Thursday, October 8, 1998

Lori Culbert

p. B7.

Two youngsters not required to testify in prostitution case

The girls, kidnapped last December, did not have to attend a Portland courthouse after two American men entered 11-th hour guilty pleas.

Two Vancouver foster children have returned to B.C. without having to face again a pair of U.S. men who have admitted transporting the girls across the border and forcing them into prostitution.

The girls, aged 13 and 14 when they were kidnapped last December, were in Portland Ore., Tuesday and Wednesday to testify against the accused. But they were saved from even entering the federal courthouse by the suspects' 11th hour guilty pleas.

"This is a small tragedy for these kids, is what this case comes down to," prosecutor Michael Brown said outside court.

Kevin Woods, 19, pleaded guilty to transporting the minors across state lines with the intent to engage them in prostitution and other illegal sexual activities.

Woods, of Bellingham, Wash., will be sentenced on Dec. 15. Brown believes he will get close maximum sentence of 10 due, in part, to the young age of the victims.

Woods' co-defendant, Adam Ingram, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the lesser charge of conspiracy to transport the minors for the same sexual purposes. Ingram, 21, also of Bellingham, will be sentenced today and is expected to receive maximum five-year sentence, Brown said.

The guilty pleas have brought a surprisingly quick resolution to a traumatic case that involved the U.S. and Canadian government, the B.C. ministry of children and families, the states of Washington and Oregon -- and two vulnerable foster kids with troubled pasts.

The girls, who cannot be identified, met Woods and Ingram through a mutual friend in Vancouver. They told investigators they didn't know the accused intened to force them into prostitution until after they agreed on Dec. 12 to travel into the U.S. with the men.

Brown said the girls had sexual relations with Woods and Ingram in Bellingham -- which is against the law because they are minors -- and were coerced into prostitution in Seattle.

Police say the victims were being driven to California to wrok in an escort agency when a john took pity on the 13-year-old and allowed her to use his cell phone to call her mother in B.C. The daughter was told to call 911, and Portland police rescued the victims Dec. 16.

Brown said Woods played more of a "leadership" role in the crime, which is why he was convicted of a more serious charge.

Although there was a loaded .22-calibre revolver in the suspects' vehicle and fake identification was purchased for the girls, Brown said this was not a sophisticated prostitution-smuggling ring -- but a pair of small-time crooks who took advantage of two mixed-up girls.

Woods and Ingram also face charges of kidnapping, rape and promoting prostitution in Washington, but Brown said they have agreed to plead guilty to the prostitutino charge while the other two will be dropped.

The deal, which was struck with Ingram and Woods early this week, was made to keep the girls having to testify about the horrendous details of the case in separate trials in two states.

"Part of our willingness to compromise the case is their [the accused's] willingness to plead to one count of promoting prostitution," said Brown.

The sentences on the Washington charges, which will be heard in Seattle at a later date, will be served at the same time as the federal sentences imposed in Portland, Brown said.

After the girls were rescued by police, there was a three-day hearing in Portland to determine whether they would be allowed to return to Canada, as they were key witnesses in a U.S. criminal case.

They were permitted to return to their foster homes on Christmas Eve, and Brown said they have cooperated with authorities. However, in court documents, defence lawyers criticized the prosecution for not calling the girls to testify before grand jury proceedings (which happen in the U.S. before a trial). And they complained of not getting adequate help in attempts to gain access to any psychiatric, psychological, disciplinary or criminal records.

"The [U.S.] government virtually insulated its juvenile witnesses from the defence," Woods' lawyer Henry Langer wrote. "Perhaps the government believes that dark secrets about its witnesses exist and ought to be hidden from the defence."

But Brown noted in documents that defence lawyers did not meet Canadian law requirements when they tried to access the victims' records during a Supreme Court of B.C. hearing in Vancouver on Sept. 23 and 24.

And Kathryn McNanny, a lawyer hired by the ministry to represent the 14-year-old, said in a court document that her client exercised her right not to be interviewed by the defence because she had been "sexually assulated, beaten, terrorized and threatened by the defendants."

Langer had argued that the girls' credibility was relevant, claiming a discovery provided by the United States government hints to the fact that they were chronic runaways with drug addiction, mental problems and possibly a history of prostitution, promiscuity and lying."

But Brown said in court that his case against Woods would have been backed up by Ingram, who agreed to testify against his co-accused, others who travelled with the defendants and the victims, and a witness who was solicited to have sex with one of the girls.

Also in court was Woods' former girlfriend Adina Oiness, 19, who has confirmed the girls' version of events, according to an FBI affidavit.

[Vancouver '98] [News by region] [News by topic]

Created: October 12, 1998
Last modified: October 12, 1998

CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710