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summer-2019-sex-trafficking

The Ugly Truth Sex Trafficking is Happening Here

The trafficking of humans for sexual exploitation sounds terrifyingly exotic; the plot in a Hollywood movie like Taken where beautiful women are abducted and sold to the highest bidder in an auction attended by the ultra-rich. In reality sex trafficking arrests are increasing in places like Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, South Whitehall, Lower Macungie, Palmer and […]

The trafficking of humans for sexual exploitation sounds terrifyingly exotic; the plot in a Hollywood movie like Taken where beautiful women are abducted and sold to the highest bidder in an auction attended by the ultra-rich. In reality sex trafficking arrests are increasing in places like Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, South Whitehall, Lower Macungie, Palmer and Bethlehem Townships. The victims are mostly young women from those same communities.

Today, sex trafficking takes place in your hometown. It happens at fake massage businesses, strip clubs, truck stops, hotels, and motels. It is made easy by online “escort” services and websites like skipthegames.com that allow the explicit advertisement of any and all sexual acts. One can browse through hundreds of “profiles,” many including X-rated images, each of which includes a list of the sexual acts the “escort” is willing to perform. So far these websites have been able to avoid the fate of backpage.com which served the same purpose until April 2018 when the Federal Government indicted several people connected to the site for facilitating prostitution.

This sex trafficking is brutal and humiliating. The victims are often children and young adults. The Hollywood imagery of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman could not be less accurate. The overwhelming majority of women (and yes men also) being sold for sex have no choice in the matter. There is no “hooker with a heart of gold” story when a man pays $80 to have sex with a drug addicted teen in a motel room off Airport Road.

The truth is that most of these women are controlled by men; pimps or traffickers, who manipulate, exploit, control, extort, beat, and rape them. The pattern seen repeatedly in this business is a young woman, typically vulnerable, alone, and unsophisticated. Often overconfident in her ability to control the situation or the man who will exploit her. The pimp starts out as caring, protective, even charming. The promise of easy money, access to drugs, physical protection, and someone to take care of her is enticing to one unfamiliar with exploitation and violence. Often the victim is plied with drugs to the point of addiction. Opioids have become the favorite drug, especially fentanyl, because of how quickly the addiction is set and how long and torturously painful withdrawal can be. The need for the drug drives the women to acts they never would have previously considered. Refusal leads to withholding of the next fix and the pain of withdrawal. Physical assault and rape are constant threats against any woman who fails to follow the rules set down by her trafficker. Often degrading photos and videos of the women are used as a means extortion, with threats to release the images to family or more publicly on social media.

A woman trying to break free from this cycle fears the drug withdrawal, perhaps as much as she fears the rapes and beatings. Many who are in the control of a trafficker are also in fear of law enforcement due to their own criminal acts. The shame and humiliation threatened by the release of the videos and pictures often means returning to family is a fraught option they cannot face. Few believe they can escape safely.

While the ugliness of sex trafficking remains somewhat hidden, the damage it does affects the entire community. Illegal drug use and violence often accompany trafficking. The broken lives of the victims and their families cause a devasting ripple effect across generations. This is not just occurring in exotic locations. It is happening is Fogelsville, Hanover Township, Lehighton, Reading, and every local community.

The response is also occurring throughout our area. Local police and prosecutors work together, often with the Department of Homeland Security, to identify traffickers and prosecute them. Some high-profile cases have increased community awareness. A non-profit group Valley Against Sex Trafficking (VAST) has been working to end sexual exploitation and empower survivors of sex trafficking. Increased community awareness is part of the plan to eliminate human trafficking. One part of the solution is to shed light on the issue instead of allowing it to remain hidden or ignored. Resources are available locally and nationwide at www.thevast.org; 484.560.6836 and 1.888.373.7888.

