Legislature(2015 - 2016)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

02/23/2015 01:30 PM JUDICIARY

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Audio Topic
01:34:39 PM Start
01:35:22 PM Confirmation Hearings: Violent Crimes Compensation Board and State Commission for Human Rights
01:57:05 PM SB21
03:01:44 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled: TELECONFERENCED
Dr. George Brown - Violent Crimes Compensation
Kathryn Dodge - State Commission for Human Rights
Lester Lunceford - State Commission for Human
Heard & Held
-- Invited and Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
           SB  21-AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE TO PROSTITUTION                                                                       
VICE  CHAIR  COGHILL reconvened  the  meeting  and announced  the                                                               
consideration of  SB 21.  "An Act  relating to  a defense  to the                                                               
crime of prostitution for victims of sex trafficking."                                                                          
1:57:05 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BERTA  GARDNER, sponsor  of SB 21,  stated that  the bill                                                               
takes a narrow focus on the  broad problem of violence and abuse,                                                               
specifically  sex  trafficking   and  coerced  prostitution.  She                                                               
clarified  that  while  it's  understood  that  perpetrators  and                                                               
victims can  be either male  or female, in this  presentation the                                                               
perpetrators would be  referred to as him or her  and the victims                                                               
as she. A simple  explanation of the idea is that  if a person is                                                               
arrested for  prostitution, she can  admit she broke the  law and                                                               
then give evidence to show that it was under coercion or force.                                                                 
1:58:38 PM                                                                                                                    
KATIE BRUGGEMAN, Staff, Senator  Berta Gardner, introduced SB 21.                                                               
She reminded the committee that  an identical version of the bill                                                               
received bipartisan support last year  but died in House Rules at                                                               
the end of the  28  Legislature. The hope  is that this important                                                               
and potentially life-saving legislation will pass this year.                                                                    
MS.  BRUGGEMAN stated  that SB  21 takes  a step  to address  the                                                               
burgeoning   increase  in   sex  trafficking   by  providing   an                                                               
affirmative defense in the crime  of prostitution. A victim would                                                               
offer into  evidence the fact that  she was coerced into  the sex                                                               
trafficking trade  and did commit  the crime of  prostitution but                                                               
she did  so due  to coercion  by the  trafficker. She  noted that                                                               
evidence  of sex  trafficking would  arise in  the pretrial  plea                                                               
negotiation process  between the prosecutor and  the defense. She                                                               
provided  a hypothetical  scenario and  opined that  a reasonable                                                               
prosecutor  would  likely take  this  evidence  into account  and                                                               
dismiss the  case for lack  of the  intent element of  the crime.                                                               
She  clarified that  a  victim of  sex  trafficking charged  with                                                               
prostitution  would not  be  forced or  required  to invoke  this                                                               
defense. It  is a  legal option  that would give  a voice  to the                                                               
many victims  of sex trafficking  that have been silenced  by the                                                               
current legal system. Today, even  if a victim of sex trafficking                                                               
were to  confront their trafficker  with threats of  seeking help                                                               
and reporting abuse,  the trafficker may say "Well,  what are you                                                               
going to  do, go to  the cops? They're  just going to  arrest you                                                               
MS. BRUGGEMAN concluded  that SB 21 does not intend  to amend the                                                               
larger   sex  trafficking   statutes   or  any   other  area   of                                                               
prostitution or  solicitation crimes  and it  does not  intend to                                                               
legalize  prostitution.  This  legislation would  merely  add  an                                                               
optional  affirmative  defense  to  a victim  who  has  been  sex                                                               
2:03:58 PM                                                                                                                    
MELISA  ENGEL,  Youth Pastor  for  five  churches in  the  Juneau                                                               
community, testified  in support  of SB 21  to require  courts to                                                               
accept an  affirmative defense  to the  crime of  prostitution if                                                               
the victim  can present proof  of sex trafficking.  She described                                                               
the legislation as  a common sense public policy to  chip away at                                                               
the  barriers that  force victims  of sex  trafficking to  remain                                                               
silent. These  people need help,  compassion, and  services. They                                                               
should not be  put through a system that  re-victimizes them when                                                               
they try to speak out.                                                                                                          
She spoke  of being a  person of faith  who works with  people in                                                               
poverty.  She stressed  how difficult  it is  to get  out of  the                                                               
cycle  of  poverty, especially  if  you've  been charged  with  a                                                               
crime. She  urged compassion for  victims of sex  trafficking and                                                               
having  that compassion  embodied  in policies  and  laws. SB  21                                                               
takes a small but crucial step in that direction.                                                                               
VICE CHAIR COGHILL named the  people online who were available to                                                               
answer questions.                                                                                                               
SENATOR  COSTELLO  asked  if  she'd  thought  about  specifically                                                               
