Below are some of our videos explaining human trafficking and sexual abuse prosecutions, lawsuits, and settlements. To learn more about this topic, click Human Trafficking Lawsuits and Sexual Abuse Lawsuits.
New Details In Epstein Victim’s Case Reveal Sick & Twisted Trafficking Techniques
Mike Papantonio: A new filing in the cases against Jeff Epstein have revealed that he’d use blackmail and he used coercion techniques to prevent women from fleeing his property. Joining me to talk about this is Carissa Phelps. She’s one of our lawyers and just is an expert in this area. Carissa, look, start by telling us the story, the new development that’s coming around the Epstein case.
Carissa Phelps: Well, fortunately, people are able to share their story as it’s taken so long for them to be able to do so around this case. And what he used was, you know, blackmail in the same way that he used blackmail in other cases, that’s what’s being alleged, is that you had people that were holding dossiers and information on his victims and holding acts. Maybe they were innocent acts. Maybe they were supposedly criminal acts that he convinced them they would get in trouble for. They would lose an opportunity over. And he was holding that over their head, allegedly.
Mike Papantonio: The, the lawyer involved, Brad Edwards, longtime friend, wonderful lawyer who actually started all of this. He stayed with it. You know, he wasn’t, it wasn’t about am I going to make a big fee, it is, can I make some justice take place? Judges blew it. Regulators blew it. Department of justice blew it. State prosecutors blew it, did a terrible, terrible job.
Carissa Phelps: Right.
Mike Papantonio: And to me, we ought to take a close look about prosecuting some of them for their failures, because it was, it’s too close, the conduct is simply too close to say, well, it was just bad judgment. I think there was some intent involved there. And I think we had to take a serious look at it. But so, so this case centers around the one that Brad’s going forward with centers around Priscilla Doe, 22 year old ballet dancer, lay that out for me just a little bit.
Carissa Phelps: Well, if someone has hopes and dreams and they fought to get to where they’re at and they’re offered an opportunity, maybe for something that seems like an easy job or a shortcut to help them through the hard times where they’re trying to support something like in the arts that’s so hard to get support for in the United States happens. There, there could be some pressure, some recruiting that goes on, which it sounds like happened with her. In her complaint, she talks about a recruiter who kind of sold her this dream and this idea that she would only have to do massages or she would only have to do certain acts. And that’s usually how the lie starts is there’s only going to be so much you have to do, you have control and you have power and it’s just simply a lie.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Carissa Phelps: And then once they fall prey to it, once they’re in that trap, it’s a tangled web.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Well, they’ve made documentaries about your life. You were traffic, trafficked at 14 years old. Got out of that. The documentary is compelling. I mean, it was, what a story. Went to UCLA, got your MBA and your JD and now you’re working with this law firm and I’m so proud that you’re doing it because we are full tilt going after the traffickers. So tell me, tell me this, this idea about using that kind of threat. Was that something that you saw typically in the business?
Carissa Phelps: And it’s very easy to put fear into somebody when you’re using something like sexual assault and rape, violent acts, when you’re demeaning them. When you’re telling them that they are less than, they’re not worthy, then they can, they can feel trapped just in that idea. And they feel like people aren’t looking at them and won’t help them because that often, like you pointed out, is the case. They’re not getting help from law enforcement. They’re not getting help from, from the judges or from the regulators or from the people that should be watching out for them. They’re not sympathetic victims that people are trying to rescue or help and part of the game is making them look as if and appear as if everything is okay. So, so putting hair, makeup, taking them to fancy events on airplanes, on boats, on islands, all is part of the game. All is part of covering up what’s actually going on, which is torment and abuse.
Mike Papantonio: So this, this story centers around something called HBRK. Now as a corporation, attorney Wiener is the guy in charge of it and he’s working with Epstein. Who’s working with Klein, who’s working with Khan, who’s working with Wiener. So this whole group, this whole cabal is involved in something, whether they’re saying they intentionally knew or not, this resulted in a massive amount of trafficking of young girls. Not uncommon.
Carissa Phelps: Correct. I mean, what a trafficker requires are these third parties, these businesses that seemingly are legitimate to help effectuate what they want to get done, which is to have that power and control over an individual. So having those businesses on their side, having those professionals, those individuals who worked for him, taking care of this kind of business, helped him to grow in terms of the trafficking organization he was running and the larger blackmail scheme that he’s being accused of as well.
Mike Papantonio: Well, now there’s even the possibility, I think you and I talked earlier, sometimes the stories can be made up. Okay. You’ve got, you’ve got Maxwell, you’ve got Epstein who’s passed money around from everybody to Bill Clinton, to Trump, to everybody with influence. And so he is in this influential position. Maxwell is in this influential position. They literally could make up a story and say, I’m going to go to the department of justice, or I’m going to go to the state attorney’s office and they’re going to believe me. They’re not going to believe you because you’re from the Ukraine. And you came over here to get a job. And then we put you as a waitress and then we moved you to a strip club. And then we moved you into, into prostitution. Who’s going to believe that, you see?
Carissa Phelps: Right.
Mike Papantonio: And so, so the story is plausible, isn’t it?
Carissa Phelps: Well, yeah. And the worst trap of all Pap is, is this was your choice. That’s what they’re making them believe, right? This was your choice. Didn’t you want this? Didn’t you like having fancy things or having these, these opportunities to go to chase their dreams? They’re going to make them feel like it was their choice and it was their fault and they will feel ashamed of coming forward. And when they do come forward, if they’re not met with any kind of trained trauma informed victim centered approach, then they’re going to be ignored by the system.
Mike Papantonio: I’ve heard you speak about this. It’s a very moving speech in that you described the fact that the police don’t get it. Okay. That the police are more apt to arrest that child who’s being trafficked than they are the trafficker because of that influence, because of who’s in a superior position. But I got to wonder as I’m looking at this whole Epstein thing. I started out by saying there really needs to be a serious look at all of the people that were involved and there needs to be a serious look. Why aren’t we prosecuting them? What, what have we, have we gotten to the point to where they look different. They’re dressed up in Armani suits. They’re, they’re in political office. Everybody knows their name. So we choose not to prosecute them. Did you see some edge of that when you were involved?
Carissa Phelps: Well, and, and we’re starting to shift, we’re starting to change that approach. And we see it in our own backyard that we’re trying to change that approach. We’re trying to go after even those people who have political influence, who have power, who decide to go on a website and traffic a 17 year old girl, we’re going to go after them. We’re going to find them out. That information is going to be there. And we do have trained law enforcement now. It’s a matter now of getting the trained law enforcement to be able to have the resources they need to train others, to get a, basically some organization in place because traffickers are, have always been well organized, whether it’s the pimps and the gangs running girls throughout California, Nevada, Arizona, and all that area. Whether it’s the gangs that come from over over the border that bring girls over to traffic them in residential brothels, there’s always been organization and it’s outpaced what we’ve been able to keep up with in terms of the, on the ground law enforcement.
Mike Papantonio: All right. Disclosure, full disclosure, we initiated one of the biggest trafficking cases in the country, in Ohio with what they call an MDL. And that, that was your idea. It was the idea of saying, in order to get a hold of this, we have to have a national platform. Is it working?
Carissa Phelps: Well, I think we’ve got people paying attention. I think we have people paying attention and the, the MDL may not be as structured as we want it to yet. But I think that people are starting to pay attention. They’re understanding the idea that these, these corporations acted consistently together to create opportunities for traffickers to hide while they continued to profit and turn a blind eye. I think we’re telling that story and we’re telling it for victims on behalf of victims. The, the issue is that we still have more companies coming forward trying to exploit those opportunities.
Mike Papantonio: We’re talking about corporations?
Carissa Phelps: Yes, yeah.
Mike Papantonio: So why, why is it that we’ve gotten to the point, just like, you know, just like I asked the question, why do we look at these politicos or these people of influence that are, you know, they’ve got an MBA degree from Yale or wherever and we look at them differently? We say, oh, no, they can’t have done this. We do the same thing with corporations. You’ve had to break through of making the public understand, yes, the big hotel chains they’re involved, wall street money, it’s involved. Sometimes police departments are involved. Sometimes the lack of understanding by the judicial system is involved. So, so as we look at this, how, what, what’s your solution? What, besides educating, don’t you think you just have to spank some of these people? I mean, I mean, I look at it, I look at it totally different.
Carissa Phelps: If we took away the incentives.
Mike Papantonio: Take away the incentives, how do you do that?
Carissa Phelps: So the money. So, so people looked the other way, because they think maybe in the back of their mind that they’re going to make money or their organization is going to make money and if they look the other way long enough, or, or their, their, claim ignorance, willful ignorance and blindness, then there’ll be able to just continue to cash in on what is exploitation and harm of individuals.
Mike Papantonio: Real quick question. As I was looking at some of these stories, one thing was just nauseating to me. As Epstein had, had the Doe girl on the floor, rubbing his feet as he’s watching movies in a movie theater. You’re, you started this by saying, you got to take something away from these girls. What are you taking away from their, their, their character, their integ? What, what’s the takeaway on that?
Carissa Phelps: Well, you make them feel like they can only exist with you. So they’re only important because of you. They’re only important because you say they’re important. They’re only given power when you say they can have that power, that control or that voice. And that is, that’s a hallmark of exploitation and abuse. And this, this cycle goes on because they believe it themselves. They internalize that, that I, I belong to this person. I’m not worthy without them. And those types of acts like having them serve food when they’re an award-winning ballerina, you know, having them be demeaned into a position of being on the floor and rubbing my feet is my sick, you know, way of controlling that, that human being.
Mike Papantonio: In other words, the control is you’re not good enough. You don’t fit in. There’s nothing that, that you can do about your situation. It is to demean them to the point to where it’s not, sometimes it’s not violence, it’s not slapping them around because the traffickers worried about, maybe I’m going to be discovered if I do that. But it’s really, really more of a matter of just taking away everything that ought to motivate them as a person. Right?
Carissa Phelps: Yes.
Mike Papantonio: And we see this in the European situation, a lot. The recruits say in the Ukraine, how would you like to come to the United States, have a job working in a restaurant as a, as a greeter? And then, oh, you can make more money if you want to work in our club over here, it’s a strip club. And oh, by the way, you can make more money on the pole. And, you know, you can make more money by talking to Tom over here who wants to meet you. And before you know it, they’re in the system squarely.
Carissa Phelps: Well, and I’ve seen that turn into a form of labor trafficking too. So if they’re giving all of their, they’re basically being recruited to be held into these strip clubs or into these organizations that are labor trafficking them, right. That’s just that sheer definition of labor trafficking, whether or not someone believes it’s their choice, or they’re being powered. If they’re giving 90% and they’re being held and told that they’re, you know, being threatened, that they’re being threatened either with, with violence or demonic possession, everything’s been put out there in terms of threats and what a trafficker can use. There’s no holds bar when it comes to someone who has an evil plan.
Mike Papantonio: Glimmer of hope, you’re the glimmer of hope. Okay. You’re the glimmer of hope because keep it up. We’re, we’re all in. We’re, we’re all in this fight and I, I’m optimistic some good’s going to come out of it. Thank you for joining me, Carissa.
Carissa Phelps: Thank you, Pap.
Lawsuits Target Wall Street Banks & Industry Giants For Their Role In Human Trafficking
Mike Papantonio: Big tech has been grilled by lawmakers over how they monitor content shared across social media platforms. But a major missing piece of the conversation is online pornography, which has become a hotbed for sexual exploitation and pure human trafficking. As major forms of federal, platforms are facing federal lawsuits, it’s time to regulate this whole, this whole issue. Seems to be taboo when it comes to Congress taking any real action. I’ve got author and founder of Runaway Girl, Carissa Phelps and by the way, she is my newest law partner. Welcome to the show. Welcome to the law, law firm. You know, I can’t, we really can’t start this without explaining your background. You were trafficked from the time you were 12 years old to about 15.
Carissa Phelps: Yes.
Mike Papantonio: And in there we, we’re going to be doing interviews from, time after time, of people who’ve been trafficked. We’ve, we’ve interviewed you before. It’s a harrowing story. But after that, you ended up going to UCLA, get an MBA, getting a law degree with a specialty kind of in finances.
Carissa Phelps: Yes.
Mike Papantonio: I mean, that’s, so that’s what I want to talk about here. You see everybody’s missing the fact that you got MindGeek. Okay. MindGeek is an organization that has PornHub and dozens of other porn sites underneath it. They have a right to do that. First amendment says that’s fine. I’m good with that, myself. The problem with this story is it’s not just about that, is it? Tell us, tell us how they go about getting content, content with trafficked individuals, trafficked women.
