To date, Massachusetts does not have a comprehensive human trafficking law. Despite passage of bills in the MA House and Senate, a compromise bill is yet to be reached, leaving law enforcement ill-equipped to effectively prosecute human trafficking as a crime outright.
Instead, law enforcement and the district attorney’s office are forced to cobble together indictments against perpetrators of human trafficking that fail to effectively address central crime. A recent case of trafficking of minors for purposes of prostitution illustrates this gap in criminal legislation:
In May, a fifteen year-old girl was abducted from a MBTA station by 28 year-old Norman Barnes, a Dorchester man. Barnes allegedly held her, and a sixteen year-old girl, in various hotel rooms in the Boston-area, pimping them out to men who Barnes solicited using the website, backpage.com. Eventually, one of the girls was rescued by family members, who in turn notified the police.
Indicted on October 3, Barnes is facing charges connected with his alleged actions, including:
- 10 counts, deriving support from a minor in prostitution
- 7 counts, aiding and abetting in the commission of statutory rape
- 4 counts, statutory rape
- 4 counts, dissemination of visual material of a child in a state of nudity
- 3 counts, posting a child in a state of nudity
According to State Police, when Barnes was arrested in his possession were $19,991 in cash, and the key to the motel room where the 15 year-old girl was staying.
As this story receives attention, it is being used to exemplify why Massachusetts needs effective trafficking legislation. Attorney General Martha Coakley, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and Col. Marian McGovern, the State Police Commander have all rallied in support. According to Suffolk D.A. Conley, the Barnes investigation “makes plain that …. cases like this don’t reflect agreements between consenting adults — they show the true form of human trafficking in Massachusetts.”