addressing minors  as some other  states have done.  For example,                                                               
North  Carolina takes  [sex trafficked  minors]  into custody  as                                                               
unsupervised  juveniles. She  assumed the  rationale is  to allow                                                               
the minor to access other services.                                                                                             
SENATOR GARDNER replied  there are already statutes  that seek to                                                               
protect children and law enforcement  takes that seriously. SB 21                                                               
addresses adults.                                                                                                               
MS.  BRUGGEMAN added  that  a future  legislature  could look  at                                                               
mechanisms like the safe harbor  law that creates an immunity for                                                               
minors   that  have   been   arrested   for  prostitution;   this                                                               
legislation does not have that focus.                                                                                           
VICE CHAIR COGHILL observed that the bill is narrowly crafted.                                                                  
SENATOR MICCICHE  read an excerpt  from the  recommendations from                                                               
the Ad  Hoc NGO Working Group  on Sex Trafficking in  Alaska that                                                               
talked about  a case  that estimated that  Don Webster  aka Jerry                                                               
Star made  $3.6 million on  13 of his  25 known victims,  and the                                                               
agency considered  it a  conservative estimate.  He also  cited a                                                               
11/5/2012  Huffington  Post  article  that  talked  about  a  sex                                                               
trafficking victim who testified  that her pimp initially treated                                                               
her  well,  but subsequently  beat  her  and  threw her  into  an                                                               
underground tunnel  for days. He  noted the zero fiscal  note and                                                               
questioned  how victims  like  those could  be  expected to  come                                                               
forward  and  feel  their  safety would  be  ensured  after  they                                                               
testified. He  expressed support for  the bill and  concern about                                                               
the ability to  provide victims with the tools to  make their way                                                               
out of their situation.                                                                                                         
SENATOR GARDNER  said it's  a valid point.  She added  that while                                                               
the bill  addresses a  real problem, she  believes few  will take                                                               
advantage of it,  particularly without dedicating a  lot of money                                                               
to provide  services like job  training. However, in  the current                                                               
fiscal  climate  she  would  not  propose  a  robust  program  of                                                               
services. Her  objective is  to provide this  option so  a victim                                                               
has the opportunity to go to the police. It's a start, she said.                                                                
SENATOR  MICCICHE asked  if there  was any  sort of  education in                                                               
rural  areas  in  particular that  might  help  potential  future                                                               
victims recognize  the dangers when  they leave their  village or                                                               
small community.                                                                                                                
SENATOR  GARDNER advised  that  the Department  of Education  and                                                               
Early  Development  (DEED)  doesn't   require  schools  to  teach                                                               
personal  safety, but  it does  have a  regulation that  strongly                                                               
recommends that every district offer  personal safety classes for                                                               
VICE CHAIR COGHILL commented that this is at least one tool.                                                                    
2:21:06 PM                                                                                                                    
BELLA  ROBINSON,  Rhode  Island Chapter  of  COYOTE,  Providence,                                                               
Rhode Island, said  she was a victim of trafficking  when she was                                                               
a teenager. She shared that at age  17 she was "married off" to a                                                               
41-year-old man.  She noted that Rhode  Island is one of  the few                                                               
states  that has  decriminalized  prostitution, and  it does  not                                                               
require a  person to  prove that  they are  a victim.  She opined                                                               
that  trafficking  legislation can  always  be  better. Laws  are                                                               
passed every  year, but  they don't  stop trafficking.  She cited                                                               
statistics  for  services,  jobs,  housing,  and  education.  She                                                               
concluded that  "if we are  going to reduce trafficking,  we need                                                               
to stop trying to abolish prostitution."                                                                                        
MAXINE DOOGAN,  Community United  for Safety and  Protection, San                                                               
Francisco,  California, testified  in  opposition to  SB 21.  She                                                               
said the  bill puts victims in  the position of having  to defend                                                               
themselves against charges of prostitution.  She cited the Keyana                                                               
Marshall  case  to  illustrate  the  difficulty  of  the  current                                                               
approach.  She  agreed  with  the  sponsor  that  few  will  take                                                               
advantage of the law.                                                                                                           
TARA   BURNS,  Student,   University  of   Alaska  -   Fairbanks,                                                               
Fairbanks, Alaska,  testified in  opposition to  SB 21.  She said                                                               
she  was a  sex  trafficking victim  as a  minor  in Alaska.  She                                                               
currently is  studying sex  traffic laws  as a  graduate student.                                                               
She reminded the  committee of the case in Nenana  many years ago                                                               
where a woman in the sex trade  was found not guilty of killing a                                                               
client who attacked her. She  cited more recent cases and pointed                                                               