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A Stain on American Jurisprudence – Korematsu v. United States

Years later, almost everyone would agree that the Executive Order was wrong: racially motivated, falsely justified as essential to national security, and supported by a mix of lies and misrepresentations. The legislation that followed permitted racial discrimination by the government. The deprivation of the Constitutional rights of American citizens because of their race, ethnicity, and […]

Years later, almost everyone would agree that the Executive Order was wrong: racially motivated, falsely justified as essential to national security, and supported by a mix of lies and misrepresentations. The legislation that followed permitted racial discrimination by the government. The deprivation of the Constitutional rights of American citizens because of their race, ethnicity, and religion was sanctioned by all three branches of the federal government. A majority of the United States Supreme Court approved the systematic racial discrimination against a minority group whose ethnicity made them enemies in the eyes of some. A vocal segment of the media, supporting the Executive Order, agitated the population with stories and opinion pieces designed to divide the nation and demonize the minority groups.

Facts were hidden from the public.  Outright lies were presented in court to rationalize the programs. The President justified his actions as a matter of military urgency. He ignored his own intelligence community and suppressed their findings that no threat to national security excused his actions.

Contemporaneous opponents of the Executive Order and legislation were few. Many years later they would be vindicated by political leaders on all sides. However, when they pointed out that the policies fell “into the ugly abyss of racism,” they were ignored. They were the dissenting minority when they pointed out that “racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life.”

What followed was the implementation of a policy to demean, degrade, demonize, and disenfranchise a vulnerable minority population, including tens of thousands of American citizens. The policy was not based on evidence of misconduct, but solely upon an individual’s ethnicity.  Years later, almost everyone would agree that it was wrong. It took many years, but the agreement was nearly unanimous and overwhelmingly bipartisan.

Forty years later, a Congressional report would call the Supreme Court decision upholding the Executive Order a “Stain on American Jurisprudence.” The bipartisan legislation would attribute the policies to “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” Forty-six years later a new law would be signed by a Republican President authorizing the payment of reparations to those who suffered under the policies. A formal apology followed from the next Republican President two years later.

Sixty-seven years after the fact, the Solicitor General of the United States would publicly correct the lies used to support the policies. He would acknowledge that his predecessor in office withheld a report by the relevant intelligence agencies that found no military threat existed and no national security interests were served by the Executive Order. Finally, some seventy-four years after the Supreme Court affirmed the discrimination, the sitting Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court admitted that the earlier decision was “gravely wrong” and its holding “has no place in law under the Constitution.”

An American citizen convicted under the laws enacting the Executive Order finally had his conviction overturned forty years after the Supreme Court had upheld it. The difference was that forty years later, the misconduct of the government had come to light and the arguments about military necessity and national security were proven to be lies. Long hidden documents demonstrating the racist motivations behind Executive Order Number 9066 were revealed.  It took many political leaders decades to acknowledge the enormity of the wrongness of the racist policies and to speak out against them.

Fred Korematsu, an American citizen, was convicted in 1942 of violating the Executive Order and the laws enacting it which called for the exclusion and internment of Japanese-Americans. His conviction was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in a 1944 decision that many see as historically shameful as the Dred Scott decision and Plessy v. Ferguson.

Years later, almost everyone would agree that the Executive Order, the legislation, and the Supreme Court decision represent a stain on American jurisprudence. When President Gerald Ford officially terminated the Executive Order in 1976, he said, “We know now what we should have known then; it was wrong.”

A Congressional report led to legislation in 1988 signed into law by Ronald Reagan granting reparations. Two years later, George H.W. Bush issued a formal apology and the first of the reparation payments. In 2011, the United States Solicitor General acknowledged that his predecessor in 1944 had withheld a report by the Office of Naval Intelligence that concluded Japanese-Americans did not pose a military threat and there was no evidence they were disloyal to the United States.

What everyone now knows to be wrong was, at the time, attributable to “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” The United States suffers still from these shortcomings. We should not have to re-learn shameful lessons from our past.  We should not wait decades to confront and correct obvious acts of injustice.