Carissa Phelps: So really there’s just no way of monitoring as much content as comes in to that site. So all this content comes in and there are reviewers that aren’t really able to see humanly as much content is come, is coming in. So we’ve had young girls that I’ve sat down with, who were raped and then those videos were posted online, who were unconscious, who were basically assaulted, videoed and then that’s uploaded to the, to the site. Now they have a, a kind of paid platform where they pay content contributors. So everyone’s an amateur pornographer now, and they could post things and get paid back money for it. And how they regulate who else is in the video is very, very, very shady, in terms of what we see online and what they’ve answered too, in terms of other hearings.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. They, they get a deal don’t they? PornHub and MindGeek gets a deal if a trafficker, which they’re well aware. There’s no question in my mind, they know exactly what goes on because they see the numbers. They have a way to file who’s the, who are the people posting this. Trafficker takes five girls, most of the time underage, to a hotel room. They say, do this sex act, do this sex act. They even rape some of these sex trafficked girls in the room. That then is, is sent to PornHub. PornHub under the law has a responsibility to find out, who are these people? What’s going on? Are these traffic, is this being done against their will? It’s not like somebody in LA who is saying, you know, I’m in the porn business, I do this for a living. I’m going to get paid. These people, not only do they get paid, they get victimized and then the trafficker gets paid all of this money. Is that kind of how it works?
Carissa Phelps: That is, although I think trafficking happens across the spectrum, even in some of those places in LA and in San Fernando Valley or in other places as well. I think trafficking can happen anywhere at any time. But these, these, these occurrences that you’re talking about where girls and victims are taken, boys too, young men are taken against their will. They’re drugged, they’re forced into sex acts that are then posted on these pornography sites that PornHub profits off of is happening. It is occurring and we are getting reports of it, absolutely.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. I mean, so we, we know, New York Times, by the way, did a great example. They did a great story on a site that is falling underneath, MindGeeks, MindGeeks heading where they found out that, that girls were being raped. Right on, you know, they knew that girls were being raped. They played it anyway. The child that was raped, the person that was raped, just kind of disappears. Now, here’s the point. You have Wall Street is now in this business. They’ve been in this business for a long time, Fortress, Fortress Investment. I mean, if you want to, if you want a real look at this company, just, just Google Fortress Investment. Fortress Investment brags about, they will do things that other people won’t do. Like we will, we know what’s going on. We know what’s going on with the, with the trafficking. Full disclosure, I’m getting ready to sue Fortress as an agent for, for MindGeek and vice versa. So we’re bringing Fortress into the lawsuit because they’re funding this.
Carissa Phelps: Right.
Mike Papantonio: And they, they should know what they’re doing. It’s not just them, it’s Chase. Who else is?
Carissa Phelps: Yeah. I mean, JP Morgan, Cornell University, these, and a couple of very smart people in terms of investments and how to structure them, tried to hide that information. It was actually a pornographer that exposed it. In 2013 Fox businesses did a story on it. This information has been out there and now investors, and we want to say woke investors, people who are conscious and know what they’re doing with their capital, need to take a look at where they’re putting their money and where Fortress is putting their money, which is in pornography and which is, is involved in trafficking.
Mike Papantonio: This isn’t a pornography story here. I mean, this is not a pornography story. This is a trafficking story. They know exactly what goes on. There’s no guesswork. Now this company, when you Google Fortress, you see they’ve got hundreds and hundreds of employees, they brag about, we’ve got offices here. We’ve got offices there. We’re big. We’re bigger than life. Okay. Well, they’re so big that they, they did, I can promise you some due diligence had to be done on this. What did they, they, they loaned MindGeek, was it over $300 million. Wasn’t it?
Carissa Phelps: Altogether, they were part of a consortium of investors that came together for about $326 million into this group. And yes, loaned them at high rates of return to measure because of the risk they knew they were taking, they measured that risk and so they charged an interest rate accordingly, and made money off of this investment that was, that was based on trafficking. You’re right. It’s based on trafficking.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. So as we look at this and we will bring these people in, I mean, you, you see the connection, you, they, they have a, if they say we did due diligence, they have investors with their company. They have shareholders with their company. And you said, well, we did due diligence and really? You couldn’t find out what they were talking about in 2013 on Fox news of all places? Where they’re investing, they know what, that we know what Fortress and Chase and, and JP Morgan, even Cornell University putting money behind this and saying, oh, well, gee whiz, we just didn’t know. How ridiculous is that argument? Explain to me how out there this is, how evident it is.
Carissa Phelps: Well, I mean, when you take investors’ money and you say you’ve done your due diligence, then you need to have done your due diligence. Because when, when that gets hit, because you haven’t done your due, you haven’t, you haven’t explained where your investments really are going, and you’re doing harm to people with them and you put those people’s money at risk. And these investors, these limited partners, they have in their $50 billion fund, they include hardworking people who have their retirement in that, in those funds that get invested into them. So there are many Americans out there right now, many people around the world who are invested in pornography, and don’t even know it. Who are invested in trafficking and don’t even know.
Mike Papantonio: I hate to even say, invest in pornography. We have, people have the right to put something on YouTube or porntube if they choose. That’s the first amendment in this country. But you don’t have the right to say, I’m going to add a different feature to it. We’re going to put trafficked girls on our site who are raped. Some, you know, the, the, there’s such sickness out. They want to see them raped. They want to see them beat. They want to see teenagers. There’s even some of these sites that they, they’re for toddlers. Talk about that just a little bit. How outrageous it’s become.
Carissa Phelps: I mean, it’s heartbreaking the level that we’ve let this go to in the United States and globally really because we’re part of this problem at this point. We’re part of this problem. And, and it’s our money again, that was invested in creating this conglomerate, this huge pornography industry, that’s harming many people.
Mike Papantonio: Well, it’s not just, okay. Let’s take the scenario that we just gave, that you’re very aware of. You’ve seen it. You were, you were actually in, you were trafficked from the 12 year, time you were 12 to 15 on and off. In there, you saw exactly what we’re talking about. Let’s get a hotel room, right? Let’s bring our trafficked girls into the hotel room. Let’s, oh yeah, let’s let everybody know they’re here and there, people come by one by one for these trafficked girls. These girls aren’t there because they want to be, they’re trafficked, they’re slaves, and then long comes, you know, the, the internet, pornography on the internet. Well, we can make more money there. It’s not just that we’re having them available for these guys. We can do some filming. This is, you know what, it’s more, it’s, it’s more of a moneymaker than heroin or drugs or anything like that because here you’re using the commodity again and again. Right?
Carissa Phelps: Again and again and again, and that’s the, that’s the harm that’s done that we see 10 years down the road, we see it into the future of the people who are harmed in this, in the human trafficking and in pornography that condones human trafficking, that allows for it, is human trafficking.
Mike Papantonio: They’re actually situations where they see the same hotel room, right? Same hotel says, you can do this. You can do this and, and, you know, go to it. That’s part of the problem too, isn’t it?
Carissa Phelps: Yeah. Or same, same hotel looking, same design, same design standards. So, you know, it’s the same hotel brand or property that they’re being taken to. And it will be different for different types of traffickers that are taking people to different locations, for sure.
Mike Papantonio: You’re involved in lawsuits also where you’re suing hotels.
Carissa Phelps: Yes.
Mike Papantonio: Talk about that just briefly.
Carissa Phelps: Some, some hotels, you know, have been found to have encouraged it, to have employees that encourage it. But mostly we’re looking at the brands that have known it was happening, have gone out and sought, you know, basically media and attention for doing something about it, but then really haven’t done anything about it. And so they continue to open up these spaces where victims are held, where they’re harmed, where they’re trafficked, where they’re brutalized, and it’s because of that space. Again, but for having that space, that person wouldn’t be able to be trafficked in that way.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. One thing is that is very evident in all these, these lenders aren’t just lenders. I think he pointed that out. They know they’re making a risky loan in a lot of ways. I mean, who are the, there’s a guy named Bergemar. They don’t even know who this guy is. Talk about that.
Carissa Phelps: No. The secrecy behind this, this company that is supposed to be, and being invested in by a public company that’s investing in them is, is really alarming because they don’t want to use their real names. They don’t want to put information out there about themselves and about who they are and about what they’re investing in. And so he’s one of them that, that is the largest owner that would, should, should, because of the ties to a public company and public money, have to tell us who they are.
Mike Papantonio: Have some fun. Go online in Google Bernard Bergemar, Bernard Bergemar. Okay. What is Bernard Bergemar? First of all, we know Bernard Bergemar has a relationship with Fortress. They’ve come down and they’ve shaken his hand. They said, yeah, we want to do business. This guy is such a slime ball, you can’t even find anything about him and they cover it up. They do every effort. But if you were to Google, Bernard Bergemar has the biggest porn business in the world, probably, and part of that is the human trafficking part.
Carissa Phelps:: Right.
Mike Papantonio: But if you were to Google him, we don’t know anything about him, do we?
Carissa Phelps: Right. And that, I mean, it’s so appalling because they put out so much private information about individuals. You hear young girls and parents beg for information to be taken off of their site, yet they hide in all of this secrecy.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Carissa, thank you for joining me. We got a lot of lawsuits coming.
Carissa Phelps: Yes.
Mike Papantonio: We’re gonna to get a lot closer to understanding what fortress did here, aren’t we?
Carissa Phelps: Yes.
Mike Papantonio: And we’re going to take some tough depositions. That’s my promise, that is my promise.
Carissa Phelps: Thank you, Mike.
Mike Papantonio: Thank you for joining me. Okay.
Corporations Face Lawsuits For Their Role In Human Trafficking Industry
Brigida Santos: Hi there, I’m here with Carissa Phelps and Kim Adams, they’re two attorneys working on cases in which they hold corporations accountable for their role in human trafficking. So first of all, tell me a little bit about your background because you are a survivor of human trafficking. Why is this issue so important to you?
Carissa Phelps: I think when, you know, when I was a child and these things happened to me, I knew that I had to get out and I had to get out so that I could let people know that there are more children like me. There were more people like me being hurt and harmed. I didn’t know how I was going to do that at 12 years old. But as I, as I came out of law school and business school, thankfully made it off of the streets with the help of some people that really poured into me and gave me what I needed, including confidence in myself, I was able to understand where the problem was and with corporations where they have incentives to basically do the trafficking.
So, I mean, my motivation comes from personal experience, but then a, over a decade of working alongside of survivors, knowing how their victimization stories go and how many companies and other entities are profiting off of that. So it wasn’t just my story where I was taken to a motel six or I was taken to this small little, little motel where everyone knew that’s what happened at that motel. It wasn’t just my story that was like that. So many others were like that too.
Brigida Santos: So what are some of the companies that you guys are taking to court?
Kim Adams: So, right now we’re looking at the hospitality industry. It could be any brand hotel, it could be any Vegas hotel, it could be any hotel where they know that potentially trafficking is going on in their hotels and they’re doing nothing to prevent it. Right? So when motel six, choice hotels, Howard Johnsons, unfortunately there is no hotel that we’ve seen yet that’s immune to this turning a blind eye idea, unfortunately.
Brigida Santos: And how has the industry responded to you guys taking them on?
Kim Adams: I think that they’re starting to respond. I do think that they’re starting to understand. I think they’ve always understood, I should back up, and I think that they are now starting to maybe make a real effort finally to do the things that they know they should have been doing for a long time. That they committed socially on their websites or what have you to doing and never did. So I think that they are admittedly understanding and recognizing again, they’re part of the problem and hopefully they’re going to do things to try to prevent it.
Carissa Phelps: Yeah, I mean I think there’s two different types of, we’re looking at the big brands first in some of the cases we’re bringing right now. But I’m also, I’ve also had a case where there’s small motels and a number of them that have been criminally indicted by, you know, the local city attorneys, their properties have been temporarily shut down and sees for the activity. And then a big brand comes around and slaps a brand on it and they somehow get to reopen up, you know. And so these, the, the owners of these places where their, their business model is basically based on the trafficking that occurs in, in their motels, they, they, they’re aware, they know what’s going on. And so we want to connect those dots for everyone to see it and understand it because that’s how we’ll raise the standard.
The fact is that, you know, the advertising and the marketing that’s done around their, their hotels and, and places being safe is false advertising. And I think the public needs to be aware of that. That there are a number of police reports. There are a number of rape, sexual assault, kidnappings, drug overdoses, murders, suicides that are not being reported in these false advertisements that make it look like family members are, and children are safe at these locations when they’re not. So, I think we have to educate the public on that as well. And then how much they are profiting off of turning a blind eye.
It’s much more convenient, right? To act like things are not happening and to look the other way or to say, oh well it’s just going to happen at every hotel, every motel, and accept it. So we’re, we’re really fighting that acceptance. I think for what they’ve been doing is they do really good at campaigns. They have strong marketing teams and so they get the word out saying that they’re doing a lot of things, but we’ve seen them in the past sign up for ECPAT for other, for other, other ways they say they’re going to be accountable, but then they aren’t.
And they’re called out on it. But nobody hears that message when they’re called out on it because all the big messaging and the big news story is the headline, oh, we’re fight, doing something to fight human trafficking. Because they have the media’s ear, they’re major corporations. When they enter, when they issue a press release, it goes out far and wide. But when the, the, the executive director of ECPAT writes on a little social blog, hey, you really didn’t do this training. You shouldn’t take, start getting credit for it before you’ve done it. Nobody hears that. Right? It gets buried away in, in a, in a chat rooms, a chat somewhere. And so, you know, we really want to have the press on our side, the media on our side saying, let’s tell the truth here, I mean.
