Ya’ll ready for some flim-flam, poppycock, malarkey hogwash? Get this…
I represented a client who was charged with prostitution one crazy-loco night after she was arrested at a ‘cantina’ in the North-side of Houston. My client is a pretty, young Hispanic lady who allegedly enjoys having sex for money. She is working at a ‘cantina’ one night, racking up notches on her belt (cinturon), allegedly, when two brutes walk in the door in their finest boots (okay this part is made up, although these boots are a real thing).
The two gentlemen offer to buy my client a cerveza. They then try to get her to agree to have sex with them for money. Little does my client know that these men are clandestine operatives of the police force, and on this particular night, the FBI, Harris County Sheriff, HPD, ICE, and several other ‘law enforcement’ organizations are about to execute a big human trafficking bust. In layman’s terms, the two guys were VICE cops. Vice cops are officers that live in the underworld with their heads just above water.
Yeah. Right. I mean, could you trust officer that look criminals, hang out with criminals, and act like criminals every day of their lives? COME ON, MAN!
These cops and the prosecutors that work for them want you and I to believe that they don’t drink the beer they buy, and instead empty the bottles in the urinal. The weird thing is that I never hear the bottles being emptied.
So let’s jump to the chase. My client ends up getting busted along with several other girls and alleged pimps. She is charged with prostitution and her case is assigned to the human trafficking division. FYI, the prostitute and the ‘John’ can be charged with prostitution in Texas, as can the pimp, although pimps can face more serious charges of facilitating and compelling prostitution. The Human Trafficking Division are a group of proseuctrix that, at best, gives tough love in exchange for favorable testimony.
The Harris County District Attorney Office Human Trafficking Division is also that group that runs SAFE (Survivors Acquiring Freedom and Empowerment) Court, which is a pretrial intervention court program for girls with prostitution charges that are between the ages of 17-25, arrested in Harris County, and charged with prostitution, for starters. While SAFE Court is great in idea, it has been HORRIBLE in execution. The Harris County Human Trafficking Division knows next to nothing about their own program. They are rude and lazy. The home court prosecutors know nothing about the program either.
I told the ADA from the get-go that my client is not a victim of human trafficking, she was not forced to have sex, and she was not forced to have sex for money. The human trafficking game involves lots of disbelief. The ADA does not believe my client. I try to not believe my client at first. I want her to be consistent. I become convinced. The ADA still does not believe.
Let’s talk about what going to court looks like. My client shows up on time for her docket (her docket time, not mine). She then waits. I show up, and we wait. We wait and wait and wait. What are we waiting on? We are waiting on the human trafficking prosecutor. Where is she? She tells me she is running from court to court. Of course, I frequently see her having conversations with her girlfriends in the hallway.
This going on for hours every month. Not only that, but the ADAs are kicking my client back to the home court prosecutor and then back to the human trafficking division.
Finally, FINALLY, after 6 months they finally get my client into an evaluation to see if she will be accepted into SAFE Court. My client shows up and does what she is supposed to do.
At the next setting, the ADA shows up THREE HOURS LATE. In the interim, I let her know that I am waiting. She tells me she is on her way. An hourish later I email her to let her know I am still waiting, and it’s incredibly rude to me and my client to make us wait all this time every single month.
She shows up sits down and makes a giant shitshow. She tells me my client didn’t show up to her meeting, which she did! She tells me my client was not accepted into the program, which she was! Hell, she even got a court appointed criminal defense lawyer, who I have very little respect for, to gang up on me because of ‘the rudest email in the world. By the way, this prosecutor I mean ‘lawyer of the day’ (the problems with the court appointed lawyer of the day program is a topic for another day), said that acting the way I acted is going to be horrible for all my clients, especially the client in this case. Well, shows what you know, Counselor.
Next month the ADA shows up and says my client wasn’t approved for the SAFE Court program, and she was. Why did the ADA say my client wasn’t approved? Oh, because, you know, she didn’t do any work on my client’s case. Some time later, after I got the court coordinator, the probation officer, and a nice lady from the office of court administration to commiserate with me, the human trafficking prosecutor finally admitted my client was admitted into the pretrial diversion program, but that since she doesn’t have the contract (not her fault, according to her, yeah right) we would have to come back at a later date to sign the contract. She even suggested tomorrow, as if that is freaking convenient for my client or something.
I gave the ADA my 2 cents. I said there a few options. We can show up next time and the case could be dismissed because of how my client, who they thought was a victim of human trafficking, has been treated by her office for the past 7 months. And I also said my client would enter into the program, but the ADA would backdate it 4 months.
The next month, the ADA drops off a dismissal form and leaves without saying anything. NOT. A. WORD. Coward, but at least she did the right thing, “in the interest of justice.”
I am pretty sure she dismissed the case because she wanted to save her ass after I made a stink and the coordinator and probation were backing me up.
I have to include this. I almost don’t want to because it is really extreme, but the purpose of this blog is to talk about the law and the people who make it (dis)functional. When the ‘home court’ prosecutor approached the judge to file the motion to dismiss, there were no reasons listed on the motion to dismiss for the dismissal. The prosecutors are required to do that. The prosecutor volunteered that she did not know why the case was being dismissed.
Well, in the meantime, I had walked up to the bench, and I am kinda short. But I guess the judge was so focused on his inappropriate comments that he didn’t see me.
The Judge says (paraphrasing but no exaggeration), “The defendant probably ran off to Mexico where she came from, and the DA is too embarrassed to write down that she lost track of her witness…” I let him continue, “Or maybe she became a nun and closed her legs. Either way she either learned her lesson or we will see her in here again.” At which point I said, “No judge, my client is sitting over there with her cousin.”
Can you say racist and sexist? Should I get HCCLA and the ADL involved?