“People under the control of others should not be victimized twice,” Sen. Coggs says
Sen. Spencer Coggs announced this week that he is introducing legislation that would protect victims caught up in the trade of human trafficking by overturning their convictions for prostitution and other related crimes when they were controlled by abusers and victimizers.
“People who have been forced into the sex trade shouldn’t be victimized twice, first, by the perpetrator, and second by being convicted of wrongdoing when these victims were clearly under the control of others,” Sen. Coggs said.
In 2009, Jermaine Rogers of Milwaukee was convicted of human trafficking after luring a woman to a Milwaukee duplex where he locked her in a room and raped her. Rogers told the victim he would take her to Chicago and force her to work as a prostitute.
Sen. Coggs’ bill that addresses victims would allow those who have been convicted for crimes while under the control of another to petition a court to seek “post-conviction relief,” or to appeal their conviction. The appeal could be filed even if the person responsible for the trafficking had not been convicted.
“Human trafficking can be a very complex crime involving threats of physical harm, threats to reveal an illegal immigrant’s status to authorities, and even threats against a victim’s family or relatives,” Sen. Coggs said.
Under the bill, once the conviction is overturned the victim’s record would be expunged.
Sen. Coggs was previously author of Wisconsin’s first general human trafficking law. Under that law, persons convicted of human trafficking are liable for fines of up to $100,000 and 25-40 years in prison, depending on the circumstances of the offense.
Experts say that trafficking victims often suffer from feelings of helplessness, humiliation, shock and depression, and that sex trafficking cases often involve a mix of crimes ranging from domestic abuse to assault, prostitution and kidnapping.
“While we must deal severely with perpetrators of this horrendous crime, we must have compassion for its victims,” Sen. Coggs said. “Who would believe that slavery exists in the 21st century? It’s sad, but true and we must acknowledge the damage done to victims.”