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Jury in Somalian sex-trafficking trial in Tennessee start deliberations


Aisha Farooq
WVoN co-editor

The trial of a  Somalian gang for alleged sex-trafficking has reached its final stage with a US federal jury set to begin deliberating this week.

The nine male defendants awaiting the ruling are mainly of Somali origin, with one Ethiopian and one US Laotian.

The men are the first group of around 30 people, tracked by the U.S. attorney’s office, who have been indicted for child sex-trafficking in areas around Tennessee.

One of the key witnesses to come forward in the trial is a 17-year-old Somalian girl, one of four female victims thought to have been sold for sex between the ages of 12 and 18.

The girl told the jury that she had been coerced into prostitution at the age of 12.

She said that the gang charged outside clients between $40 and $50 for sex, and that she had almost been sold as a sex slave for $2,000. She also said that she had been expected to offer sexual services to members of the gang for free.

However, defense attorneys have argued that the real age of the girl was unknown as her birth certificate was fake. They also claimed that the girl voluntarily offered sexual services to various gang members.

They accused her of being a ‘party girl’ who had run away from her conservative family before joining up with the gang.

According to defense attorney, John Olivia, this proved that  the case was not about sex-trafficking at all, but about young people rebelling from their culturally traditional backgrounds and experimenting with sex.

He said that the girl was as old as the men she was having sex with.

The US District Judge William Haynes reminded the attorneys that any victim under the age of 18 consenting to sexual intercourse was not a valid defense, let alone one claiming to be 12.

Assistant US attorney, Van Vincent added that even victims over 18 could be protected by federal law, as long as they could prove that they had been subject to “fraud, force or coercion” by the defendants.

Another key female witness in the trial also claimed she had been sold for sex in Minneapolis as a young girl and had continued working as a prostitute past the age of 18. She said she had noticed other underage girls being sold for sex by members of the gang.

Defense attorney, Luke Evans, contested the girl’s evidence by arguing that she was mentally ill. He claimed that the dates and events that she recalled as part of her evidence did not match and were therefore unreliable.

In their closing arguments last week, the defense argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the two female witnesses were part of the sex trafficking conspiracy at all.

  1. MAPLELEEF says:

    What does it take for a jury to be convinced of these girls’ stories?

    • vicki wharton says:

      We are in neo liberal hell here, where nothing is true if you don’t want it to be – especially industrial sized slavery of women and children to meet men’s sexual desires. The male conspiracy of deny, lie, and counter accuse just rolls on and on.

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