out that this  bill would not protect any of  the victims because                                                               
they were not "forced or induced."                                                                                              
She discussed her research that  showed that just one-third of 42                                                               
people she  surveyed who  have had experience  in the  Alaska sex                                                               
trade met  the federal  definition of  a sex  trafficking victim.                                                               
The bill  would not protect  any of  those people or  make police                                                               
accept their reports of a crime.  She provided an example where a                                                               
prostitute risked  arrest for reporting a  sex trafficking crime.                                                               
She noted that Alaska is called  the rape capital of the country.                                                               
She said  this bill  divides the victims  into two  groups; those                                                               
who were induced  and deserve protection, and those  who were not                                                               
induced  and risk  prosecution if  they come  forward and  report                                                               
being a victim of sex trafficking.                                                                                              
She suggested the  bill should use the federal  definition of sex                                                               
trafficking, which includes all minors  in the sex trade, and the                                                               
use of force,  fraud, or coercion in  the recruitment, harboring,                                                               
procurement, and transportation of a  person for the purpose of a                                                               
sex  act. She  noted the  sponsor's opinion  piece that  says the                                                               
victim should not have to testify  and offer proof that they have                                                               
been victims of  sex trafficking, and she would like  the bill to                                                               
actually do that.  The current dual definition has  led to police                                                               
harassment  in  Alaska.  She  concluded that  the  bill  has  the                                                               
potential  to restore  many sex  trafficking victims'  ability to                                                               
come  forward to  report  that they  have been  the  victim of  a                                                               
crime, but it also has  the potential to increase sex trafficking                                                               
for  those  who  are  excluded  from  protection,  which  is  the                                                               
majority of sex trafficking victims in Alaska.                                                                                  
VICE CHAIR COGHILL asked if she  sees an affirmative defense as a                                                               
MS. BURNS  replied it is not  a workable solution for  victims of                                                               
sex trafficking.  They should  neither be  arrested in  the first                                                               
place nor coerced into becoming an informant.                                                                                   
VICE CHAIR COGHILL observed that they would be re-victimized.                                                                   
MS. BURNS agreed and provided an example.                                                                                       
SENATOR  MICCICHE  said  it  seems that  there  are  two  issues;                                                               
someone  charged with  prostitution because  they were  caught in                                                               
the act, and someone who has  not been charged and wishes to come                                                               
forward to report sex trafficking.                                                                                              
MS. BURNS thought the latter was the sponsor's intention.                                                                       
MANDY  O'NEAL  COLE,  Deputy  Director,  AWARE,  Juneau,  Alaska,                                                               
testified  in  support  of  SB  21.  She  pointed  out  that  sex                                                               
trafficking has  been difficult for  AWARE to identify.  She gave                                                               
an  example of  a young  woman who  was probably  trafficked. She                                                               
described sex  trafficking as  built on  the hopelessness  of the                                                               
victims'  situations  and  provided scenarios  whereby  a  victim                                                               
might  be  trafficked. She  provided  solutions  to stopping  sex                                                               
trafficking  and opined  that the  bill is  a step  in the  right                                                               
MELANIE DANTE, representing  herself, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,                                                               
testified  in opposition  to the  current wording  in SB  21. She                                                               
said  she  is a  former  homeless  teenager and  sex  trafficking                                                               
victim  who attended  college and  did  research in  2003 on  sex                                                               
trafficking.  She  found  that  it is  not  safe,  effective,  or                                                               
beneficial  to   communicate  with  law  enforcement   about  sex                                                               
trafficking.  She said  she opposes  SB 21  because she  believes                                                               
victims should be able to  report a crime without being arrested.                                                               
She  agreed  that   victims  do  not  have  the   tools  to  help                                                               
themselves.  The bill  does not  remedy the  long-term costs  and                                                               
consequences  of prostitution  arrests  and  trial, and  provides                                                               
confusion between  prostitution and sex trafficking.  Nor does it                                                               
provide  solutions  as to  what  happens  to victims  after  they                                                               
report, she said.                                                                                                               
JOSHUA   SPRING,   representing   himself,   Anchorage,   Alaska,                                                               
testified in support  of SB 21. He said he's  a paralegal who has                                                               
spent the  last year-and-a-half volunteering in  immigration law,                                                               
which includes refugee  and asylum cases. He  shared an encounter                                                               
with  a victim  of sex  trafficking  who was  sold at  age 9.  He                                                               
stressed  that  surviving as  a  victim  is hard  enough  without                                                               
having  the law  administer a  second layer  of shame  with legal                                                               
repercussions. He believes the bill helps these victims.                                                                        