Brigida Santos: Let’s segue a little bit. So a lot of human trafficking victims are sex workers. There is now a surge, a big national conversation starting in Washington DC to potentially decriminalize sex work. Now it’s not entirely all trafficking, but yes, some of those victims are people who go into sex work because there are some of the most marginalized people in society. What is your opinion as a survivor and as a lawyer working on this about decriminalization?
Kim Adams: Go ahead.
Carissa Phelps: Well, I mean, so what we’ve done traditionally is we’ve arrested the person who has been victimized, the person that has been sold, the person that has been procured and comm, turned into a commodity basically. So we’ve targeted them as the person that should be arrested and we’ve ticketed or fined or given a slap on a wrist to the buyers. Pimps oftentimes get away pimping and raping and assaulting children and then just get charged with pimping and pandering, which they’ll sometimes do County jail time and get out.
So, we’ve done, we’ve done some work around criminalizing the traffickers. They’ve been, we’ve been able to see, okay, people who have, are considered the pimp, the person that is putting, selling that person. I think the buyers now need to be viewed more as traffickers. The buyers that are purchasing are creating this market, which is much harder for people to see. And then for the person who we have traditionally criminalized and arrested and wrecked their lives even further, I think through the harm we’ve done, that person that needs to be decriminalized. And that would be partial decriminalization, right?
Like that act of being sold, I should not be criminalized for that being the only option that I have or the only way that I feel like I could survive. That doesn’t make me a criminal. Okay. That’s like with a drug user would be different than a person that is going and getting those drugs, making those drugs, putting those drugs on the market much different than the drug user. Right? Like we’re not trying to bring cases against people who use opioids, right? We’re, their lives are wrecked enough. It’s, let’s bring the cases over the people that are creating this market. And so.
Kim Adams: And I, you know, just to add to that, sex work, right? The concern is you legalize sex work and then the consequence of that is more trafficking because sex work increases the demand. It increases the idea that now people who may not have done it before because it was criminalized now would, would venture into that, that space. And so what we’re often hearing and what was argued even last week in DC was that you’re going to increase demand. How do you fill that demand? You fill it with children. How do you fill the demand as more and more sex works becomes demanding, you know.
Brigida Santos: Well, and it’s interesting because a lot of the DC argument is that we’re actually not trying to stop human trafficking. We’re just trying to prevent mass incarceration. But there’s other ways that you could prevent mass incarceration and they’re going after the Johns more in DC now than they are about arresting the actual people selling sex as a commodity, which I find very interesting.
Kim Adams: Yeah.
Brigida Santos: That that’s happening in DC.
Kim Adams: I actually think, yeah, and then a little bit of the opposite, actually. They want to have no one be criminalized at all for any of those sex works that’s going on. And as Carissa mentioned, you know, there, the idea would be equality. You need to prosecute the John, prosecute the buyer, the trafficker. Prosecute or bring civil claims against those profiting from it, but not the sex worker. And so that’s, that’s a, that’s a balance. Sex workers will respond and say, well, you’re still stigmatizing what I’m doing and you’re still downplaying, but, but honestly, when you look at the statistics on whether or not this is successful, when you do it this way, you’ll find that it’s not.
Carissa Phelps: Yeah. And I, and I have to just add that I, a lot of people in my community that I work really closely with that have been out there as adults feeling like at that time that they were choosing what they were doing are very offended by the term sex work because they feel like that was never a job. That they were never going to work, that everyday was humiliating and debilitating and kept them trapped. And I know that there are people out there right now that say that it’s empowering and that it’s good for them and they want to do it.
And I think that that’s very few and far between, but the narrative gets blown up because just in 2019, the Soros open society foundation released, I don’t even know how many 50,000 and a hundred thousand dollar grants just to change the narrative around this thing they’re calling sex work. Right? Just to have that term coined and have this idea put out there. So even to have the idea put out there as a mainstream idea that a lot of people want it. It’s offensive to the people who were trapped in it for so many years and psychologically had to do so much work to get out of it. So I want to be careful using even using that term.
Brigida Santos: So what would, educate us, what would a better term be?
Carissa Phelps: Well, someone who was a prostituted person, someone who was a victim of prostitution, somebody who was, you know, themselves commoditized. But I think even prostituted person is a more, as a more of a way of saying that something has, is happening to them.
Brigida Santos: Which is, this is the reality of, you know, human trafficking. This is the reality. It’s not that you’ve made this choice that you’re going to go out and be a commodity and have somebody make money by selling your body. That’s not an empowering thing that anybody would wake up in the morning and, and do, at least most normal people. And the reality, like you said, it’s few and far in between of the people who may wake up and say, actually, this may be lucrative for me.
Carissa Phelps: Well, it’s heartbreaking.
Brigida Santos: That somehow the narrative has shifted into this.
Kim Adams: And it’s, and, and you go back to the term choice.
Brigida Santos: Yes, and a lot don’t have a choice.
Kim Adams: How do people understand choice? Choice is not, I choose to do this necessarily in that line of work or however you want to classify it. It’s maybe they have no other choice. And so the choice of being on the street versus, you know, prostitution may be how they’re identifying choice or they’ve been prostituted as a child and they know no different. Right?
Brigida Santos: Well, and children can’t process that psychology until much later. So if they start getting prostituted as a young child, they may think that it was their choice. But later on they might look back and say, oh my God, I can’t believe this ever happened to me.
Carissa Phelps: Yeah, and for children I would even go as far as not even using prostitute, I would say sexually exploited since they can’t, you know.
Brigida Santos: 100% yes, it’s also illegal.
Carissa Phelps: They can’t even make, yeah. And then there’s child sexual assault happening every time that that is, every time that act is completed, you know, once they’ve been recruited and sold. So, a lot of this goes unaddressed because of the ideas that are out there from Pretty Woman and from this whole glamor, glamorize view that I even didn’t know how to handle as a young survivor. I didn’t know how to handle that. I, I thought that that was okay if I, if I went to college, I could answer a stripping ad and go be a stripper and it would be somehow be safe.
But I quickly found out, no, that’s not the case. That that is, that is just a front for trafficking, more trafficking that happens in that way. So this will create more trafficking and it’ll be this thin layer and I’m, and I’m never going to say that someone can’t give themselves their own label. So if somebody comes on your show and they want to say that they’re a sex worker, then I, but I have to say my disclaimers too of how…
Brigida Santos: And I appreciate the education lesson.
Carissa Phelps: How my friends would feel. But people who’ve come up to me and said, I’m a professional sugar baby, or I’m this, you know, like they, they’re shaking, they’re traumatized still. They’re not processing the fact that they have, when they say that, they’re saying to me, I’m a survivor. At the same time they’re saying it and they literally will say, I’m a survivor of human trafficking and I’m still engaged in this way in it .and from their body language and just from understanding what trauma does, I could see that they’re not given a chance in these organizations that are trying to empower them and put them on, you know, the stage as, as the example of the empowered sex worker. Right? I could see that those organizations don’t truly care about the health of that person. And that’s bothers me. Let’s do services first. Right? Before we do agendas, let’s do services.
Brigida Santos: So let’s talk about some of the services. What services would be helpful in, you know, helping people escape this?
Kim Adams: I think education. I think looking at our child welfare system, first off, there is nearly not enough resources for the children and so they are easy, easy targets. And so I think developing that better. What are the avenues? What are the safe spaces? What are the homes? What are the ways that children can get their education, get protection and, and live a childhood, be a child, have an opportunity to be a, be a child? There are so few safe houses for victims of child trafficking. You may look at a handful of them, and they have six beds in the whole thing. And you have to really invest in that. That’s not, you go in like a, for a week and you’re healed.
That is, you have to kind of create the path for months and months, if not years, to help that child get out. So I think that is a service. And, and finding ways that sex workers, and now Carissa can speak even better to this, have, have a way trafficking survivors, prostitution, whichever direction it’s in, have a way to exit out. And what jobs can they get? What tools can they get? What skills can they get to where they feel as though they’re not being stigmatized, criticized and looked down on again?
Brigida Santos: Yeah. And again, this brings me back to the point that the most marginalized people in society often find themselves in positions where they are so desperate that they must go into this, you know, but
Brigida/Kim: They won’t call it a profession.
Brigida Santos: But they will get in a place where they’re easily a victim of trafficking. You know, poor people, people who are undocumented, people with mental or physical disabilities, children.
Carissa Phelps: But also very beautiful people who are away from home for the first time, who always wanted to be a model and their parents told them go to college anyways. My friend Rachel Thomas, who shares her story, you know, her mom’s a, an attorney, her dad is a deacon. And she went away and had this opportunity from a business person who ran a modeling agency that quickly turned into trafficking and there was a federal case brought against him.
And it’s still it, it’s amazing. It’s amazing how people think they’re insulated from it. And every family I know has somebody, somebody in the almost immediate family whether a cousin, an aunt, somebody that they know who has had this impact their lives. It’s kind of like when, when we first started talking about child sexual abuse openly and more people now share their stories than ever. More people than ever now are sharing their stories. And I’ll go to just a non trafficking event or a non, you know, and I, and I get people disclosing to me things that happen to them that they were never able to talk about.
So, I think that’s the other side of decriminalization that people aren’t realizing. If we just go ahead and have a blanket acceptance of it, then we’re going to keep more people from understanding their own victimization and getting the help they need. And it is a really debilitating thing, I think access, like job opportunities, opportunities to not just because your record is.
Kim Adams: Medical care.
Carissa Phelps: Medical care. There is no, there’s no handicap accessible shelters right now. And people who are vulnerable that may have handicaps, right, are trafficked. So…
Brigida Santos: Yeah, that’s why I’m glad we’re having this conversation. Thank you both so much. Kim Adams, Carissa Phelps, thank you.
Kim Adams: Thank you so much.
Judge Says Facebook Not Immune For Role In Human Trafficking
And finally tonight, some good news. The Texas 14th Court of Appeals rejected a petition by Facebook last week where the social media giant tried to claim that they were immune from a group of lawsuits brought by the victims of human trafficking. In three separate lawsuits, women claimed that they were trafficked by individuals who lured them in by way of Facebook. And the women were suing Facebook for not policing this kind of behavior. We've seen these lawsuits many times, but Facebook thought they were above that. In their petition to the court, Facebook argued that they had blanket immunity for anything posted on the site, and they cited the Communications Decency Act which was a gift by Bill Clinton in 1996. It was a political exchange.
This act does protect internet service and platform providers for being sued for posts that they have no control over. But the judges in Texas said that this new law doesn't apply in this instance. This was an exception. This is one that Bill Clinton did not give this huge gift to the industry. They didn't get away with this, and my prediction is they won't. This is a huge victory in the fight against human trafficking. Many victims have been lured by contacts on social media, and it's time for these social media companies, like Facebook, to either do something to crack down on this problem or suffer very, very severe penalties for their failures. They know exactly what they're doing here. It's all about the dollar.
That's all for tonight. Find us on Twitter and on Facebook at facebook.com/rtamericaslawyer. You can watch all RT America programs on DirecTV channel 321, and also stream them live on YouTube, and be sure to check out RT's great new portable app. You're going to love this app because you can watch all of your favorite shows in any area of the world. I'm Mike Papantonio, and this is America's Lawyer where every week we tell you the stories that corporate media is ordered not to tell because their advertisers order them not to tell those stories. Have a great night.
The First Human Trafficking Lawsuits Are Underway In Ohio
Mike Papantonio: Human traffickers aren't able to operate without corporations covering for them. Some of these companies are accomplices, while others simply turn a blind eye to the abuses happening right in front of them. But either way, these companies won't be able to hide for much longer. Joining me to talk about this is attorney Kim Adams, who is on their trail with Carissa. Kim, I love what's happening with this lawsuit. I like the players, the experiences being brought to this national case. I want to talk about ECPAT. What is ECPAT and why is it important to this case?
Kim Adams: So, ECPAT stands for End Child Prostitution and Trafficking. And it's important because in 1990, this organization got together way ahead of most people and said, "We need some guidelines. We need these businesses to be held accountable because we know that that's where it starts." And so, they created certain guidelines and training programs, all of these things, where businesses could say, "I'm going to enter into this. I'm going to give my public pledge to help end trafficking."
Mike Papantonio: Okay. So you've got industry that, it's really a funny thing, I mean, it's a great thing, that since we filed this lawsuit, since you and Carissa filed the lawsuit up in New York, excuse me, up in Ohio, it's almost like all of a sudden everybody's paying attention.
Kim Adams: That's right.
Mike Papantonio: You have the hotel industry. What's happening with the hotel industry? What are corporations doing right now? It's almost as if they've had a wake up call. What is it?
Kim Adams: I think they've had a wake up call. They're, again, pledging to make right on their promises to try to put a stop to trafficking. They're trying to let the public know, "We're doing training programs. We're going to let everyone know that trafficking doesn't exist in our hotels," something they should have been doing when they made that pledge 20 years ago and they have not done. So, I think we're seeing the public communication again, the hopefully not empty pledges, but what has been tried and true of empty pledges. And so, I think that we're hopefully going to see some changes there.
