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Up for discussion: The best way to illustrate sex trafficking?

OLYMPIA — Submitted for your approval, as Rod Serling used to say at the beginning of "Twilight Zone." Or disapproval, as the case may be.

Until this morning, this was the photo the Senate Republican Caucus web site used to illustrate last week's hearing by the Law and Justice Committee on Sex Trafficking. You may recall it as the hearing at Gonzaga Law School.

Or you may recall it as the hearing where Shared Hope International praised the Legislature for its work to make it easier to crack down on sex traffickers and child prostitution. Washington got an A for its laws fighting sex trafficking. Over in Idaho, they were getting a D.

This morning, the Senate Republican Caucus web site was down, and the photo was removed, although a spokesman for Committee Chairman Mike Padden said that was probably a coincidence. The hearing was more than a week ago, Eric Campbell said, and the site was rotating features to get more current things up.

Padden said later that he didn't select the photo, and hadn't even seen it before it was removed.

"I would have not put it  up. I don't approve of it," Padden said, adding minorities are more likely to be victims of sex trafficking.

We should note that this is a "stock photo", one that has been used other places to illustrate sex trafficking or child pornography, primarily on web sites with ties to religious organizations.  In some versions of the image, the hands over the mouth don't seem to be quite as dark as in the above image.

What grade should the SRC get for its photo selection?


WA Lege Day 50: Sex-trafficking bills pass Senate

OLYMPIA – The Senate tried to strengthen laws against human trafficking Monday, approving a pair of bills that would crack down on sex crimes involving minors.

In the first of two unanimous votes, the Senate agreed to add a fine of up to $5,000 on top of other penalties for anyone convicted of paying for sex with a minor has used an internet ad to find the prostitute. The bill is a  response to a court’s rejection of a law passed last year that tried to restrict and penalize the websites that carry the ads.

The Senate then passed a bill that would to expand penalties for against people who recruit minors to become prostitutes or those who patronize them.

The state needs to do what it can to prevent teens from being lured into the sex trade, said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, who called human trafficking is the modern term for slavery.

Alleged sex slave traders released

Four people arrested in what investigators believe is Spokane County’s first human trafficking case were released this weekend because no charges have been filed.

Spokane County sheriff’s investigators still are working on the case against Lawrence Dean Johnson, 43, his wife, Dina K. Tellez, 43; Christopher G. Foster, 33; and Foster’s girlfriend, Shanell L. Haddon, 28.

The suspects were released from the Spokane County Jail because prosecutors did not file charges within three days of their arrest as required by law. They can still be charged, and investigators still are working on charging recommendations for prosecutors.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

May 24: Sex slave claim leads to 4 arrests

Sex slave claims lead to four arrests

A frightened young woman’s descriptions of being held captive and sold for sex at drug houses and motels over the past year has led to several arrests in what’s believed to be Spokane County’s first human trafficking case.

Lawrence Dean Johnson, 43, his wife, Dina K. Tellez, 43; Christopher G. Foster, 33; and Shanell L. Haddon, 28, who is Foster’s girlfriend, are in the Spokane County Jail as prosecutors consider formal charges against them.

Dave Skogen, a detective with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday that more victims could be identified.

Foster denied the allegations in an interview with The Spokesman-Review from jail Thursday evening.

“They should get a psychiatric evaluation done on this chick,” Foster said. “Then the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office will realize what a big mistake they’ve made.”

Read the rest of my story here.