Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wisconsin Couple Re-sentenced in Trafficking Case

From the DOJ:

Wisconsin Couple Sentenced for Forcing a Woman to Work as Their Domestic Servant for 19 Years

Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and his wife, Elnora Calimlim, both medical doctors in Milwaukee, Wis., were each sentenced today to 72 months in prison for forcing a woman to work as their domestic servant and illegally harboring her for 19 years in their Brookfield, Wis., residence.

The defendants, initially sentenced on Nov. 16, 2006, to four-year prison terms each, were re-sentenced today, after the Court of Appeals identified legal errors in the initial sentencing and remanded to the trial court for re-sentencing.

On May 26, 2006, Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and Elnora Calimlim were convicted by a Milwaukee federal jury for using threats of serious harm and physical restraint against a Filipina to obtain her services, in violation of federal law. Jefferson Calimlim Jr. was convicted of harboring an illegal alien.

According to evidence presented at trial, Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and his wife recruited and brought the victim from the Philippines to the U.S. in 1985 when she was 19 years old. In September 2004, federal law enforcement officers responding to a tip removed the victim, then age 38, from the Calimlim’s residence through the execution of a federal search warrant. The victim testified that for 19 years she was hidden in the Calimlim’s home, forbidden from going outside and told that she would be arrested, imprisoned and deported if she was discovered.

"Our Constitution promises freedom to all," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The defendants denied the victim the basic right to her freedom. The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting those who prey on vulnerable members of our society and hold them in modern-day slavery."

"Human Trafficking is a form of modern day slavery and is simply not acceptable. No person should ever be forced to live in fear, virtual isolation and servitude," said Acting U.S. Attorney Michelle L. Jacobs for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. "The prosecution of human trafficking offenses is a top priority of the Justice Department, and our office is committed to aggressively pursuing these cases."

In Fiscal Year 2008, the Department brought a record number of human trafficking cases, including both the highest number of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking cases ever brought in a single year.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Johnson and Trial Attorney Susan French of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit. The case was jointly investigated by the Milwaukee Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI.

We use this case a lot when we conduct trainings in Western New York, specifically because the jury was able to convict two people for trafficking and maintaining control of one woman for 19 years. It shows that juries are able to understand the element of this crime that is often most difficult to prove: force, fraud or coercion. Essentially, what was the intent of the trafficker and the mindset of the victim? In this case, to prove that the traffickers were able to keep control for 19 years means this was an exceptionally well-organized case and important to the counter-trafficking movement in general both on a court and law enforcement level, and on the level of average citizens who took part in the jury.

On the down side, this woman was held and forced to serve this couple for 19 years and her traffickers are now only serving 6 years each. Despite the positive fact that this couple was actually convicted for trafficking (as in the infrequent situation that traffickers are actually convicted of the exact crime as opposed to other related charges), the traffickers lose their freedom for not even half of the time they deprived the survivor of her freedom. This speaks to the way US law treats labor trafficking cases. Time to reconsider?

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