Fred Korematsu made the point clear late in his life. “No one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese-Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy.”

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How Can you Defend Those People?

I represent some bad people. It is what I do for a living. And I love it. Don’t get me wrong; I also serve good people, decent individuals who have made mistakes, who suffer from addiction, who have lashed out in anger or frustration. But the best part of my job involves the worst part […]

I represent some bad people. It is what I do for a living. And I love it. Don’t get me wrong; I also serve good people, decent individuals who have made mistakes, who suffer from addiction, who have lashed out in anger or frustration. But the best part of my job involves the worst part of our society. I have been counsel to violent criminals: burglars, drug dealers, rapists, and several murderers. I am often asked, “How can you defend these people?”

The answer illustrates one of the fundamental principles of our system and our nation. A system in which the government is restrained by its citizens.

The first ten Amendments to the United States Constitution are remarkable in that they were drafted as restrictions on government action. Strictly speaking, the Bill of Rights does not grant you anything. It was intended to shackle the government, to prohibit the government from interfering with rights naturally possessed by all.

For example, the First Amendment does not grant you the right to free speech or the freedom to practice your religion. It prohibits the government from interfering with these freedoms that all Americans have as their birthright.

Imagine if the right to an attorney and the right to challenge the government could be taken away from a citizen, based only on the seriousness of the allegations the government made against him.  How quickly would the government learn to lodge the most grievous charges against the most vulnerable among us?  The worst crimes imaginable do not deprive a person of their rights in our system of justice. The most reprehensible criminal is not stripped of his rights. Those rights are ensured to each of us precisely because they are guaranteed to all of us.

When the government tries to (or does) curtail, eliminate, or restrict your rights, there are checks and balances designed to push back against government action. The most effective of these controls on the government’s abuse is a private citizen with training in the law and a willingness to use that training to confront the government. When the government puts an unfair thumb on the scales of justice, a good attorney will not hesitate to put her thumb in the government’s eye. Our system allows this, even encourages it, because of the fear of that poke in the eye, the fear of the resistance of citizens, works to keep the government honest… for the most part.

If this ability to confront the government were eliminated, the government would run unchecked in any direction a leader might choose. History is filled with horrible examples of just this phenomenon. The rights you take for granted today would be eroded over time or simply erased overnight.

Part of what makes this system work is our judiciary; it allows and encourages challenges to the government. If and when they do their job faithfully, Judges assist in reigning in the worst excesses of government. But the real work is done by those lawyers who represent the worst offenders. Protecting against a systemic abandonment of the rights of the worst criminals guarantees the continued existence of a system that holds the government accountable every day.

So, before you enter your anonymous online comments, calling a criminal defense attorney a lowlife, degenerate, pond scum, idiot, poncy twit, or worse… Take a minute to reflect on what the government might do to you and your loved ones if there was no one to push back, no one to question an injustice, and no one to poke a thumb in the government’s eye when necessary.

You enjoy the rights that are fought for in our courts by our criminal defense attorneys. You live under the best system ever devised for balancing individual liberty with the best interest of the community. You prosper because citizens can, and do, challenge the government and force it to be more just. This system did not develop by chance. Our Founding Fathers intentionally created it, and it is fostered by those who understand their original intent.  The job of a criminal defense attorney is vital to our system of justice. So, when you ask me how I can defend those people, you are really asking me how I can protect you and your rights; how I can defend our system of justice. That is a question that should not need to be answered.