Mike Papantonio: Well, let me tell you about empty pledges. Our law firm handled the tobacco litigation when it first started. As a matter of fact, we wrote the first legislation that launched the tobacco litigation. As soon as we did that, we had these ads coming out from the industry that made it look like they really care-
Kim Adams: That's right.
Mike Papantonio: ... made it look like, "Oh man, we're all in. We're so sorry about what we've done," but they made billions and billions of dollars for decades knowing exactly what they were doing. I don't see any difference here.
Kim Adams: No.
Mike Papantonio: I mean, God bless them. I'm glad the hotels are saying, "We can do better." If you go through an airport nowadays, everybody's talking about, "If you see trafficking..." That didn't just happen.
Kim Adams: No.
Mike Papantonio: They understood they're a target. Matter of fact, Atlanta's a great example. The trafficking takes place in Atlanta, right there, that hotel. People come from all over the world, converge in Atlanta, stay a few hours with trafficked individuals and then go back home.
Kim Adams: That's right.
Mike Papantonio: So, they've known this has been going on a long time. What are the claims?What are these claims that you're bringing and who can bring these kinds of claims? You and Carissa are all out front on this.
Kim Adams: Right. So, our claim is set around the Trafficking Victim Protections Act. We've had this act for a long time. It's gone through a number of modifications. It's important though, because it allows our survivors to finally have a voice against businesses and people who are benefiting financially from their trafficking.
Kim Adams: One of the common misconceptions by our survivors is that they feel like they've got to reopen this wound against their trafficker and that's not what we're after here. We're following the money, we want to see real change, and we want our survivors to have a real voice against these businesses who, as you've already alluded to, have made millions and millions of dollars off of their suffering for years. And that's what we're doing.
Mike Papantonio: One thing that I see a difference here, I don't know that there's ever been a Carissa.
Kim Adams: Right.
Mike Papantonio: I don't know if there's ever been a Carissa that, A, is a lawyer, lived through trafficking, understands all the nuances, is an MBA on top of that, is an author on top of that. She has empowered these women.
Kim Adams: That's right.
Mike Papantonio: She's able to get on the telephone and say, "I went through this and the thing to do, so nobody else goes through it, is engage yourself in a lawsuit." And right now she's traveling all over the country, talking to... And some of these stories that I'm hearing are the most... You take the calls every day. You take-
Kim Adams: Yeah, oh yeah. We hear stories of victims who said, "I wish that doorman, that clerk at the desk, that manager who was getting a kickback, that trafficker who was getting a discount at that hotel, that hospitality worker who came in and cleaned my room and saw the evidence of trafficking all over that room, I wish just one of those people would have taken notice of what was going on."
Kim Adams: And you're absolutely right, Carissa comes in with such a degree of knowledge, and skill, and compassion, and trust, and I think that that's what our survivors are finally realizing. We are here for the right reasons. Our first priority is to see change. Our second priority is to make sure that the public's perception of these victims is no longer a victim shaming world, that you hear them and you listen to them first. Then our survivors will tell you, last on their list is some kind of recovery for the years of pain and torture they went through. That's our-
Mike Papantonio: How do you ever? Yeah.
Kim Adams: Yeah.
Mike Papantonio: There's no way to get those years back.
Kim Adams: No, there's not.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. So give me quickly, what is your plan? Y'all have filed the first cases in the country-
Kim Adams: That's right.
Mike Papantonio: ... up in Ohio.
Kim Adams: That's right.
Mike Papantonio: Your goal is hotels, trucking industry. I mean, go on. There's so many-
Kim Adams: Any industry that's benefited financially. Any industry, any business that has benefited financially, knowing where they were getting their benefits from, that's our target. That's the industry that we're going after. Right now, we have many, many cases after the hospitality industry. They're the first on our list. Those are the first complaints that we filed, but there are other industry in line and we fully anticipate-
Mike Papantonio: Will you let me take the first several depositions?
Kim Adams: I sure will, yeah.
Mike Papantonio: Because, I'm going to make some folks suffer.
Kim Adams: Right.
Mike Papantonio: Thank you for joining me, Kim, okay?
Kim Adams: Thank you so much.
Petition Looks To Hold Hotel Industry Accountable For Profiting From Human Sex Trafficking
Mike Papantonio: A panel of federal judges ruled against an effort to consolidate and centralize hotel sex trafficking lawsuits. The petition aimed to hold these hotels accountable for profiting off the backs of women and children by hosting sex trafficking and prostitution on their property. I'm joined now by attorney Steve Babin, who specializes in human trafficking law. Steve, I think this was a surprise to everybody. I don't think this court's over with this. I think they're going to look at it again, hopefully, but this first decision, it does cause some problems for trying to solve this trafficking problem, doesn't it?
Steve Babin: I think it causes some problems, but we have a path forward. I think that what happened was the panel failed to recognize the breadth and scope of the issue was one problem and also that there is a what the common question of fact was with respect to all of these cases.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Well, a lot of times a panel of judges is they're posed a question, they're not in the middle of the fight. So I think your next step, this is not over. This is just the beginning, isn't it? What is your next step? What do you want to do next to keep this trafficking case moving because it is heavily a hotel issue. It's a trucking company issue. It's an airlines issue. Interesting to me, the airlines are doing something about it. The airlines, if you walk through Atlanta airport, you hear time and time again, the idea of about if you suspect trafficking is taking place, call 911 right this minute, right?
Steve Babin: Yeah. And it's really a hotel industry too. 92% of trafficking occurs in hotels. So the path forward is we're going to continue to file lawsuits. We're going to file class action lawsuits against the hotel industry and we're going to bring the industry to the table whatever way we have to. We will approach the panel again and seek consolidation, but we'll have a multi level attack against the hotel industry.
Mike Papantonio: Well, the advantage of the consolidation is you have one judge that's looking at all the facts for the entire nation. It's called an NDL. That's, matter of fact, how we're trying to solve the opioid crisis. That's how we solve hundreds of major complex cases where you have one talented judge making decisions about the evidence,, about what's admissible about what the companies did. And that's what you were asking for here, right? You're asking to say, "Can you please put this in front of one judge?" And that was up in Ohio, correct?
Steve Babin: That was up in Ohio where I am. And yeah, that's exactly right. You can have one judge see the entire problem and hear what the problem is, is it's the same across the board. It's the deliberate, repeated refusal to implement policies and procedures that would catch and prohibit sex trafficking from occurring on the premises. And the brands say, "Well, we couldn't recognize or control sex trafficking." And I think that argument is untenable. The reality is if somebody walked in, a man walked in, who's in his ... whatever age the guy is, with six girls in their twenties and paid for cash in hotel rooms for week long stays, you got to know something's going on.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. You've asked us to be involved in the trial of these cases. We will be trying these cases. I think that what's going to happen here, and this is unfortunate, but the companies who know they've done wrong are going to be hiding behind the companies who kind of tried to do this right. Some companies, hotel companies, airline companies, trucking companies, they've come up with standards and they say, "These are the standards we're going to follow because we know in the hotel industry, 97% ..." Tell me if I'm wrong about it. It's 97% of all human trafficking, primarily of children takes place in hotel rooms. In Atlanta, for example, they bring kids in to Atlanta, central location, people fly in from all over the world to actually be involved with sex trafficking. They all meet there in Atlanta. They're there for two days and then they leave. The airlines industry knows that, the hotel industry knows that, and you're asking the hotel industry to step up and do their job, right?
Steve Babin: That's right. To step up and do their job and not only write down policies, but to implement those policies as well across the board.
Mike Papantonio: What will the class action allow you to do? To me, if I think of your class action that you're filing, it allows lawyers to do discovery, to take depositions, to go after documents that show that the hotel industry clearly knew what was going on. Even though this panel decided now's not the time, when we get those documents and we can show them more, don't you kind of feel like everything falls into place.
Steve Babin: Everything should fall into place and what the class action does is exactly what you said. It lets us ask questions and determine how much did you know and did you know? And what we will find is they absolutely did know.
Mike Papantonio: Steve Babin, I promise you I'll go after them with you, okay?
Steve Babin: All right.
Mike Papantonio: Thanks for doing this.
Predators Targeting Minors With Dating Apps & Combating Hotels Profiting From Human Trafficking
Mike Papantonio: Congress has announced an investigation into the safety of dating apps, for reportedly allowing registered sex offenders and minors to use free digital dating services. The investigation comes in response to media reports about sexual predators using dating apps to lure and attack minors. RTs Brigida Santos joins me now with another one of her stories, she's always at the edge of a story like this.
Mike Papantonio: So give me the edge on this one Brigida. We saw stories like this about six months ago, and then they disappeared, now this story's back in play because people are now saying, "Let's investigate." What's your take on this story?
Brigida Santos: Yeah, and at least there is an investigation right now. The chairman on the sub-committee on Economic and Consumer Policy, has launched an investigation into the use of free online dating services by minors, and the presence of sexual predators on those same dating sites. The inquiry comes in response to those reports that you were talking about, that many popular dating apps are allowing registered sex offenders to use them, while the paid versions of those same apps screen out those registered sex offenders.
Brigida Santos: The committee has asked several dating services to produce documents about their policies and procedures for determining and verifying the age of their users, whether registered sex offenders or people convicted of violent crimes can use their platforms, how they determine whether someone is a minor or a sex offender, and to submit all consumer complaints related to minors, statutory rape, sexual assault, or rape. Some dating services that have been asked to deliver those documents include the Meet Group, Grindr and Bumble, as well as the Match Group, which owns most major online dating services including Tinder, OkCupid, Hinge and Plenty of (Fish).
Mike Papantonio: You know Brigida, I remember doing this story maybe it seems like a year ago, and what we were hearing is, "Well, you're giving us anecdotal information, these are just hypothetical stories, these aren't real life stories, you're embellishing what might happen." The stories that Congress is hearing right now, these are real cases. I mean, these are really, really bad cases, aren't they? Talk about that.
Brigida Santos: Yeah, they're not hypothetical anymore. There are many disturbing stories. Teenagers are accessing free dating apps by simply lying about their ages. Sites like Tinder claim that they block underage users, but they really don't. And to give you an example of a real life case, a Missouri man recently pled guilty to third degree child molestation, after he was charged with sodomy, statutory rape, and kidnapping an 11-year-old girl on a dating app.
Brigida Santos: Because these sites are often international, these apps, similar incidents are also being reported all around the world. For example, the UK has discovered dozens of instances of pedophiles using dating apps to abuse and prey on children, some of them as young as eight years old. This brings me to the next issue, these dating services don't conduct background checks on users. While the companies absolutely hold some responsibility, parents need to be aware that giving their kid a Smartphone will give them access to these apps, and they need to take measures to make sure that their kids know about the dangers of them, and that their kids don't get access to them.
Brigida Santos: Several companies have also been accused of selling and sharing users personal data, so they're looking into that as well.
Mike Papantonio: Brigida, my next guest up after you actually, is going to talk about the relationship between these dating apps and child trafficking, human trafficking, and it's inescapable. These apps are also being used as the go-between for what they call, The Romeo Take. That's where you start off, somebody believes that they're falling in love with somebody, "Meet me someplace," and then these things are used for human trafficking in a big way. So the next one we're going to do, is we're actually going to talk about that, but the investigation is going to be looking into how these companies collect and share user's personal data, which is incredible. They're sharing it wherever they want, and they're taking advantage of it any way they want, what can you tell me about that?
Brigida Santos: Well, the Committee on Oversight and Reform, says that American consumers may not receive adequate notification of the commercial use of their sensitive personal information from these dating apps, including sexual orientation, gender identity, drug and alcohol use, employment, political views, and so on. It is asked that the companies submit all documentation on their data collection practices, and any information about the third parties that they're sharing that personal data with. And that's all well and good, but I'd like to see Congress also do the same for other internet companies that are also collecting data.
Mike Papantonio: Last question Brigida, is there any question in your mind, that these apps know exactly what they're doing, that they understand exactly how this is being abused, both as to this and the human trafficking? What's your take?
Brigida Santos: Yeah, there's no question to it, they absolutely know, especially because of all the news stories that have come out revealing it. So if they are saying that they didn't know before, they certainly know now, and it doesn't seem like they're taking any measures at this point to really crack down and try to stop this abuse that's going on.
Mike Papantonio: Brigida Santos, keep busting them up on this, this is an important story. Thank you for joining me, okay?
Brigida Santos: Anytime Mike.
Mike Papantonio: A panel of Federal Judges ruled against an effort to consolidate and centralize hotel sex-trafficking lawsuits. The petition aimed to hold these hotels accountable for profiting off the backs of women and children, by hosting sex-trafficking and prostitution on their property. I'm joined now by attorney Steve Babin, who specializes in human trafficking law.
Mike Papantonio: Steve, I think this was a surprise to everybody, I don't think this court's over with this. I think they're going to look at it again, hopefully. But this first decision, it does cause some problems for trying to solve this trafficking problem, doesn't it?
