The struggle over what to do with a 15-year-old hooker

Last year, state Sen. Renee Unterman ran into a buzz saw when, as part of legislation designed to address child sex trafficking, she included a provision that would have prohibited the prosecution of those 16 and younger for prostitution.

Because that’s the limit for statutory rape in Georgia – under the presumption that young people cannot give informed consent.

Attorney General Sam Olens. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Attorney General Sam Olens. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Unterman was accused of attempting to legalize prostitution – and the measure died. This year, a House bill again attempts to tackle sex-trafficking. And Attorney General Sam Olens is backing a compromise on the issue of youthful prostitutes, which he explained to Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM).

Listen to the sound here, but below is an exchange that grew rather testy:

Olens: “Section 4 actually deals very ably with this issue. Section 4 provides an affirmative defense. The child can still be charged as a prostitute. But she or he has the ability as what we call an affirmative defense to say, ‘This was not a voluntary action. I was kidnapped. It was under duress, against my will.’ And that provides the appropriate action to assist the criminal justice process.”

O’Hayer: “But doesn’t it put a burden of proof on the child? [Rather] than have the authorities look and automatically say, ‘Oh, this person is 16. This person is a victim.’ In other words, the young person would still have to do some extra work.”

Olens: “You know, these are very fact-pattern specific crimes. For instance, if you show me a 14-year-old who’s from Oklahoma, and the parents have listed them as missing, and three months later you find them in a truck stop where two guys are directing and the girl is scared [for] her life – that’s someone who appropriately has an affirmative defense.

“When you show me someone from Stockbridge, who’s at a truck stop in Henry County, and she was at school earlier in the day and she was at school the next day, then that defense is going to be worthless for her.

“And where the affirmative defense is proper, the prosecutor is going to immediately weed out those cases from prosecution.”

O’Hayer: “But even that young person fits your second example, say the person working at a truck stop near her home or whatever, and doing it apparently voluntarily – she’s still below the age of consent, isn’t she?”

Olens: “She is. But she’s still – in that fact pattern – committing a crime.”

O’Hayer: “But if she’s below the age of consent, isn’t the implication that she isn’t equipped enough to make a decision to commit a crime?”

Olens: “I’d respectfully disagree with you.”

O’Hayer: “Do you expect a lot of young people to be prosecuted, though, under this?”

Olens: “No. I think the affirmative defense will frankly weed out those cases where prosecution is inappropriate. And I think in those cases where the district attorney should prosecute underaged girls, it will occur based on this language. I think it’s frankly the appropriate balance between the concern last year that gave the alleged victims an automatic out, versus the language this year that says, let’s look to the facts.

“Where the girl’s not under own will, it should be a defense. Where a 16 or 15-year-old girl is in fact seeking to be a prostitute, charges are appropriate.”

O’Hayer: “How many young people, though, seek to be prostitutes?”

Olens: “I can’t honestly answer that question.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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36 comments Add your comment

SpaceyG on Twitter

February 21st, 2011
12:26 pm

Can’t wait to see what the bill for dredging Savannah (with no money) looks like. Dear Goddess, save us from the Passions of Sam Olens. Thanks.

Freedom lover

February 21st, 2011
12:31 pm

Why don’t we try legalizing prostitution for adults and see what that does. If one is to establish and age of consent, then the continued illegality of prostitution says that the government owns all of us after that age since it does not respect our ownership of our own bodies. The same of course it true regarding laws against the use of drugs, tobacco, alcohol and the like.

When something is illegal, you end up with more of it, and all the problems associated with the black market. A respect for liberty will deliver a significant number of positive effects and provide the appropriate circumstances to then properly address the aspects of the sex market that involve force, coercion, and violence. And isn’t that what government should be focussed on anyway?

Concerned Citizen

February 21st, 2011
12:39 pm

Thanks to Denis O’Hayer for pushing Olens to give a straight answer. These young girls are the victims here, so matter how you slice it! Go after the “johns;” they are the criminals. If it weren’t for their desires, this business wouldn’t thrive.

Real Conservative

February 21st, 2011
12:47 pm

This conservative takes the conservative position, and that is that prostitution should be legalized everywhere for adults, 18 or over. That said, there should be severe penalties for adults trafficking child prostitutes age 17 or below.

As far as children below the age of consent, without any pressure from an adult, offering his or her services as a sex worker, I agree with Sam Olens that that should be a crime. But I would say that it should be a misdemeanor that could be erased in the system via acceptance of some kind of mental health treatment or alternative education—not prison or juvenile detention.

henry county mom

February 21st, 2011
12:49 pm

What is Mr. Olens take on teen girls that are preyed upon Ray Mc Berry as a teacher, youth minister, etc?

Oh Intown Writer...

February 21st, 2011
12:55 pm

So we have Olens view of things as a “Conservative” politician.
I would have like to have heard the “Democrat” long-term prosecutor’s (Hodge’s) view…

Aquagirl

February 21st, 2011
1:02 pm

That’s right, those wanton 16 year old ‘ho’s are the root of the problem. Tempting all those pimps and johns to exploit them.