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The Police at Your Door

It’s late at night, your day is over but the police are at your door. What you do next will have long lasting implications. It is important to think about some basic truths; sometimes the police bring you good news, but not normally. More likely it is either bad news or very bad news. It […]

It’s late at night, your day is over but the police are at your door. What you do next will have long lasting implications. It is important to think about some basic truths; sometimes the police bring you good news, but not normally. More likely it is either bad news or very bad news. It is almost always a mistake to allow the police to search your home unless they have a warrant to do so. If the police have a search warrant or an arrest warrant for a resident of your home, they are permitted to enter and search your home, even if you object. But a warrant must be obtained from a judge and must be supported by probable cause. In most cases, the police will have a copy of the warrant with them and they will show it to you. Without a warrant, the police are not allowed to enter your home unless you agree to let them in. In the absence of a warrant, the police have as much right as I do to wander through your home opening drawers, looking into closets and turning over cabinets.

First and foremost do not invite the police into your home unless you know exactly what they want. They know the law better than you do. They know why they are there. They have prepared for this and probably have discussed this with supervisors, detectives and prosecutors. They have the advantage over you. The only way for you to protect yourself and your family is to keep the police out of your home. Allowing them through your front door effectively allows them to wander through your home looking through your personal belongings and investigating your life.

Although you may be confident that you have done nothing wrong, do you want police officers rummaging through your life? They might be investigating your son’s possession of stolen property, or your daughter’s drug use, or your brother-in-law’s access to child pornography. They could be there to investigate whether minors have access to alcohol in your home, or they may be responding to a complaint about the way you punish your children. They may be there for one reason but find evidence of a totally different offense and then prosecute for that crime. When you consent to a search of your home, you are giving up your control and sovereignty as well as that of everyone else who lives with you.

The police are allowed into your home in very limited circumstances. You are not required to allow the police into your home unless they have a warrant. If they have no warrant you may legally refuse to have them enter your home. You commit no crime by denying them entry. If a further discussion is necessary, step out of the house and close the door behind you. They can explain what they want. You can respond in an intelligent manner; without sacrificing your family’s privacy.

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Lights & Sirens

It’s late at night and you are driving home. Your day is over but behind you are lights and sirens. What you do next will have long lasting implications. It is wise to consider some basic truths; the police are allowed to pull you over, they are allowed to investigate. In almost all cases you […]

It’s late at night and you are driving home. Your day is over but behind you are lights and sirens. What you do next will have long lasting implications. It is wise to consider some basic truths; the police are allowed to pull you over, they are allowed to investigate. In almost all cases you should safely pull your car over, and wait in the car for the officer to approach you.  Put your window down so you can hear and put your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them.  Do not get out of your car unless told to by the officer.  Do not volunteer any information; the officer will tell you what he wants and direct you to get any paperwork he wants to see.  He does not have to tell you why he pulled you over and he does not have to read you the Miranda warnings.  You are required to provide him with your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.  Be calm, be clear, and be polite. Tell your passengers to do the same.  Remember that anytime an officer stops a car, there is a level of concern because the officer does not know what to expect.  Some experts believe that a vehicle stop is one of the most dangerous parts of a police officer’s job.  By displaying calm compliance with the officer’s requests you can help prevent the situation from becoming aggressive, hostile and dangerous.

If the reason you were stopped is a traffic violation the officer has discretion to cite you or give you a warning instead.  Warnings are good and should be followed by a “thank you” and your promise to drive more safely.  Even a citation should be received calmly as there will likely be an opportunity later for the same officer to withdraw the citation or recommend a lesser offense or a lower fine.

If the reason you were stopped is more serious, like operating with a license suspension, or suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), the downside to making the wrong decision is more drastic. The police can arrest you for DUI based on suspicion alone.  You will be asked to submit to a blood test.  In almost every situation you should consent to having your blood drawn.  In Pennsylvania, refusing to submit to a DUI blood test will cause your license to be suspended for one year in addition to any penalty imposed for the DUI.  Even people found not guilty of the DUI will lose their license for one year if they refused to provide a blood sample.

Pennsylvania has 3 increasing levels in its DUI law with increasing punishments.  When a DUI is accompanied by the refusal to submit to a blood test, the highest punishment automatically applies.  It is better to provide a blood sample, even one that comes back very high, than it is to refuse to submit to the test.

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