Steve Babin: I think it causes some problems. We have it packed forward. I think what happened was, the panel failed to recognize the breadth and scope of the issue, was one problem, and also that there is a, what the common question of fact was, with respect to all of these cases.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Well a lot of times, a panel of judges, they're posed a question, they're not in the middle of the fight. So I think your next step... This is not over, this is just the beginning, isn't it? What is your next step, what do you want to do next to keep this trafficking case moving, because it is heavily, heavily a hotel issue, it's a trucking company issue, it's an airlines issue. Interesting to me, the airlines are doing something about it. The airlines, if you walk through Atlanta Airport, you hear time and time again the idea about, if you suspect trafficking is taking place, call 911 right this minute, right?
Steve Babin: Yeah. And it's really a hotel industry too. 92% of trafficking occurs in hotels. So the path forward is, we're going to continue to file lawsuits, we're going to file class action lawsuits against the hotel industry, and we're going to bring the industry to the table whatever way we have to. We will approach the panel again, and seek consolidation, but we'll have a multi-level attack against the hotel industry.
Mike Papantonio: Well, the advantage of consolidation is, you have one judge that's looking at all the facts for the entire nation, it's called a NDL. That's as a matter of fact, how we're trying to solve the opioid crisis, that's how we solve hundreds of major complex cases, where you have one talented judge making decisions about the evidence, about what's admissible, about what the companies did. And that's what you were asking for here, right? You were asking to say, "Can you please put this in front of one judge," and that was up in Ohio, correct?
Steve Babin: That was up in Ohio where I am. And yeah, that's exactly right, you can have one judge see the entire problem, and here what the problem is, is it's the same across the board. It's the deliberate, repeated refusal to implement policies and procedures that would catch and prohibit sex-trafficking from occurring on the premises. And the brands say, "Well, we couldn't recognize or control sex-trafficking," and I think that argument is untenable. The reality is, if somebody walked in, a man walked in whose in his, whatever age the guy is, with six girls in their 20s and paid for cash in hotel rooms, for week-long stays, you've got to know somethings going on.
Mike Papantonio: Okay, you've asked us to be involved in the trial of these cases, we will be trying these cases. I think what's going to happen here, and this is unfortunate, but the companies who know they've done wrong, are going to be hiding behind the companies who try to do this right. Some companies, hotel companies, airline companies, trucking companies, they've come up with standards and they say, "These are the standards we're going to follow, because we know in the hotel industry, 97%," and tell me if I'm wrong about this, 97% of all human trafficking, primarily with children, takes place in hotel rooms.
Mike Papantonio: In Atlanta for example, they bring kids into Atlanta, central location, people fly in from all over the world to actually be involved with sex-trafficking, they all meet there in Atlanta, they're there for two days, and then they leave. The airlines industry knows that, the hotel industry knows that, and you're asking the hotel industry to step up and do their job, right?
Steve Babin: That's right, to step up and do their job, and not only write down policies, but to implement those policies as well across the board.
Mike Papantonio: What will a class action allow you to do? To me, if I think of your class action as you're filing, it allows lawyers to do discovery, to take depositions, to go after documents that show that the hotel industry clearly knew what was going on. Even though this panel decided now is not the time, when we get those documents and we can show them more, don't you kind of feel like everything falls into place?
Steve Babin: Everything should fall into place. And what the class action does, is exactly what you said, it lets us ask questions, and determine how much did you know, and did you know? And what we will find is, they absolutely did know.
Mike Papantonio: Steve Babin, I promise you, I'll go after them, okay?
Steve Babin: All right.
Mike Papantonio: Thanks for doing this.
The Global Human Trafficking Industry Targeting Migrant Women & Children
Papantonio: The reports are coming almost daily, headlines showing how human trafficking is impacting people across the planet. In the United States, immigrants, they're looking for better life. That's really all they want. It includes women and children and. In the end, they're coerced and they're sold into sex slavery. The most vulnerable around the world are being victimized.
Papantonio: Legal journalist Molly Barrows is here with more to talk about this issue. Molly, we hear about human trafficking, we see movies like Taken, and we think we understand everything about it, where most people are so far off on understanding how bad this is. How widespread is this problem? This is a new industry, isn't it?
Molly: It is global. Certainly, to a great extent, it's not new in the history of the world as far as governments and those that are in organized crime taking advantage of people who are vulnerable in these. In these times, you're talking about populations that are, whether they're migrants coming from North Africa, whether they're women and children in North Korea, even migrants seeking a better life coming into this country, they're all being taken advantage of. It's women and children that are predominantly the victims. Basically, the way it works is, for instance, migrants trying to come into the United States will pay thousands of dollars to a smuggler. Sometimes their families sell everything they have. Maybe the cost is 40,000, so they sell everything they have to give them 10,000 with the idea that the person, once they get there, will be able to contribute to this. Once they're there, they have no resources, no friends and family. They're essentially isolated, don't even speak the language, and then these smugglers take advantage and recoup their costs through sex slavery and forced labor.
Papantonio: Here's what we're seeing. As you know, we're handling some of the biggest human trafficking cases in the country. What we're seeing is these companies being set up. The company is set up to say, do you want to learn a job in the service industry. Might take place in the Ukraine. These young women come in. Yeah, I would love to learn the service industry. They come to United States. Maybe they work for a restaurant for the first week. The second week, the people who are bringing them in on H2B, H2A kind of visas, what they do is they say, "Well, you know, you're probably not making enough money. Why don't you dance at this strip club tonight and you'll make some more money." That moves, "Why don't you work at this massage parlor. Oh, by the way, you're really attractive. Why don't you become an escort."
Papantonio: The interesting thing is these companies are set up to do that. They sell education. You can be better educated. We can teach you how to be a member, how to work your way up through the industry, service industry. How would you like to be an au pair? You want to be an au pair? They get to the United States under these special visas that the government provides, and then the government does nothing, nothing at all to follow up on whether or not this type of thing is taking place. It really is slavery in plain sight. That's what it is. It's slavery and plaintiff
Molly: You're exactly right. It's happening in country after country. Over in North Korea, two and a half million victims, mostly women and children that are being sold into sex slavery in China. In North Africa, they're leaving places like Libya and other countries to escape poverty and war torn countries. Again, they're relying on these smugglers who are basically just organized criminals in disguise that are taking advantage of these and they're exploiting them. They're selling them and they're selling them into forced labor, but most of the time it is children who are the biggest number of victims. Out of Africa alone ... You hear about it with everything, them being kidnapped and used in these wars, taught how to shoot guns. For the most part, it's these young girls that are being used and trafficked. It is men who are the consumers. It is men worldwide who are the customers. It is really just amazing that we have found, through your firm, the way to go after these people litigation wise, legally, to be able to expose how they're profiting off this human tragedy.
Papantonio: Here's what we're seeing. It's about a $50 billion a year business. The reason it's such a big business is this as a reusable commodity. Okay, if you sell cocaine, you can only sell at one time.
Papantonio: But if you sell people ... One case that we're seeing is where truck stops all throughout the United States, they're moving girls. A lot of Sudanese, a lot of Mexican young ladies being moved from truck stop to truck stop all over the country. We're seeing it in casinos in places like Vegas, where up on the tenth floor they'll have an entire floor devoted towards keeping these women there for the high rollers.
Papantonio: This is slavery in plain sight. What we better be doing is, if we're going to bring in somebody on a H2B visa, there's some responsibility to follow up and say what happened to that person three weeks later.
Molly: Can the government be also put in the cross hairs?
Papantonio: No, they can't. Unfortunately, they've got an immunity. All these corporations that are participating, that's who we're going after. Thanks for joining me, Molly.
Molly: Thanks Pap.
Human Trafficking Growing At A Rapid Rate In America
Mike Papantonio: Human trafficking is a problem that's getting worse around the globe. In the United States, the number of people being forced into modern day slavery is growing at an alarming rate. And so far, lawmakers and law enforcement officials have barely made a dent in the number of people being bought and sold. But today, trial lawyers are trying to change the landscape and hold the businesses that are aiding human traffickers, hold them accountable for their actions. Here's how bad the problem's become. In the U.S., cases of human trafficking have increased in all 50 states. A similar trend is happening all over around the globe and while there's certain groups that are more at risk than others, the sad reality is it can happen to anyone, any time, anywhere.
Mike Papantonio: Reports show that illegal human trafficking has now surpassed the illegal sale of transport of firearms across the globe. It has turned into a 32 billion dollar industry. Joining me to talk about that is Rebecca Timmons. And Rebecca, look. You're at the front of this right now. This is, you can't say it's new litigation coming out of the civil end of this, but it is relatively new. Where you have civil lawyers, trying to step in and fill the gap for what's been left out there by government or law enforcement. So as you're looking at, give me your idea of how you would quantify human trafficking. What is human trafficking? Give us an idea what the problem is and how bad it is today.
Becca Timmons: So human trafficking is the use of fraud, force or coercion to force somebody into some form of forced labor, whether that's commercial sex, forced labor in other sectors of agriculture or restaurant business or hospitality business.
Mike Papantonio: In other words, there's no one definition. It could be, you can have purely sex trafficking. You can have sex trafficking/labor trafficking. You can have labor trafficking. And there's kind of a specialty in each area, isn't there? There are people that, it's almost like a corporate structure, isn't it?
Becca Timmons: There is. I mean, a human trafficking victim, they can be picking vegetables. They can be cleaning hotel rooms. They can be forced into prostitution. It takes all kinds. It comes around in all kinds of different forms and fashions.
Mike Papantonio: Who are the victims? We have this notion. We see the movie Taken and you've got Liam Neeson playing out this part where his daughter's been trafficked and we think this is the unique way this happens. People are just pulled off the street and they are, but the way. They are. That story is actually based on some real life cases of women who have been trafficked. But it also falls into other kinds of victims, doesn't it? Who are the people that we expect to be targeted?
Becca Timmons: All right. Well even human traffickers, they're predators. They don't care about how young a victim is, their socioeconomic status, their ethnicity. Anybody can become a human trafficking victim, but when it comes to the most disturbing form of human trafficking that's going on in the United States, which is the sale of children for sex, overwhelmingly those victims are homeless children. And these are kids, Mike, they're victims before they're even trafficked. They've come from homes with physical abuse, sexual abuse and verbal abuse, all before they get put up on a corner to work.
Mike Papantonio: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay. So in other words, you've analyzed this case and you're obviously handling these cases and will be for a while because this is a new area of litigation, relatively. You have some lawyers out there that have done a really good job. As a matter of fact, they're going to be in a program that I'm doing out in Las Vegas, where we're actually presenting how bad human trafficking is. We're reaching out to civil trial lawyers and saying to them, "Get involved." The point is this, in order for a trial lawyer to understand they can help, they have to understand who are these people? Who are the people that do this? Where do they come from? How are people brought into human trafficking? Just give me a, I guess, like a 10,000 foot list of what it looks like.
Becca Timmons: Well human traffickers, they use the same tools and infrastructure that you and I use every day. They use airlines, hotels, to carry out their criminal enterprise. But the most powerful tool that a human trafficker uses to lure victims is the internet. Often, they will find victims on social media and whether it's promises of friendship or relationship or just attention, that's how they gain the trust of the victim. Then, the traffickers will turn around and sell the victims on marketplaces online. So they-
Mike Papantonio: So it's not just a product of a pimp bringing a girl into the business. The calls we're getting now, this is an amazing thing that we're actually seeing the edge of. It's called the Romeo predator. Explain what the Romeo predator is. How does that work? How does it bring people into this trafficking business?
Becca Timmons: Oh. We most often see the Romeo predator in child sex trafficking. And that's where a human trafficker will make contact with a victim and lead them to believe that they will be treated special and that they will have a special relationship and that their lives will be much improved by reaching out to this predator and becoming involved with them.
Mike Papantonio: And the place they send this Romeo predator, is this... If I'm to guess, this is one of the most common things that I've seen as we've started looking at this litigation. It is where they send out some good looking kid. You've got somebody on the street. They approach that child on the street. The homelessness, for teenagers on the street, it's an appalling number.
Becca Timmons: Yeah.
Mike Papantonio: You probably know the number. I don't know it off the top of my head, but it's an appalling number. But at any rate, the Romeo then approaches that person, brings them in, gets their confidence, says I'm going to make your life better. And then almost step by step, in little gradient steps, brings them into trafficking. Is that kind of how you see this?
Becca Timmons: Yeah. It's a very accurate description of it.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. What have we done for as far as laws? I mean, what is it that we're doing now to actually have any effect on all this? It seems to me that the internet process, the internet system, has gotten a free pass. I think Twitter's gotten a free pass. I think Facebook's gotten a free pass. We saw Backpage hit.
Becca Timmons: Right.
Mike Papantonio: Backpage was closed down. These are internet services. This is not the dark web we're talking about, is it? Explain the differences here.
Becca Timmons: Right. So human trafficking can happen on the surface web and the dark web.
Mike Papantonio: When you say the surface web, that's a web anybody can use?
