The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted their support of Congressman Juan Vargas (CA-51) proposed bill, H.R. 1690, the “Child Protection Act of 2013” also known as “Hazel’s Law” , which attempts to correct a loophole in the federal judicial process.
Congressman Vargas is attempting to amend Title 18 of the United States code to remove the knowledge of age requirement for child sex trafficking cases to ensure a successful and timely prosecution.
Hazel’s Law stems from a case in San Diego in which Hazel was abducted by 41 year-old Maurice Jerome Smith and forced into prostitution. Hazel was a native of San Diego and she was a minor when abducted by Smith who forced her to work as a sex slave.
She was forced to engage in sexual intercourse with multiple men per day.
Hazel was eventually able to escape, contacted law enforcement, which led to Smith’s arrest and prosecution by the United States Attorney’s Office.
It is reported prosecutors had difficulty proving Smith’s knowledge that Hazel was a minor at the time she was abducted delaying the case for over a year.
Smith was eventually convicted and sentenced to a 30 year federal prison sentence. However his sentence would have been much lighter if the prosecution failed to prove Smith’s knowledge of age.
The legislation proposed by Congressman Vargas seeks to strengthen the existing stature barring sex trafficking of a minor by eliminating the knowledge of age requirement which would reflect the same strict liability included in other criminal statues involving the sexual exploitation or abuse of children.
In other words, the sentence would be stiffer for abducting a minor, regardless if the accused knew the victim was a minor or not.