I was very disturbed to read of the collapse of a high-profile criminal case.
In the press, it was a "wide-reaching sex-trafficking operation" run by Somali Muslim gangs who forced "girls as young as 12" to sell sex in Minnesota and Tennessee. In reality, the operation—which led to charges against 30 individuals, sex-trafficking convictions for three, and an eight year legal battle—was a fiction crafted by two troubled teenagers, a member of the FBI's human-trafficking task force, and an array of overzealous officials. An opinion released this week by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals shows that federal prosecuters had no evidence whatsoever to support their "child sex trafficking conspiracy" case outside the seriously flawed testimony of two teenagers, one of whom had "been diagnosed as insane and was off her medication."
. . .
Jane Doe 2's story was likely completely fabricated, with help from a police officer who was also a member of an FBI human-trafficking task force. The officer was later caught lying to the grand jury and lying during a detention hearing, while Doe and the state's other primary witness were, according to the court, almost entirely "unworthy of belief."
. . .
Jane Doe 5 suffers from an undisclosed mental illness and was off of her medication during the trial. "She did not know what day or month it was, she misidentified or could not identify many defendants, she contradicted herself repeatedly (on major issues, such as whether or not she had sex for money), and she argued with counsel over the smallest of details," according to the court.
Ultimately, the judges came away with "acute concern," based on a "painstaking review of the record," that the prosecution's entire case may be "fictitious" and the state's two primary witnesses "unworthy of belief." Both women "repeatedly contradicted, disavowed, and refuted their own testimony," the judges note, "while other portions of their testimony defied belief or were rendered implausible by indisputable contradictory evidence."
There's more at the link.
There are several elements of this case that I find deeply troubling.
- There appears to have been an increasing focus by the prosecuting authorities along the lines of "We're in too deep to back out now". Even when warning signs emerged that their star witnesses might be bogus, the investigators and prosecutors 'doubled down' on their efforts rather than reconsider them thoughtfully and rationally. Egos appear to have been invested in getting a conviction at any cost.
- I'm very familiar with this case, having been living in Nashville while it played out. I know for a fact it polarized the opinion of a great many people against Muslims in general, being prime material for anti-Islamic propaganda. Now that it's been demonstrated to be false, will those feelings persist? Of course they will! "My mind's made up. Don't confuse me with the facts!"
- The lives of the accused have probably been affected for years to come, if not permanently ruined. Many people will believe their guilt rather than their now-established innocence. After all, they were 'convicted' before being released on appeal. That will show up on Internet searches for the rest of their lives. Many won't look past the conviction to find out what happened later.
I think the FBI and other investigating authorities have a great deal to answer for in this case. How many others are there like it? We'll probably never know. Coming on the heels of allegations that the FBI may have misled investigators concerning the death of Lavoy Finicum last January, it doesn't fill me with confidence about the quality and integrity of our supposedly 'senior' Federal crime-fighting service.