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How $40 Can Land You in Prison for Seven Years and on the Sex Offender Registry for Life


In December, after more than seven years behind bars, 32-year-old LeeAnn walked out of federal prison. But she’s not a free woman — she will spend the rest of her life on the sex offender registry. Her crime? Letting a girl shower in her mother’s apartment, giving her a clean change of clothes and holding the girl’s $40 while she had sex with a man in another room.

These are normal actions in the daily life of sex workers trying to keep themselves and each other safe. But the girl turned out to be 14 and, in the eyes of the federal government, these acts constitute sex trafficking of a minor. It didn’t matter that the girl had told LeeAnn that she was 17. It also didn’t matter that LeeAnn, who was addicted to various drugs and also engaged in sex work, never made money from the girl’s actions. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the girl was considered a trafficking victim, and LeeAnn a trafficker.

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  1. It doesn’t work

    She walked out of federal prison, But she’s not a free woman. Is not Everybody that completes their federal sentence free? Oh, maybe because she’s on parole? I’m not understanding. (Sarcasm and anger). This is not the only crime that damages children so why is it the only crime that has a registry? DWI that kills a child’s beloved father comes to mind.

  2. AJ

    I don’t understand how H0pe Zeferj0hn is a victim. At 16, it sounds as though she actively recruited a 14 y.o. for sex work. (From the story, it’s hard to tell if she was in on the idea, or it was purely the dude.) How does that make her a victim? Because she was under the spell of the 26 y.o. guy? I don’t have much sympathy for her or the guy, though she perhaps should have been tried in juvenile court.

    • Paul 2

      I agree 100% AJ. After sitting threw dozens of group sessions This justification all sounds the same and we need to call it out when we see it.

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