Seriously, this is absolutely disgusting. Someone under the age of consent for sex has to prove they were not willfully consenting, even though a 16 year old can’t legally give consent in the first place? WTF?

When people brush off the Sunday sales issue, they need to remember the same people who oppose Sunday sales blame 15 year old prostitutes for enticing 40 year old men—who, by the way, can’t be trusted with the decision to buy a six-pack on Sunday.

What a bunch of sick, sick, people. And the majority of Georgia voters put them in charge. That’s even sicker.

deegee

February 21st, 2011
1:22 pm

In what fantasy world does Sam Olens live? How many 15 year old prostitutes are going to school every day? A 15 year old prostitute has seen more pain in her young life than Sam Olens has seen in his sheltered existence. Why not break the cycle and treat the underlying cause of adolescent prostitution?

Rob

February 21st, 2011
1:24 pm

I see the point of keeping it criminalized for girls under 16. For one thing, it acts as a deterrent for girls when their new “boyfriend” tries to talk them into it. And, maybe it gives the criminal justice system some room for plea bargaining — give us your pimp and your clients and we’ll let you off.

BUT, there need to be some seriously high restrictions on actual prosecutions. These girls are scared. They face threats against themselves and their families for cooperating with the police, even if they are in school every day and look “voluntary.” And the last thing a 14-year-old girl needs is a prostitution charge coming up on any routine criminal background check.

Go after the pimps and johns (where investigations are way underfunded). Go after the rings that keep the business going. But these poor girls need help, not punishment or stigmatizing. The law should be on their side and coming to their rescue.

I heered he was an Ayrab

February 21st, 2011
1:24 pm

Aquagirl,

Someone once said you get the government you deserve.

I bought beer and wine yesterday where I live. Nobody could tell me not to.

enjoy your stay in jawja.

DJ Sniper

February 21st, 2011
1:27 pm

I, too, am in favor of legalizing prostitution for adults and adults only. When it comes to minors though, that’s a whole different story. People who solicit minors for the purpose of purchasing sex need to have the book thrown at them. Hell, throw an entire library full of books at them. As for the girls, there needs to be some sort of safety net to help these children to get out of that lifestyle. I’m sure a lot of them are there against their will.

I can’t tell you how appalled I was last year when the Christian conservative groups tried to make it seem like Renee Utterman’s bill was trying to invite pimps and johns to set up shop here in Georgia.

GaBlue

February 21st, 2011
1:28 pm

Aquagirl,

Nicely put at 1:02. You said what I wanted to, but was too spitting mad to say. Sick, hateful people are in charge of this state, and sick, hateful hypocrites put them there.

Last Man Standing

February 21st, 2011
1:35 pm

GaBlue:

I guess people who dare disagree with you are “sick, hateful hypocrites”? Thank you for reminding me again of the tolerance and respect that liberals exhibit.

Shar

February 21st, 2011
1:37 pm

Aquagirl, I concur. Well said. As for Olens, perhaps he should listen to the law enforcement professionals who insist that allowing them to address underage girls (and boys) with sympathy and assistance instead of threats is the best way to break the death grip the pimp maintains and get those true victims to identify the true perpetrators.

GaBlue

February 21st, 2011
1:37 pm

Last Man Standing,

Stay away from my kids. I’ve warned them about your kind.

deegee

February 21st, 2011
1:49 pm

Fifteen year olds don’t go into prostitution because they are bored. Most have been raped and abused by a family member for years. Placing the burden of an affirmative defense on an adolescent that has been physically and emotionally abused for most of their young life is cruel. It demonstrates an ignorance of the societal problems caused by child abuse.

No Dog in this Hunt

February 21st, 2011
1:56 pm

Nothing in Sam Olens statements or the proposed law requires the police to treat these girls with threats instead of kindness. It simply acknowledges the fact that we can’t in advance perceive all possible scenarios and allows the justice system to show some judgement.

The age of consent does not mean that people under it cannot commit a crime. Courts take into account a person’s age, etc. all the time. However, simply ordering that kids are innocent because of their age was not the purpose for the concept.

You may disagree with Mr. Olens’ politics but I believe his heart is in the right place. He just trusts the system more than most.

Here’s a ‘fact pattern’ for you. Same girl, under 16 arrested three times with different pimps providing protection and different johns. Do you let her go for four or do you try to get some leverage to get her off the street? Remember, if she’s innocent, she walks.

Wow

February 21st, 2011
2:01 pm

Go Aquagirl!!!!! You rock.

Olens is a complete nutcase, as are so many other Georgia Republicans in state government.

GaBlue

February 21st, 2011
2:12 pm

Georgia voters chose label over substance on this one. The man with no experience in law enforcement or criminal prosecution was chosen over the man with experience because of his corporate sponsorship (brought to you today by the letter “R”). It really is who you know (whose assets you stroke), more than what you know, around here.