Becca Timmons: That's the internet you and I know. What we can access with our browsers on our desktops, your Google, your Facebook. You can type in an address in a search engine and it will take you there. The problem with monitoring the surface web and the issue that prosecutors and trial attorneys have come across is that it takes a lot of manpower to monitor every single post on a third party platform and parse out what is a legitimate ad and what's an illegal one.
Mike Papantonio: Right. Okay. Well let me interrupt you there because I think really what we're seeing is the attitude of trial lawyers that are looking at this and saying, "You know what? I don't care. I don't care that it's difficult." If you build a car, right? You have to have brakes that work. So what does that do? Putting brakes that work cuts into the profit margin to run the car, to buy the car, to have a car that works. You have to have steering that works. That cuts into the profit margin because it has to be done right. I have very, very little sympathy for the internet argument that, "Gee. It's just overwhelming. We can't do this." Sorry, you're in the business. There's AI that's out there, that you could use. Artificial intelligence that you could use. There's monitoring programs that can be used. They're very expensive and yes they may cut into your profit margin, but it's something we have to do. What is your take on that?
Becca Timmons: Well the AI tool is very exciting. The Defense Advance Research Project Agency, DARPA, has actually developed an entire program that is an interface for law enforcement agencies to search the web, to not only find ads of human trafficking victims, but also to locate the people who created them.
Mike Papantonio: Right.
Becca Timmons: So now we've, essentially we're starting to outsmart the human traffickers by relying on this great wealth of technology and this great resource.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. So you've got surface internet. As you say, everybody's got it. My position is, I don't know what your position is, but my position as this litigation goes forward. I really don't care, Facebook, that you can't keep up with it. If you're in the business, you need to figure out how to keep up with it. It may cut into your profit margin, but you need to figure it out. Dark web, we can do very little about. What is your take on that? Do you agree, disagree?
Becca Timmons: Well, I would 100% agree. Certainly, we can do a lot less on the dark web than we could with the surface web. We have the Department of Defense leading the charge on that. It is a huge technological undertaking. As far as the surface web, those tools used on the dark web could easily be used on the surface web as well, to hold third party, or websites accountable for third party content.
Mike Papantonio: So you see a cause of action there that maybe could develop?
Becca Timmons: Oh, absolutely.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. What are the numbers? Real quickly, what are the numbers that come to your head about trafficking in America? The number of people that fall into that, where do they fall?
Becca Timmons: Well, it's hard to know.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Becca Timmons: It's an illegal, it's a criminal enterprise. So the numbers are always going to come with that caveat of what's reported.
Mike Papantonio: We hear 350,000 a year.
Becca Timmons: Well, you hear 9,000 reported cases last year to the National Institutes of Health Human Trafficking Hotline.
Mike Papantonio: But that's one hotline.
Becca Timmons: That's one hotline.
Mike Papantonio: 9,000 in one hotline. The projections that I've seen tells me that human trafficking across the board, not just children, but the general human trafficking could be as high as 300,000.
Becca Timmons: Oh, of course.
Mike Papantonio: Have you seen that number?
Becca Timmons: Easily.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. So the only tangible evidence we have right now comes from what we see with this hotline. I got to tel you this, outraged by the Wall Street Journal. They have some cat that writes with the Wall Street Journal, trying to say this is about nothing. Well this idiot has done these stories, they call investigative stories, that says this is much overstated. I'd like to know what he's relying on. You've seen the articles. You know who I'm talking about I'm talking about. Not Wall Street Journal, Washington Post. The Washington Post is coming out with this position, "Oh, gee. This isn't as bad as we think it is." It's actually worse. There's new statistics, are showing it's worse than we thought it was two years ago. I mean, are you seeing that develop?
Becca Timmons: Oh, absolutely. And just looking at the testimony of some of the parents of victims and of the victims themselves. There's no denying that this is happening. And there's no way to know the full scale of it. I think it's ludicrous to say that it's overstated.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. I don't think it's overstated at all and I think it's going to continue to get worse. Becca, thank you for joining me. Okay. Good luck on this. You got a lot of work to do.
Becca Timmons: Thank you.
Banks Are Working With Law Enforcement As Human Trafficking Watchdog
Mike Papantonio: Banks are joining the fight against human trafficking, an international business that generates tens of billions of dollars. Banks are in a unique position to track these traffickers, by monitoring suspicious financial transactions. Legal journalist Mollye Barrows joins me to talk about this. As you know, Molly we're, we're launching a human trafficking litigation organization in the United States-
Mollye Barrows: Yes.
Mike Papantonio: ... That is just completely devoted to following human trafficking and prosecuting people involved. Not people, but corporations.
Mollye Barrows: The platforms where they advertise-
Mike Papantonio: Platforms. For example, the first big, I think really big case, it was launched in Texas against the truck stop industry, where I think it's a $43 billion industry, and it's all over the country. And they move these girls from truck stop to truck stop.
Mollye Barrows: Nightmare.
Mike Papantonio: It's a total nightmare. So here, it's an amazing thing. We've talked about using the banks as an avenue to go after. Because they know exactly what's going on.
Mollye Barrows: Yeah.
Mike Papantonio: We launched the cases on terrorism.
Mollye Barrows: Yeah.
Mike Papantonio: And we said the banks, we found out the banks were washing money for terrorists. They admitted it. It's wasn't a guesswork.
Mollye Barrows: That's right.
Mike Papantonio: They admitted it, they signed a document, this is the same thing, isn't it?
Mollye Barrows: It's all about the money. It's always about following the money. And when you follow the money, you're going to find the trafficker, just like you find the terrorist, just like you find the other bad guys that you're looking for, because it's usually about following the money, and that's exactly what's happening here. So most recently, the Financial Action Taskforce, which was created by the G7 some years ago in Paris, has been monitoring human trafficking for some time. And basically, as a lot of financial analysts know, unfortunately the illegal, illicit criminal world of human trafficking is just an extremely lucrative business. It has grown in the past seven years, according to FATF, from a $32 billion a year industry to $150 billion a year. So what happens to that illegally gained money? It needs to be laundered.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, they don't put it in shoe boxes.
Mollye Barrows: Right. They're not sticking it under the mattresses.
Mike Papantonio: Exactly. And what we found then and what we're finding in the terrorism business, where we know... I mean, you've got these banks admitting it. And, even-
Mollye Barrows: They see the transactions.
Mike Papantonio: ... By the way, even after admitting it, there was no prosecution from the DOJ. The biggest banks in the world-
Mollye Barrows: They must be benefiting somehow.
Mike Papantonio: Oh, yeah. It must be. Yeah, we know who's benefiting, the banks and the politicians. But the point is, the Department of Justice actually had them sign a document. In the document, the banks were talking about the fact that yes, we are laundering money. Next, we do know that it has an impact and human lives are lost because of it. Yes, we know that it's a terrorist organization. Even with all that, Holder's Department of Justice did not prosecute one person. Okay?
Mollye Barrows: It's unbelievable.
Mike Papantonio: So is the same thing. They got away with it there, now they're saying there's $100 billion out there. We can make a lot of money by washing these dollars. I mean, that's exactly what's occurring.
Mollye Barrows: That's exactly what it is, and so I think you have agencies like FATF, as well as some US law enforcement agencies, who going back as much as a decade ago, have been utilizing partnerships with certain banks. And in the US it's JPMorgan Chase, Citibank among others, that basically they say, "Hey. We have some red flag indicators that tell us somebody could possibly be laundering money, as a result that was made, as a result of human trafficking. These are the things we want you to look for. Will you let us know?" And they have been doing that. It's been an effective partnership.
Mollye Barrows: Canada, in 2016, launched a financial watchdog group, based on the testimony of listening to the victims of human trafficking, and how everything from different levels of it, just your base pimp, if you will, with maybe a handful of girls, to entire networks and trafficking rings, and they were listening to these victims come forward and say, "I was making all this money, of course, on behalf of what they were doing to me with threats and coercion. And then they would take my money and put it in a deposit late at night." So basically they gave them all these different red flag indicators of small criminal organizations and large ones, and the banks started to work together. I mean, hundreds of tips have come into police.
Mike Papantonio: Well the banks did not work together-
Mollye Barrows: Well in this particular case they did, but you're right. But in general-
Mike Papantonio: In terrorism, they didn't work together because they were making-
Mollye Barrows: They're making money.
Mike Papantonio: ... So much money.
Mollye Barrows: Yeah.
Mike Papantonio: And they only came and said, "Oh, we want to help," after they were caught.
Mollye Barrows: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:04:28].
Mike Papantonio: After they were caught, they started saying, "Well, maybe we should do something about it. Let's see, we've made $50 billion. Maybe we've made enough money. Now we can start being the good guy."
Mollye Barrows: We can feed a few bad guys to you.
Mike Papantonio: Exactly. "We're going to feed some low-end management people." And by the way, did not even get prosecuted there. Mollye, thanks for joining me.
Mollye Barrows: Thanks, Pap.
Large Corporations Help Human Trafficking Exceed Illegal Gun Sales
Mike Papantonio: And that's where the litigation comes in. Right now, lawsuits are developing against the industries that are providing aid and shelter to human traffickers, as well as some of the online communities where these traffickers solicit victims and customers. These lawsuits may be our last best hope to help protect innocent lives from falling into the hands of human traffickers.
Mike Papantonio: Joining me to talk about this growing problem and the possible solutions is attorney Dan Soloway. Dan, start by telling exactly how bad the problem of human trafficking has gotten in the United States. What's your take on that?
Dan Soloway: Sure, Mike. It's bad and it's getting worse. You mentioned it's a $32 billion industry, which is now about 20 to 25% of the worldwide 150 billion industry that is human trafficking. It involves children, women, young girls. The victims are involved in, not just slave labor, but child sex groups. The trafficking itself is becoming such a big problem. We're talking about 1.5 million victims in the United States alone. It's bad. It's getting worse.
Mike Papantonio: Dan, what groups are most at risk? We don't have a very clear understanding of that. We almost think that, "Well, this only happens to people that just aren't careful." I mean, those kinds of crazy rationales are so bizarre, because it really does cross all boundaries, doesn't it? As you've observed this develop, what is your take on that?
Dan Soloway: The most upsetting thing is that children make up 25% of the sex trafficking victims. 75% of all victims are women and girls. We're talking about runaways. Runaways make up one out of every six of the victims. And if you look at these younger people, so many are killed as a result of this. They die of not just malnutrition and abuse, such as murder, but also suicide, also difficulty, obviously, living the life of a sex victim, with overdosing of drugs and things of that nature. So I would say that children is the upsetting large group and women and girls. They're the most at risk, I think, at this point,
Mike Papantonio: One thing we miss... First of all, we missed the fact that some of the reports are astounding. I mean, some of the reports are that a woman shows up. She thinks she's trying out to be a model. Okay? They take her through these process. "Well, you got to come here once, you got [inaudible 00:03:50] twice." And then all of a sudden they say, "Well, you know what? You got the job, but we need you to go to France, maybe someplace out of Ukraine to France, from France to the United States. We need you to go to these places to help us build your business." So this modeling agency then becomes a vehicle for just passing on this human trafficking.
Mike Papantonio: The other thing that we're hearing more and more about is the hotels in the big cities, especially in casino areas, that in the top of the hotel, somewhere in the hotel, that some of these women are kept there. Obviously, this information is out there, but there seems to be so little that's being done about it. And so it's my hope, and I know it's the hope of you and so many attorneys throughout this country, that we can do something to at least make this less attractive to the people who are making $32 billion a year. What role do businesses play in trafficking, hotels, airlines, restaurants? How are they involved? Where do you see this type of thing?
Dan Soloway: Well, the hotels, obviously, they are the premises on which the sex-trafficking occurs. Hotels and motels, we need to sue them. Airlines transport the victims from the Third World, perhaps, or European countries, over to the United States. So foreign nationals are engaged in the practice here in the United States. Restaurants, obviously, they have slave labor there, but a great deal of the planning goes on there. These are places that are subject to federal and state law. You can go after the predator, but you can also go after anyone that is benefiting financially from the sex trade, from the human trafficking. So that makes everybody involved in, for instance, the premises, subject to lawsuits under state and federal law. Websites-
Mike Papantonio: Not only that-
Dan Soloway: ... we have to go after these websites.
Mike Papantonio: Dan, one thing I find really interesting is that you not only go after the people who own that building, you go after the building. In other words, if they transport from Albania to New York, they're held in a skyscraper in New York, somebody knows what's happening, going on in that skyscraper. All of a sudden that skyscraper becomes a piece of property that you can attach. You can actually say, "We're going to sell it. This was used for the course of this, and we want the victims to be paid from the money that comes from that sale."
Mike Papantonio: This is a system that these folks don't understand, simply saying, "Well, Joe got caught, but there's 25 people behind Joe that'll take his place." The people at the top understand when they forfeit their property. And the RICO statute on this, it actually carves out special handling for this type of trafficking. You mention online. One part that comes into this a lot is you see some of these online services that are being sued, because they really are the vehicle for people to make all of this happen. Explain that, if you would.