KENDRA   HIGGINS,   representing  herself,   Anchorage,   Alaska,                                                               
testified in support  of SB 21. She described  the high incidence                                                               
of sex trafficking  in the Fairview region of  Anchorage, and the                                                               
related  problems  of substance  abuse  and  mental illness.  She                                                               
maintained  that  the  victims  deserve protection  and  a  voice                                                               
without being fearful of arrest or persecution.                                                                                 
TARA DEVLIN,  representing herself, Anchorage,  Alaska, testified                                                               
in support  of SB 21. She  described the situation of  a neighbor                                                               
in  the Fairview  area  of  Anchorage who  was  induced into  sex                                                               
trafficking by a boyfriend.                                                                                                     
ROBIN SMITH,  representing herself, Anchorage,  Alaska, testified                                                               
in support  of SB  21. She  said human trafficking  is a  form of                                                               
modern day  slavery. She shared statistics  about sex trafficking                                                               
of minors in the U.S.  She discussed the traumas of prostitution.                                                               
She maintained that the bill may  not be perfect, but it's a step                                                               
in the right direction. She also spoke in favor of Erin's Law.                                                                  
NICOLE  MERRIWEATHER,   Fairbanks  Youth   Advocates,  Fairbanks,                                                               
Alaska, testified  in support of SB  21. She said she  works with                                                               
homeless  youth.  She spoke  of  the  difficulty of  proving  sex                                                               
trafficking for  those who are 18  years old. It is  also hard to                                                               
get them  out of sex trafficking  at that age. She  said the bill                                                               
will provide a way out of sex trafficking for younger people.                                                                   
GWEN  ADAMS, Priceless  Ministry, ChangePoint  Church, Anchorage,                                                               
Alaska,  testified in  opposition to  SB 21.  She said  she leads                                                               
Priceless,   a   non-profit   organization  that   supports   sex                                                               
trafficking victims in Alaska. She said  she was also a member of                                                               
former-Governor Parnell's Task Force  Against the Crimes of Human                                                               
Trafficking. She  opined that the  bill would undermine  the work                                                               
that has  already been done to  go after the perpetrators  of sex                                                               
trafficking.  The only  way to  go after  perpetrators is  to get                                                               
testimony  from victims.  Law enforcement  has access  to victims                                                               
through  the  initial  arrest  for  the  crime  of  prostitution.                                                               
Priceless  works with  victims  and law  enforcement.  Of the  14                                                               
victims Priceless  is working  with, only  one has  been arrested                                                               
for prostitution.  She spoke against  the coercion aspect  of the                                                               
bill. It  does not protect  victims, but further  victimizes them                                                               
by keeping law enforcement away from their pimps.                                                                               
2:57:00 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MICCICHE  said he  didn't agree  with her  logic. Without                                                               
the bill, a  victim has less of an avenue  and less motivation to                                                               
turn  in the  sex  trafficker. This  bill  allows an  affirmative                                                               
defense and  encourages a prostitute who  may be a victim  of sex                                                               
trafficking to testify against "their master."                                                                                  
MS.  ADAMS  replied  victims  often  don't  even  recognize  that                                                               
they're being  trafficked. In order  for Priceless to  get access                                                               
to the victims,  it requires distance from their  pimp; an arrest                                                               
provides that space.                                                                                                            
VICE CHAIR COGHILL  suggested the sponsor stay in  touch with Ms.                                                               
SENATOR GARDNER  described SB  21 as a  baby step.  Responding to                                                               
the  last  testimony,  she clarified  that  the  prostitutes  are                                                               
arrested and they  testify in their own defense.  The state can't                                                               
coerce  them  into  participating  in the  prosecution  of  their                                                               
VICE CHAIR  said he would  suggest at  the next hearing  that law                                                               
enforcement testify first followed by the public defender.                                                                      
SENATOR MICCICHE  clarified that he  used the term master  not as                                                               
standing  but  in recognition  that  in  a trafficking  situation                                                               
there is a slave/master relationship.                                                                                           
VICE CHAIR COGHILL held SB 21 in committee.                                                                                     

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB21 Sponsor Statement.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 21
SB21 version A.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 21
SB21 Shared Hope International_State by state comparison_Immunity.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 21
SB21 Rsrch_Polaris Project Report.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 21
SB21 Rsrch_NCSL Report.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 21
SB21 Media_HuffPost Trafficking in AK.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 21
SB21 Media_FBI Las Vegas Man Sentenced.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 21
SB21 Media_Feds charge 4 for sex traffic kids involved _ Crime _ ADN.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 21
SB21 Media_In Growing US Sex Trafficking Business.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 21
SB21 Media_Community Leaders Police Tackle Sex Trafficking Problem in Alaska - KTUU.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
SB 21
Resume George Brown.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
Resume Kathryn Dodge.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM
Resume Lester Lunceford.pdf SJUD 2/23/2015 1:30:00 PM