RGB

February 21st, 2011
2:13 pm

It would be encouraging to see liberals exhibit the same regard for fetuses as they do for “15-year old prostitutes who can’t give consent”.

deegee

February 21st, 2011
2:25 pm

When 40 year old johns start paying fetuses for sex then we can talk.

findog

February 21st, 2011
2:28 pm

Last Man likes his hooker’s young and on the run
Aquagirl has long been my hero
As for our old testament SA at what age would he consider an absolute pass?

Robert Kelly

February 21st, 2011
4:06 pm

I no wut I’d do, ya heard.

Reality Check

February 21st, 2011
4:09 pm

Fetuses? Are you joking? This is a very serious and adult topic. Only a true wacko bring up the rights of squiggly tadpoles in the midst of such a serious conversation. RGB is the reason why “Roe v. Wade” will never be overturned; nobody takes the right-wing loonies seriously- especially the Republican politicians who pretend they do to get their votes. Pathetic.

Law is Confusing for GA Lawmakers

February 21st, 2011
4:17 pm

You cannot have a statutory rape crime law that has as its premise that a child under a certain age is legally incapable of reistering consent and also have a separate law that has as its premise that child of the same age can potentially consent to a sex crime. It makes both laws void and it creates an instant defense for anyone charged with either crime.
Claiming that a child charged with a sex crime may assert an affirmative defense of lack of consent is disingenuous to the point of being cruel and creepy. Of course the victims are intimidated by their handlers, who authorities would require them to name in order to avail themselves of the defense. And they’re already traumatized victims. The idea of charging an underaged person with a sex crime more of the same for GA lawmakers: dumb and dumber.

Law is Confusing for GA Lawmakers

February 21st, 2011
4:21 pm

It’s probably safe to assume that Olens would seek only to prosecute victims of underage prostitution who are also black.

Last Man Standing

February 21st, 2011
4:37 pm

GaBlue:

Do this look familiar. It should since you wrote them.

“If you are a person of integrity, and you can speak to people in a respectful manner, make sense, and back up your assertions with facts, then you aren’t forced to invent disparaging pronouns, or resort to petty name calling, hyperbole, and fear tactics in order to get the five minutes of attention you think you deserve.”

Last Man Standing

February 21st, 2011
4:42 pm

findog:

If you will check, I’ve not offered an opinion here on this subject. There are legal aspects of this that I do not yet fully understand. I am researching it, though. and will post an educated opinion when I have formed one. I’ve read several uninformed opinions here.

Last Man Standing

February 21st, 2011
4:49 pm

GaBlue:

“Stay away from my kids. I’ve warned them about your kind.”

I don’t think you need to worry about that. I do not associate with your type. Your offspring have my sympathy.

jasonfightscrime

February 22nd, 2011
12:20 pm

If we can’t detain these kids when we come across them, what are we supposed to do with them? Some say they don’t want help, and for them having a probation officer and YDC to back it helps them to rehabilitate.

The point of juvenile court is to help kids do better. This approah seems to make sense.

Self_Made

February 22nd, 2011
1:33 pm

Law Is Confusing @ 4:17…they have to keep a statutory rape law on the books so that undesirable teenage boyfriends can be prosecuted for consensual sex, but also keep prostitution criminalized for girls 16 and under so that aspiring professional sex workers can be deterred or otherwise dealt with.

Don’t you see how much sense that makes? You just need to step outside of I-285 to get it.

DStock

February 22nd, 2011
3:55 pm

Am I to assume from this transcript that teenage boys are never sexually exploited in Georgia?

RC

February 22nd, 2011
4:57 pm

It would be encouraging to see conservatives exhibit the same regard for underage victims of sex-trafficking as they do for unformed blobs of cell mass.

LW

February 23rd, 2011
5:55 am

EVERY man buying sex from anyone know HE IS committing a crime! That needs to be dealt with – they need to be arrested AND sentenced to serve time!

Even if a 12, 13, 14 or 15 year old approached a man for sex – HE has some responsibility in the issue!!! NOT TO BUY!! And honestly, I don’t know of many middle school girls that really want to go have sex multiple times a day, 7 days a week, with a bunch of old men.

Legalization of prostitution is NOT the solution either – look at the Netherlands – young girls AND women are forced into the sex trade from all over Europe and brought there. Held against their will. Do some research!!

Hispanicd

February 24th, 2011
4:30 am

Sam Olens was the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for Cobb County, GA.

His career ended in his disgrace for trying to strip voters of their real estate, property, and contract privacy rights. He tried to license out right to rent second properties at 90$ tax– er — fee per year.

He also has had his police forces rip my brothers and sisters out of our homes in the middle of the night because he Sam Olens voted to increase “square foot living requirements” to exclude trailer parks. We were given no notice, no warrants, and our grandfathered in rights were violated.

Strip Sam Olens of his bar license and kick that man out of his office!