAN GREG COX AND VICE CHAIRWOMAN DIANNE JACOB

  1. Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to include in the County’s Legislative Program authority to support federal legislation to remove the suspect’s knowledge of the victim’s age as an element of the offense for the sex trafficking of children by force, fraud, or coercion to ensure successful and timely prosecution.
  2. Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to draft a letter for the Chairman’s signature expressing the Board’s support for H.R. 1690 to San Diego County’s legislative representatives in Washington, D.C.

Fiscal Impact
There is no fiscal impact with this action.

Background
The Department of Justice estimates that more than 250,000 American youth are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The average age of entry for female prostitutes in the United States is between 12 and 14 years, and children and youth older than 12 are prime targets for sexual exploitation by organized crime units.

Many of these children are former foster youth, homeless youth, or runaways with no immediate family members to watch out for their well-being. As a result, they become prime targets for sex trafficking.  Child predators know where to find these vulnerable youth who might have a history of trauma or escaped a home of parental abuse and neglect.  They step in and establish an artificial sense of belonging and care before manipulating them and forcing them into the sex trade.   

When traffickers are caught by authorities and eventually prosecuted for sex trafficking, delays occur because law enforcement is spending time struggling to determine whether the trafficker was knowledgeable of the victim’s age at the time of the abduction. Under current law, the knowledge of the victim’s age at the time of abduction greatly determines the resulting penalty of the trafficker.

As a result, Congressman Juan Vargas (CA-51) recently proposed H.R.1690, the “Child Protection Act of 2013”, also known as “Hazel’s Law”, which attempts to correct a loophole in the judicial process.  By amending Title 18 of the United States Code, H.R. 1690 would remove the knowledge of age requirement for child sex trafficking cases to ensure a successful and timely prosecution. 

Hazel’s Law stems from a case in the county of San Diego. Hazel C., a native San Diegan, was a minor when she was abducted by 41 year old Maurice Lerome Smith of Oceanside and forced into prostitution. While working for Smith as a sex slave, Hazel recounts being forced to sleep with multiple men per day and producing up to $1,200 daily to Smith. Upon bravely escaping from Smith’s watch, Hazel was able to contact local authorities and have Mr. Smith arrested for her abduction.

What ensued in the prosecution of Mr. Smith was difficulty in trying to prove his knowledge of Hazel’s age at the time of abduction. Had the prosecutor not been able to prove that Mr. Smith was knowledgeable of Hazel’s status as a minor, Mr. Smith would have been let off with a lesser sentence. Instead, as a result of the prosecution having difficulties proving Mr. Smith’s prior knowledge, the case dragged on for over a year, until sufficient evidence was mounted to prove Mr. Smith’s guilt in knowing Hazel’s minor status. Mr. Smith was ultimately sentenced to a 30 year federal prison sentence.

In the case of Mr. Smith, had Hazel’s Law been in effect at the time of Hazel’s abduction, the federal trial to prosecute Mr. Smith on charges of child abduction would have been streamlined to ensure a quicker trial by not having to prove Mr. Smith’s knowledge of Hazel’s status as a minor at the time of abduction. The passing of Hazel’s law will stop pitting children like Hazel against their traffickers, by no longer having to testify or work with authorities to gather evidence to prove the trafficker knew their age.

With today’s action, the Chief Administrative Officer will add to the County’s Legislative Program the Board’s support for H.R. 1690 as an advocacy priority to ensure a successful and timely prosecution in future sex trafficking cases.

Respectfully submitted,

 

GREG COX
Chairman        

 

Linkage to the County of San Diego Strategic Plan
These recommendations would help accomplish the County’s Strategic Initiatives and advance the County’s Vision of providing a safe, healthy and thriving community for all our residents.


AGENDA ITEM INFORMATION SHEET
                                                                        

REQUIRES FOUR VOTES: [] Yes   [X] No

WRITTEN DISCLOSURE PER COUNTY CHARTER SECTION 1000.1 REQUIRED [ ] Yes      [X] No

PREVIOUS RELEVANT BOARD ACTIONS: N/A

BOARD POLICIES APPLICABLE: N/A

BOARD POLICY STATEMENTS: N/A

MANDATORY COMPLIANCE: N/A

ORACLE AWARD NUMBER(S) AND CONTRACT AND/OR REQUISITION NUMBER(S):
N/A

ORIGINATING DEPARTMENT: Chairman Greg Cox and Vice Chairwoman Dianne Jacob

OTHER CONCURRENCE(S): N/A

CONTACT PERSON(S):

Danny Melgoza, 619-531-5511
Bob Spanbauer, 619-531-5522