Human trafficking topic of EdCC talk

LYNNWOOD — Human and sex trafficking often are hidden in plain sight.

The 2008 prosecution of Everett pimp Jerome Todd, who was sentenced to more than a quarter century in federal prison for sex trafficking, provided evidence that Snohomish County is not immune. A jury found that he abused the local women he recruited into his sex enterprise.

The issue has drawn interest of local organizations looking to bring awareness to its close-to-home existence. Two of those groups are the Edmonds branch of the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County. They are hosting a talk on the subject at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Room 304 of Snohomish Hall on the Edmonds Community College campus.

State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles is scheduled to share what she knows about the subject. She is part of the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau. Over the years, Kohl-Welles has helped craft several bills to combat human and sex trafficking in the state. In 2002, Washington became the first state to form a human trafficking task force.

Kohl-Welles said the murder of Anastasia King, a mail-order bride from Kyrgyzstan, was an early case that drew her to the issue of human trafficking. The young woman married Indle King Jr. of Mountlake Terrace about two years before she was killed in 2000. King and a roommate were convicted of her murder.

Anastasia King’s death inspired changes in laws that tightened regulations on mail-order brides and gave foreign-born fiances more information when American men go through international marriage brokers to find spouses.

Sometimes, Kohl-Welles said, the issue of trafficking can be gray, begging the question: “What constitutes the line between free will and exploitation?”

Other cases, particularly those involving minors, are more clear cut.

Kelsey Collins of Everett was lured into prostitution when she was 16. Her testimony before a grand jury led to a sex trafficking indictment against a man who allegedly drove her from Seattle to Portland to peddle sex, even though she was a minor. Collins had convinced her mom she was going to Olympia for the weekend to hang out with a friend.

In 2009, Collins disappeared.

When she vanished, a federal case against her alleged former pimp fell apart before it got to trial.

Even so, the man she testified against later was convicted of sex trafficking charges involving a 15-year-old girl. Donnico T. Johnson was sentenced to nearly 15 years in federal prison.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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