Dan Soloway: Well, obviously, you have certain online predators. They use social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. They hide in plain sight, almost. They use, what I call, verbal kidnapping. They offer young girls, who perhaps are on Facebook, jobs or money to send home to their family, or opportunities in school. So verbally, they are promising those things that people want, even lost love or found love.
Dan Soloway: Pursuing these type of ads on social media sites brings these young people in. And, as you mentioned, it's a bait and switch. They go after, perhaps, a modeling career, when in truth, they are in effect, a slave, made into sex slaves, and they're kidnapped, and they're used for the nefarious purposes in, not just the United States, but all over the world. They're hiding in plain sight. We need to go after them.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Tell us about some of the lawsuits that are developing against these industries, either that they're working with or maybe even turning a blind eye to the human trafficking. You see, it's not acceptable to say, "We didn't know." The question is, should you have known? The question is, did you have enough constructive information that should have told you that this building that you own was being used? You can't simply say, "Well, I don't know. I didn't have any way of knowing." The law really doesn't allow for that. Intent can be read into your actions of even ignoring the obvious. So what do we see happening with some of these lawsuits, Dan?
Dan Soloway: Well, we've got federal anti-trafficking lawsuits that are available. They've relaxed the statute of limitations, so that minors can bring claims as late as age 23. We've got state law claims, whereas you mentioned, you might sue the perpetrator for such things as battery or assault, but you can sue the hotels, the people that put these people up, because they were negligent or careless in allowing this type of sex-trafficking to occur.
Dan Soloway: We have a civil RICO, we've got criminal RICO. We've got companies like Backpage that was put out of business by the federal government and criminal RICO lawsuits brought against the CEO, who's now doing time in prison for conspiracy and laundering drug money. They're finding some of these websites are actually engaged in helping these predators. They say, "Take out words like teen or Lolita." And they call it scrubbing, where they make the verbiage a little less likely to cause law enforcement to grab onto them as the predator.
Dan Soloway: But these are the type of lawsuits that are being brought, state and federal remedies, going after companies, whether they have insurance or not. Like you say, the building itself is valuable enough that you can attach it to pay for the damages that a jury might award in a lawsuit against these places.
Mike Papantonio: Dan you're a specialist when it comes to federal RICO kind of actions. Lawyers representing some of the victims, for example, if Harvey Weinstein had filed RICO cases against the production houses, movie studios, and even law firms that helped cover up this predatory behavior. We should start seeing that same type of development with RICO actions in these human trafficking cases, don't you think?
Dan Soloway: I think we should. If you look at the hotels, for instance, what they're doing is they're already establishing a defense for juries. They are training their staff to look out for these sexual predators. For instance, they say, "Watch out if they pay for cash. Watch out if the door is an exit door inside a hotel room." But what they're doing is using this as a plan so that they can tell jurors that, "We had planned for this. We did the best we could." When in fact, we're finding actual hotel people and motel people are engaged and getting money from... They're benefiting from these sexual predators.
Dan Soloway: So we have to bring claims against it when it is organized, but also when we see anybody, even on an individual basis, benefit financially from what the sexual predators are doing, especially to these child victims. Civil RICO, as well as other state and federal remedies, all need to be brought. This is a way to put them out of business, and lawyers are going to have to do it.
Mike Papantonio: Dan Soloway, thank you for joining me. You happen to live on one of the corridors that comes right... I-10 corridor through the Southern United States is one of the biggest areas for human trafficking. So I can't imagine that you're going to have any shortages of opportunities to do the right thing and bring these people into courtroom, make them pay for what's happened, and maybe slow it down just a little bit, if possible. Thanks for joining me.
Attorneys Mike Papantonio and Archie Lamb Discuss Sexual Abuse By The Catholic Church
Mike Papantonio: For decades the Catholic church has been battling allegations it become a haven for pedophiles and sexual predators. Last week, a grand jury report from Pennsylvania was released that blew up the massive coverups and corrupt behavior the church officials and clergy members had helped engage in to keep these scandals completely from becoming public. What we know right now is that more than 300 different members of the Catholic church in Pennsylvania, over the course of seven years, sexually abused more than 1,000 individuals, nearly all of them young children. The church helped to cover up this criminal behavior with a playbook that helped individual churches keep these dirty secrets while violators were just handed off to a different parish to abuse again.
Joining me now to talk about this grandeur report and the Catholic church’s disgusting history of abuse is attorney Archie Lamb. Archie, start by telling us how widespread is this abuse problem? It seems like every year we hear this story, the media pays attention to it, and then it disappears. You’ve handled these cases, you’re a bit of an expert in this area. Give us your take. How widespread is the problem?
Archie Lamb: Well, it’s all over the world. We looked at Ireland, Australia, Chile, Dominican Republic over the last 10 years all had these massive discoveries of child abuse, pedophilia, in the Catholic church. The playbook that they had to hide is obviously working. Only two cases out of these thousand victims, only two priests have been held accountable.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah you’ve seen the playbook. You’ve actually had to cross examine about that playbook and some of the issues in the playbook. I want to read something. I think this is important. This came from the report. This is just a part of the report. It said, “Despite a priest’s admission to assaulting at least a dozen young boys the Bishop wrote to thank this priest for all that he’s done for God’s people.” Really? Have we gotten to that point to where the church has created a culture that has such little self-awareness that this has been perpetuated not just for decades, for a century. Tell me about your reaction to that? Here again, a priest admits to assaulting dozens of young boys, mostly under the age of seven and the next thing we see is that the Bishop is saying, “Thanks, for all you’ve done for God’s work.” What’s your take?
Archie Lamb: This has been nothing but, throughout the centuries, protection of property and money. That’s it. They knew that they would be embarrassed in the community. They knew in the United States they’d be subject to civil and criminal punishment. You know that hurts? That hurts them at their core financial underpinnings. This is all this plan was, to protect the money of the Catholic church from being held accountable for these crimes.
Mike Papantonio: Okay let me tell you the reaction that I’ve noticed over the years. When you talk to people that have been say to the Sistine Chapel or they’ve been to Rome and they’ve seen this grandiose exhibit of the Catholic church. I mean this is Exhibit A of the Catholic church. They walk away and I’ve heard this so many times, and I’ve been there several times. I ask myself the same question, what is this about? You’ve got something billions and billions of dollars pumped into this culture. The house of the Pope, the Sistine Chapel, all of those trappings. You ask yourself, “Where does that money come from?” Part of the answer is, the goal is to keep that money. You handled a case I recall years ago over in Mobile. I recall in your discussion on that when we talked about it you said, “They just kept throwing money, after money, after money to keep it quiet. Talk about that just a minute.
Archie Lamb: Well what it is, it is indeed a systemic plan to hold off, cover up, in terms of the archbishop in that case came in to defend the priest that was clearly a pedophile because he didn’t want to have to pay money in the case. When they do get caught they will come into confidential settlements. They will not disclose anything at all about those amounts of money they pay. The tragedy here is there were a thousand children abused, that they knew about, that are documented. Only a couple of the priests got caught. We know from having studied pedophilia that if you had a thousand victims named, they’re multiple thousands of victims out there that have still yet to come forward as a result of this Pennsylvania debacle.
Mike Papantonio: Look, explain this playbook. I mean you’ve crossed examined about it, you’ve seen, it really is a playbook. If we find a priest that has sexually assaulted a parishioner these are the things we do. Step one, step two, step three. It begins by discredit, discredit the child who’s been abused. Take it from there.
Archie Lamb: What they do first is, they don’t hire investigators, they don’t do any sort of legitimate investigation of the priest, number one. Number two, they put the blame on the victim. Number three, they refuse to use terms like rape or oral sex in any of the descriptions of the reports that they do. Number three they ship them off to Catholic owned and run recovery places. So that they refurbish the priest and then they will send him to a different parish, and don’t tell that parish of the proclivities of this priest to be a pedophile.
Mike Papantonio: Archie, they even have talking points for the parents don’t they. They even have talking points where they’re pleading with the parents, don’t hurt the church. You’ve been a member of this church for so long, you’re three generations in this church. You’ve always given money to the church. Let us take you to Rome to remind you. Let us have you walk around Sistine chapel to remind you what you’re putting at risk if you don’t get this under control. Get this under control means tell your child to hush. Haven’t you seen that-
Archie Lamb: That’s exactly right. You see in many of the reports where the parishioners are interviewed. You don’t see the outrage of what’s happened to these children. What you see is the defense of the church. They say, “Well the Catholics aren’t the only ones that are doing this.” There are pedophiles outside the Catholic church there’s no question about it, but it’s an institution of pedophilia in the Catholic church and at some point, they have to face that.
Mike Papantonio: It’s become cultural. I almost look at this men in black robes, men in white robes with pointed hats and you go, “Has this become a cult?” If you open up and you say, “Sometimes we have to talk about religion. Sometimes we have to abandon this fear that we have where it comes talking about religion. See, we’re quick to call the Mormons a cult in Utah. For some reason we aren’t willing to say that this whole Catholic church thing, this little club of priests that don’t get married that now we find abusing young children. We’re afraid to say, “Has this become cultish in nature?” When you handled these cases, what’s your reaction? Am I overstating this notion of a cult?
Archie Lamb: No, they use the people’s faith to beat down objection institutionally and they get away with it. It’s worked. Honestly, the tenor of the report of the grand jury as they write and I’ve read most of the 800 pages, is “Well, in 2002, they changed their ways. They kind of have a handle on this now.”
Mike Papantonio: Did you buy that then? I didn’t buy it then.
Archie Lamb: No.
Mike Papantonio: Now we see that was a total lie too. I want to read … this grand jury is incredible. “The grand jury notes example after example where child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests within Allentown,” they said, “These examples highlight the wholesale institutional failure that endangered the welfare of children throughout this whole process in Allentown.” You’ve got the say, the people who are still defending this, these are the faithful followers, they’re still defending it and what they’re doing is, they’re putting these characters, these abusive psychological led characters, that they’re putting them above the health of those children. They’ve been doing that now for decades. They’ve been doing it for a century and we have to say at some-
Archie Lamb: Two centuries.
Mike Papantonio: Two centuries. We have to say, “What does it take? Does it take more criminal prosecutions?” I don’t know how else to solve it.
Archie Lamb: There’s a self analysis done by those in the Catholic church. Critics have had to deal with it and are trying to do something about it and they say that the Cardinals need to be flushed out of the system and start over.
Mike Papantonio: Okay. Rather than flushing out the system, the Catholic church right now, they’re saying that their membership is dropping. That’s what’s happening to the Catholic church. Membership is dropping. They’re seeing that the people who are willing to go into the priesthood are dropping. What they’re finding is, if you really read between the lines is, we’re willing to tolerate almost anything and as you put it, it’s all about the dollar. It’s all about business isn’t it?
Archie Lamb: No question.
Mike Papantonio: The type of abuse that just happened in this church was also, the entire church had to be complicit and what was happening in Pennsylvania. This doesn’t happen and everybody say, “Gee wiz, we had no idea this was going on.” How do you get there?
Archie Lamb: Their recovery centers are in Baltimore, they’re in New Mexico. They go to the same recovery center and then they’re shipped out to a different diesis in a different state whether it’s Texas, New Mexico, many of the priests that had perpetrated these crimes in Pennsylvania had been send to New Mexico and to Texas and performed the same way there because this is a disease.
Mike Papantonio: Right. Okay, there are places around the country, you know the places, when you handle these cases, you go to a place like Boston, it’s such a huge, huge Catholic influence. You go to places like Pennsylvania, huge influence. What’s happened, what’s very apparent is, this is something that actually infects the politics, it infects law enforcement, it affects local politics all the way down to commissioners to all of these people that are willing to say, “Gee wiz, they made another mistake. We caught another sexual abusing priest who’s been abusing children, from what we can see, for decades, they caught another one but you know what? We have to stand tall for what they’ve done because they’ve built this memorial. They’ve built this school.” We see that and you saw it in the case that you handled right there in Mobile didn’t you?
Archie Lamb: Yeah. It’s politically influenced. In other words, there’s a reason that the statute of limitations give them so much freedom to go so long until the witness and the evidence is stale. Mean, the one gentleman’s 83 years old, he’s finally coming forward now. They keep them paralyzed emotionally and culturally with the religion and the faith and shame and it infects law enforcement, it infects politics and the way the people look at them and the stigma associated with their church culture. I mean, it is a very thorough propaganda and a plan, a secret plan that has worked.
Mike Papantonio: All I can tell you Archie is, it’s going to take some people engaging in a perk walk. Law enforcement has got to get tough on this issue before anything really happens.
Archie Lamb: I agree.
Mike Papantonio: Thank you for joining me.
Archie Lamb: Thank you.
Attorneys Mike Papantonio and Kim Adams discuss the USC Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Mike Papantonio: Over the past 20 years, victims of sexual assault and harassment have finally begun seeing their perpetrators face justice in the form of criminal prosecution, and large jury verdicts and settlements. With the surging #MeToo movement just last year, more than 200 powerful people, celebrities, politicians, CEOs and even college administrators have been the subject of sexual harassment or assault allegations, and finally they’re being held accountable for their actions.
