Friday, April 25, 2008

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

Demont Bowie, shown in a booking photo, is the man who kidnapped M.B. from a party on Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis and brought her to Iowa.

The Gazette recently released a special report about a rural Iowa prostitution business that yielded Iowa’s first federal human trafficking case.

From the report:

In the basement of an ordinary-looking Williamsburg home, the 13-year-old girl was given a choice. Either she would have sex with two men nearly twice her age or she would be given back to her kidnapper.

The girl would come to be known as M.B. in court documents in Linn, Johnson, Iowa, Washington and Clayton counties, as well as U.S. District Court. Getting her out of the business that seemed to produce poison in so many ways would almost cost one Iowa woman her life.

Locking up the people who'd exploited her would take more than two years.

Hers, the first human trafficking case prosecuted in Iowa federal court, would test the resources, skills and patience of investigators and prosecutors who never had dealt with such a complex case, and who hope, even as they ready themselves to better respond to the next, to never see another like it.

People unfamiliar with the business sometimes think of prostitution as a victimless crime — a simple transaction of money for sex. In reality, experts say, pimps prey on vulnerable women and girls with few other options, isolating them, coercing them into the business and keeping them there by force.

It's a drug-infused, violence-infested culture that can operate below the surface in even the smallest and safest of Eastern Iowa's small towns, as M.B.'s case would show.

As one prosecutor put it: "This isn't 'Pretty Woman.'"

Read the special report here

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