Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

TWO FALL RIVER RESIDENTS ARE INDICTED IN ALLEGED SEX TRAFFICKING SCHEME

…And continuing in yesterday’s blog’s footsteps, we discuss another case which features a child victim.

At least, so says the Commonwealth.

While everybody else was still reacting to this week’s “up skirt” controversy, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today the indictment of two Fall River residents for their alleged participation in a human trafficking scheme.

The Bristol County grand jury indicted Olivia “Missy” Lara, 38, on three counts of trafficking in persons under the age of 18 for sexual servitude and three counts of deriving support from a minor prostitute. Feliciano Ramirez, 30, was indicted on one count of rape of a child for allegedly engaging in sex with one of the children Lara was allegedly providing to her customers, said Coakley in a statement.

“We allege that [Lara] exploited and sold children for sex, sometimes up to five times in a night, and personally profited from this activity,” Coakley said.

Investigation into this scheme began last December, after the New Bedford Police Department told Homeland Security that they believed a local woman-now identified as Lara-was trafficking underage girls for sexual purposes, said Coakley. She further alleged that Lara would bring the girls to a car or residence where the men would have sex with them. Lara would allegedly receive at least half of the profits from these encounters.

Authorities believe Ramirez was one of Lara’s customers and that he engaged in sexual acts with one of the minors, said Coakley.

“I sincerely hope that this sends a very clear message,” said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Boston in the statement today. “Human trafficking simply will not be tolerated.”

Lara and Ramirez were arrested by State Police assigned to the attorney general’s office on January 15th. During their arraignment in Fall River District Court, Lara was held on $100,000 cash bail and Ramirez was held on $25,000 cash bail, said Coakley.

They are both to be arraigned in Bristol Superior Court at a later date.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Great Headlines And Sex Prosecutions

“Come on, Sam!. We know from previous blogs that you believe that prostitution should be legalized and regulated…”

I do indeed.

“But even you cannot be in favor of forced human trafficking…!”

Of course I’m not.

But, let’s be clear what we are talking about, shall we? After all. How are you to be careful to not break laws unless you understand what they are and can count on a certain amount of consistency in their enforcement?

In fact, let’s give AG Coakley, a politician, some benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume that the choice to bring these indictments forward (to grand jurors and the press) just after the legislature had grabbed the criminal justice spotlight by rushing through a law preventing taking photographing and videotaping under women’s skirts. In fact, let’s ignore that they did that to answer the uproar in response to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that, despite what prosecutors thought, “up skirting” was not previously illegal..

At worst, let’s call the timing “unfortunate”.

We have discussed in the past how law enforcement tends to scoop together many different things because, well, it sounds better. The story, as it is, paints a pretty ugly picture to the uninitiated. To those of us, though, who deal with the criminal justice system on a daily basis, often have inconvenient questions to ask.

For example, how old was the complainant? After all, the age of consent, although many assume is 18, is actually lower. Younger still depending on the circumstances. So…was this a true minor, or someone who was, for example, 17 years old? In such a case, statutory rape may not be involved.

Was this complainant someone who was really being forced into prostitution? Was she someone who was a willing vender in the sex trade and, upon being confronted by law enforcement, declared herself a victim rather than a suspect?

Was Lara actually a madam or was she really a terrorizing human trafficker?

Finally, did Ramirez know that the girl was underage? Did he know she was being forced (assuming she was) to be a prostitute? In fact, assuming the girl is younger than the age of consent, is his crime much different from anyone else who might be accused of statutory rape? True, those cases are sometimes indicted…but press conferences are seldom held in such cases.

If the complainant has actually attained the age in which she can give consent for sex…and was simply a willing sex worker…was his crime any more than that of engaging a prostitute?

It sure does make for a compelling headline and story, though, doesn’t it? Can’t really hurt any politician demonstrating they are tough on crime and not to blame for the up skirting fiasco, can it?

Not to cast aspersions….I’m just saying…!

In the meantime, be aware that these questions are questions you might be called upon to answer if it is you found in a compromising position with a sex worker of any kind.

On Monday, let’s deal with that “up skirting” story to which I referred.

Until then, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!

For the original story upon which this blog was based please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2014/03/07/fall-river-woman-charged-with-human-trafficking-children-john-charged-with-rape-child/Z00xCLkzKPeHzxywgcZ3UP/story.html

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