But while most of the media attention has been focused on the criminal aspect of sexual assault, there are plenty of civil lawsuits against organizations and institutions that helped to cover up years of abuse. Because we have to remember that it wasn’t just the people committing the assault, but also the organizations that helped cover it up and prevent victims from coming forward to tell their stories.
One of the more highly publicized cases was the story of Larry Nassar, the former medical trainer at Michigan State University, who also worked with USA Gymnastics training Olympians. Nassar is currently serving out the beginning of his 300 year sentence after abusing young women for more than a decade. The institutions that employed Nassar have reached a $500 million settlement with his victims, because they simply chose to ignore the complaints against him.
The list is endless, with the Penn State, the Catholic church and the University of Southern California being just a few of the organizations that either covered up abuse or just chose to ignore it. But as more women and men come forward to expose their abusers, these organizations are finding out that turning a blind eye to this kind of criminal behavior comes with a very hefty price tag.
Joining me to talk about sexual assault litigation is attorney Kim Adams. Kim, most people probably understand the criminal aspect of what’s happening, but they don’t understand the civil litigation side. In general, tell us how these sexual harassment assault lawsuits are being filed, and where do they go after the filing?
Kim Adams: You know, you’re right. Most people understand criminal aspect, criminal conduct equals getting your liberties taken away. On the civil side, which often happens with sexual assault or sexual harassment cases, the victim is permitted to file an assault claim, which some might refer to as the swing, a battery claim, which others will refer to as the actual hit, and then intentional infliction of emotional distress for just outrageous conduct causing emotional distress.
So you’ve got a claim against that actual perpetrator. The problem is sometimes there’s not any money there, right? Insurance policies aren’t going to cover intentional acts. There are other often culprits involved, which you kind of alluded to. Institutions, schools, businesses, and so there’s another arm of that claim. Those allegations normally are negligent hiring or supervision, where schools and/or other businesses and entities knew of a person’s background and sort of put people in harm’s way. Also, you might look at failure to protect the people. They knew that things were happening on their campus, criminal activity, and they failed to put someone there to protect them.
Then the third aspect of ways that you enter the civil system with sexual harassment, would be against employers. There are allegations of quid pro quo. Let me ask you for sexual favors, so that you can keep your job or advance in your job. Also, maybe a hostile work environment, where there’s some kind of sexual demeaning or hostile environment that’s been put upon an employee. Those are ways that you can sort of enter into the civil system.
Mike Papantonio: Nobody’s really talking that much about the University of Southern California. It’s a very important case. Actually, full disclosure were somewhat involved with … Explain that case a little bit.
Kim Adams: Yeah, it’s hugely unfortunate, and it is a very important topic, because people are sending their children to these universities. This doctor was hired to do the gynecological exams for the entire university. He’s been there, and these allegations have been swirling for 15 plus years. The allegations are not just minimal allegations. Yeah, there were some allegations that he had made sort of inappropriate jokes. Okay, maybe that’s unethical, but is it criminal or actionable? But it does further than that. He’s taking his gloves off to perform these exams, he’s taking pictures of these college girls genitalia. He’s making sexually explicit comments about their bodies, all over the last 15 years. These allegations from the nurses that are actually in the room continue to go undocumented, uninvestigated.
So this man’s been able to allegedly perform these acts for a very, very long time. I think you’re going to hear a lot more as the evidence is uncovered on this Southern Cal case.
Mike Papantonio: When I listen to the facts, this is a case that actually developed late. What I mean by that, there was already all of this information out there about Penn State. There was this information out about what was going on with the Catholic church in very specific kinds of ways. There was a ton of information that should’ve said to the people at this university, “Get control of your own university”, because it’s happening right here, and it sounds like it was ignored. It’s very apparent to me that people there understood what was happening. What’s your take?
Kim Adams: Their initial comment and reaction was, “Wasn’t our job to report this criminal conduct. It wasn’t our job to sort of move forward with that. I think that’s clearly just idiocy of not understanding and not having the desire to actually protect the very students that are paying to go there. So I think you’re absolutely right. As this evidence is uncovered, we’re going to see a lot of these actions, and I think Southern Cal’s got a lot of answering to do.
Mike Papantonio: Well, Southern Cal to me, again, what is so amazing … It’s not like these administrators, these people who covered it up, these people who said, “Oh it’s not my job”, it’s not like they have a leg to stand on, because they understand the evolution of all this. They understand how one of these lawsuits come about.
My bet is as we look further and further into this case, we’re going to find that there was very direct knowledge that some of these people who knew about it believed this, “Well, we’ve let it go on too long. If we disclose it now, we’re going to lose our job.” That’s where I really think we’re going to find this case head.
One of the questions that may come up with the #MeToo movement is why the victim didn’t come out publicly sooner. Tell us why women are often afraid to come forward after they’ve been clearly assaulted.
Kim Adams: Right, you hear that a lot. I think there’s numerous psychological articles that are published on it. I think there’s a few things. First, when a woman is violated in that manner, that the shame starts to set in. People don’t really understand it, I don’t think, until you’ve lived it. I think that with that comes, they start to sort of blame themselves. Hey, I smile, I’m friendly, maybe I gave the wrong impression. So they start to shame themselves in that way.
They also start to minimize the efforts of their perpetrator. They say, “Well …”, and sometimes even feel sorry for them. “Well, maybe he had drank a little bit too much, or I should not have put myself in that position.” But I think when you touch on getting past that emotional and that psychological aspect, and you look at the fear, yes, the consequences women fear, losing credibility and losing their credibility by coming out.
They don’t want to be blackballed in their industry because they called out their buddies or their employers or their school’s doctor. They don’t want to be looked at as a troublemaker. “Oh goodness, here now we’re going to have trouble for our organization because you’re alleging these issues happened.” So I think women do tend to keep it close to the vest for a number of reasons. Fear is just one of those.
Mike Papantonio: Do you think the fall of powerful men like Weinstein and Cosby will encourage more women to come forward as part of the #MeToo movement, Kim?
Kim Adams: So, I think that maybe. What #MeToo has done is it’s sort of given a platform for women to understand where the lines are drawn. You mentioned Southern Cal. The doctor’s saying, “I’ve gotta take my glove off because I can’t feel this, that or the other. So they don’t know the differences, right? The nurses know the difference, but the students maybe not know.
So I think that you may see women come forward. You may also see just women start to feel a little more comfortable. The motto for #MeToo was empowerment by empathy. So both men and women now feel like, “Hey, okay this is sort of a safe place for me to go ahead and say, ‘I’ve been exposed to these things,'” And #MeToo has also catapulted that next movement, which is time’s up. We’re not going to tolerate this anymore. Now everyone needs to understand where are the guidelines, where are the boundaries, and this is where they are.
So I think #MeToo has given some positivity. I think there’s been a tad bit of backlash, because unfortunately when it came out on social media and these social media platforms, people were blurring very distinct lines between a clumsy come-on … I think I read one person describe it, and a rape. Those people were being treated the same. I think that we have to be very careful to keep those lines distinct, because they are not the same.
Mike Papantonio: Quickly, Kim, what do women need to know about their rights if they find themselves being harassed or assaulted by a co-worker, a boss or whatever the case might be. What do women need to know?
Kim Adams: So then you know they have an action. They have a recourse. I think first off, some steps is to make sure you document the event document the date, the time, people who may have witnessed it. I think if you get notes, memos, letters, text messages, phone calls, save the evidence. I think understand your workplace’s sexual harassment policy, and make sure that you follow those guidelines, report it. The law permits an employer a chance to correct the incident, correct the wrong. So you need to make sure that you report it. If you don’t report it, you’re not giving yourself much leg to stand on. You’re also not preventing this from happening in the future.
For workplace issues, you have to file complaints with the EEOC. Then maybe hire an attorney to make sure you’ve got an unbiased third party to evaluate the facts that you’re giving them.
Mike Papantonio: Kim, keep up with the Southern Cal case as it develops with you. Keep us in touch with what’s happening. I think it’s going to be a lot more interesting as this develops.
'Perversion Files’ Reveal Pedophile Cover-Up By Boys Scouts Of America
Mike Papantonio: The Boy Scouts of America are being accused of allowing known pedophiles to volunteer as scout leaders for the organization. The accusations are being made by a former member who says one of those pedophiles was relocated after allegedly sexually abusing boys in Georgia.
Joining me to talk about this is RT correspondent, Brigida Santos. Brigida, the person accusing the boy scouts of these charges. He has actually filed the lawsuit. What does the lawsuit say happened to the former member?
Brigida Santos: So the lawsuit says exactly what you said, that the Boy Scouts of America and knowingly allowed a scout leader named Samuel Otts to relocate from Georgia to Arkansas. While he was in Georgia, he was accused of sexually assaulting young boys and when he got to Arkansas, that’s when the plaintiff in this case, William Stevens, says that Otts sexually abused him at least eight times, beginning in 1979 when he was about 10 years old.
Now, Stevens is alleging that the Boy Scouts of America has done a huge campaign over the years to hide any allegations of sexual assault as well as known pedophilia cases within the organization from the members, their parents and the public, so he is now seeking monetary damages from the organization as well as the Arkansas chapter for negligence and abuse. As for the scout leader who was accused of sexual assault in this case, he is believed to be deceased.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah, I mean this is unfolding the same way that it does for Hollywood, the same way it does for the Catholic Church, the same way it does for the University of Southern Cal, I mean it’s all the same kind of mechanism. If you take one of these issues and lay it on top of the other, it always looks the same. We heard early reports that were kicking around about the same problem existing in the Scouts and now something called The Perversion Files. Literally, that’s what it was called, was made public a few years back on that particular organization, the Perversion Files. What are those documents reveal and how does it relate to the recent lawsuit, Brigida?
Brigida Santos: The Perversion Files were initially called the ineligible volunteer files and they were a list of volunteers who had been flagged and mainly for allegations of sexual assault. Now, they were only made public in 2012, thanks to a court order and still the Boy Scouts of America has done a great job at trying to hide it. The LA Times actually put the entire list out in 2012, but a lot of members are still unaware of the existence of this list.
And the reason why it is relevant in this case is because the plaintiff William Stevens says that he first learned about the fact that the Boy Scouts of America knew and had listed his abuser on the Perversion Files list.
Mike Papantonio: And apparently they’re doing the same thing the Catholic Church does. They get caught for some kind of perversion on one place and then they move that person to another place and nobody talks about it.
And the people at the top never get sued. They get to keep their job. See, that’s part of the problem here. It’s all about those people at the top that say, “You know, if we let this out,” it’s like Penn State. This is exactly what happened at Penn State. Penn State, the people at the very top were concerned that they had let it go on too long already and if they disclose it now, they were gonna lose their job.
Well yeah, they’re going to lose their job. They should lose their job. Same things happen at USC. The issue is the same. It plays out the same way every time, and then this other issue, the statute of limitations, for example, keeps coming up as a barrier against former scouts who want to take their abusers to court. For those not familiar with that, explain what that is and how it’s established, this idea of statute of limitation, especially in a sexual abuse case of a minor.
Brigida Santos: So the statute of limitations are laws that are put in place that put a maximum timeframe after an event for which somebody can bring forward a lawsuit and they are initially implemented with the idea that people should file a lawsuit within a reasonable timeframe in order to preserve any type of evidence that might be there. But in this case, the plaintiff says that he had no way to know that the Boy Scouts of America acted negligently and fraudulently until after he had read the publication himself listing the name of his abuser in it. So he is now able to sue on those grounds.
Mike Papantonio: Well, let me point … There’s all kinds of ways to get around the statute of limitation, all kinds of ways. First of all, this is a story that that developed slowly. There’s no … Nobody was put on notice on day one that the … There’s a bunch of perverts running around in the Boy Scouts and that there are sexual abuse issues are taking place around the country. That didn’t just happen all on one day. It’s a progressive amount of information that is fed out to the country.
The second part of it is you look to see what did that organization do to prevent that information from getting out? If they intentionally presented that information getting out, that affects statute of limitations. So just because something happened years ago and you’re just now saying, “Well, I want to do something,” don’t assume that there’s not a case there, I think is the point I’m trying to make. What has the organization done in recent times, Brigida, to deal with these allegations? How have they handled it?
Brigida Santos: They mainly settle. In fact, just this week they settled with another former member who had been sexually assaulted as well, but mostly they just put these people on a probation list. They are still trying to pretend that these files don’t exist. At one point, there were 20,000 people on a secret list of known pedophiles that had infiltrated the organization. So this is a widespread problem and it’s absolutely disturbing that these are children that are in the hands of these pedophiles.
Mike Papantonio: Here’s the real bad news. I used to be a prosecutor. I can attest to the fact it’s very, very difficult to rehabilitate a pedophile. Out of all of the rehabilitation analysis, the pedophile is virtually … It’s very difficult to rehabilitate a pedophile, so nothing gets better simply because you put them away for a while or you put them out of the way. It’s there and it’s a problem. Brigida, thank you for joining me.