Sexual Relationship with a Minor Results in Human Trafficking Case

November 10, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Sex Crimes

Sex crimes against minors are taken extremely seriously in Florida and can cause life-altering consequences. A person accused of engaging in sexual relations with a minor or promoting them for sexual activity can find themselves with hefty criminal charges.

A recent case in Florida shows the consequences of human trafficking and engaging in sexual acts with a minor. This article will provide details from the case, along with helpful information on the State’s laws on sex crimes and human trafficking of a minor. 

What was the Incident?

On November 3rd, 2022, Xavier Vanellison was arrested for having sexual relations with a minor, child abuse, possession of child porn, along with human trafficking. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation after a 16-year-old girl had been reported missing in March.

Detectives claimed they learned that the minor had been posted on social media platforms and websites to offer escort services. It wasn’t until July 7th that police located the missing teen, where they found her located at the Tampa Bay Extended Stay Hotel. Vanellison, 27, was found hiding in the closet inside the hotel room.

Detectives spoke with the victim, who claimed she had met Vanellison in May and began working with him. The victim said she had been earning money by engaging in sexual acts with other men for money.

According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office press release, Vanellison is accused of engaging in sexual activities with the minor and taking explicit images of her. Detectives claim the defendant created online profiles to advertise the minor for sexual activities, in exchange for money.

Vanellison was arrested and charged with one count of human trafficking, one count of unlawful sexual acts with a minor, one count of child abuse, one count of possession of cocaine, ten counts of promoting the sexual performance of a child, and eleven counts of possession of child pornography.

The victim’s information is protected under Florida Statute section 119.071, which explains that any information that could reveal the identity of a victim of the crime of child abuse or human trafficking shall remain confidential from the press.

Unlawful Sexual Activity with a Minor

Florida Statute section 794.05 defines unlawful sexual activity with a minor as when the accused person is 24 years or older and has sexual contact with a minor who is only 16 or 17-years-old. This is often referred to as statutory rape and can have harsh consequences in Florida.

“Sexual activity” is defined as any oral, anal, or female genital penetration by, or in union with the sexual organ of another or the anal or female penetration of another by any object.

If an individual is arrested for violating the above law, it is considered a second-degree felony in Florida. The penalty for a second-degree felony is up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

It is important to note that ignorance of the victim’s age is not a valid defense in an unlawful sexual activity with a minor case, even if the alleged victim misrepresented their age. It is also inadmissible to include the alleged victim’s prior sexual history as a defense.

Human Trafficking in Florida

Human trafficking is defined as the unlawful act of transporting or coercing people in order to benefit from their services or work, which is usually in the form of forced labor or sexual exploitation. The crime usually involves compelling individuals, by psychological or physical coercion.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there is no single profile for a victim of human trafficking. Human trafficking is in essence a form of modern slavery that targets women, men, young children, and teenagers. These victims can be of any age, race, gender, or nationality, and are not bound to any one socioeconomic group. However, human trafficking victims are often members of marginalized communities or vulnerable individuals, including children. Like many criminal charges, the penalties for human trafficking are even more severe when it involves minors.

This type of modern-day slavery occurs throughout the United States, with Florida being ranked number three in the nation by their number of reported human trafficking cases. As the third largest hub of human trafficking in the US, Florida has enacted various laws and programs to help mitigate this issue.

Florida Statute section 787.06 states that any person who knowingly engages in human trafficking or attempts to engage in human trafficking for the labor or services of any minor under the age of 18-years-old or someone believed to be under the age of 18 can be charged with a first-degree felony. This includes any person who benefits financially by receiving compensation from participation in a venture that has subjected another person to human trafficking. The penalty for a first-degree felony includes up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

Under Florida law, for an adult to be a victim of human trafficking there must be an element of coercion. However, this requirement is not present when a child is involved. This is because children cannot ever consent to commercial sex.

Coercion occurs when some of the following issues occur:

  • Using or threatening to use physical force against any person
  • Restraining or threatening to isolate, or confine any person against their will without lawful authority
  • Causing or threatening to cause financial harm to any person
  • Enticing or luring any person by fraud or deceit, or
  • Providing a controlled substance to any person for the purpose of exploitation.

To read more about human trafficking, you can go to our informative page here.

Promoting the Sexual Performance of a Child

Florida Statute section 827.071 explains that an individual who has employed, authorized, or induced a minor under the age of 18 to engage in a sexual performance is guilty of the use of a child in a sexual performance. If the defendant has promoted the sexual performance of a child by producing, directing, or promoting any performance which includes children involved in sexual conduct is guilty of promoting a sexual performance of a child.

A violation of using or promoting a child for sexual performance can result in a second-degree felony in Florida. A second-degree felony in Florida has the consequences of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Florida

If you or someone you love has been accused of a sex crime, it is imperative to seek out legal help immediately. If the alleged crime involves a minor under the age of 18, the penalties are even more severe. A skilled Florida sex crime defense attorney will work with you to build a strong defense for your case. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm vow to stand in your corner and fight for your future. Contact us today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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