Krell again raises human-trafficking issue in Sacramento County DA race

Maggy Krell once again has sought to make human sex trafficking an issue in the Sacramento County district attorney’s race by raising questions about how the office in recent years has handled juveniles who are arrested for offenses related to prostitution.

Krell, a state deputy attorney general, first criticized the DA’s Office at a March news conference for prosecuting juveniles in prostitution cases. She said Sacramento County “needs to do more” to stop the practice of human trafficking in which children who are poor and often immigrants are forced into the sex trade.

On Thursday, Krell’s campaign released numbers it obtained from the Public Defender’s Office and the Conflict Criminal Defenders panel through Public Records Act requests that show the DA’s Office has filed petitions on at least 127 juveniles in prostitution and loitering-for-prostitution cases since January 2008. Petitions are the Juvenile Court equivalent of criminal charges.

The disclosure of the records came about an hour before District Attorney Jan Scully’s office said it would hold a news conference Friday to announce its participation in a poster campaign – mandated by a state law enacted in 2012 – “to help combat human trafficking and rescue victims.”

Scully, the five-time DA, is leaving office after 20 years. In Tuesday’s primary election, she has endorsed one of her top subordinates, Deputy District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who also has defended the office’s handling of sex-trafficking cases. A third candidate, Todd Leras, a former county and federal prosecutor who is now a defense attorney, also is in the race.

At Friday’s news conference, representatives from six agencies that are fighting human trafficking, as well as officials from law enforcement, joined Scully to call attention to the poster campaign.

Under Senate Bill 1193 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, counties are required to put up posters advising potential victims that if they are being forced into prostitution or any other type of labor against their will, they should call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888. The posters are mandated to go up at hospitals, massage parlors, adult bookstores and farm-labor contractor offices. They are also required at transportation centers, such as airports, train stations and interstate highway rest stops.

Told of the number of petitions cited by the Krell campaign, Scully said her office works with public defenders and the courts to make decisions “that will help keep (the juveniles) safe,” even if it means keeping them in custody.

“I can tell you that these kids, if they’re not put someplace, immediately go back to their pimp,” Scully said.

“The court and the public defender and the district attorney have no ability to provide services and support that would be in the best interest of that vulnerable victim without the filing of the petition,” Scully said.

Sacramento County Probation Chief Lee Seale said girls who are housed at Juvenile Hall after their arrests for prostitution are placed in a three-week “trauma-specific” therapy program. Seale said 141 girls have gone through the program in the past year and that 40 percent of them received additional services at the UC Davis Child and Adolescent Abuse, Resource, Evaluation Diagnostic and Treatment Center when they got out.

Krell later said that “it’s a sad statement that the best solution the DA’s office can come up with is to prosecute these kids. I understand it, but I don’t accept it. And I’m running for DA to change it … . To put them in Juvenile Hall where you lock up kids who have stolen cars or burglarized houses or committed a whole host of crimes, you’re treating them as criminals.”

Krell said that if she is elected she would look for funding to reopen the Warren E. Thornton Youth Center as a place to house the girls. The center was another county juvenile detention facility that was closed due to recent budget cuts.