1 S. AMANDA MARSHALL, OSB #95347 United States Attorney District of Oregon STACIE F. BECKERMAN, OSB #06239 Assistant United States Attorney 1000 S.W. Third Ave., Suite 600 Portland, OR Telephone: (503) Facsimile: (503) Attorneys for United States of America IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF OREGON UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. BEN ALLEN RIGGS, Case No. 3:13-CR-0294-JO GOVERNMENT=S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM Defendant. The United States of America, by S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, through Stacie Beckerman, Assistant United States Attorney, respectfully submits this sentencing memorandum for the Court=s consideration. On May 22, 2014, defendant Ben Allen Riggs pleaded guilty to causing a person to be transported from Washington to Oregon, with the intent that the person engage in prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C (the Mann Act ). The person transported for prostitution in this case was a 14-year-old girl. For the reasons discussed herein, the government respectfully recommends that the Court sentence defendant to serve 46 months in prison, and that the Court enter a final order of forfeiture.
2 I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND The offense conduct is accurately set forth in the Presentence Report, and the Court is familiar with the facts of this case following its September 2014 sentencing of co-defendant Laura Lambden (the Court sentenced Ms. Lambden to serve 48 months in prison). To protect the victim s privacy, the government will not publish all of the factual details of the offense herein. II. PRESENTENCE REPORT The Presentence Report accurately calculates the advisory sentencing guidelines calculation. The parties agree that the applicable sentencing guidelines range is months. III. DISCUSSION OF THE GOVERNMENT S RECOMMENDATION Sex trafficking of children has reached a crisis level in the Portland area. Although the United States Attorney s Office in this district is prosecuting more sex traffickers than ever before, and although these sex traffickers are receiving lengthy prison sentences, traffickers continue to exploit children in the commercial sex industry in this city at an alarming rate. That is because exploiting children in the sex industry is a lucrative business, and very little is being done to hold the buyers of these exploited children accountable. So long as buyers are willing to pay hundreds of dollars an hour for sexual acts with a child without any fear of meaningful consequences, sex traffickers will continue to exploit our children in this industry. No matter how many sex traffickers go to prison and no matter how many child victims are recovered, traffickers will continue to GOVERNMENT=S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM PAGE 2
3 recruit new children into the sex industry until the criminal justice system does something to address the demand side of the equation. Experts in the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), as well as members of the public, agree that the criminal justice system must do something to deter the buyers of these exploited children. If not, the sex trafficking of children in Portland will continue to be as prolific as it is today. This is a difficult case, and the government understands that all john or buyer cases will present difficult questions for courts at sentencing. Defendant is a 64-year-old man with no criminal history. Frankly, he presents as a kind man who never intended to hurt anyone. He is not a pedophile, and although he paid for commercial sex with other young adult women supplied by co-defendant Laura Lambden, he never requested that she supply him with a girl under the age of 18. The tragic problem in this case is that when the 14-year-old girl showed up at his door with Ms. Lambden, he did not turn her away. Instead, he allowed the 14-year-old to disrobe and perform oral sex on him, photographs were taken, and he paid for the date. That same scenario is happening every night in hotel rooms, homes, and cars across Portland: men are making dates for commercial sex, kids are showing up, and the men do not care. This Court must answer the important question of what penalty is appropriate to punish an adult who buys oral sex from a 14-year-old girl, and who memorializes his exploitation of the young girl with photographs. Several benchmarks should aid the Court in answering this question. Congress has concluded that a 10-year sentence is appropriate, and indeed mandatory, for anyone who causes a minor to be transported in GOVERNMENT=S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM PAGE 3
4 interstate commerce for prostitution, regardless of whether the defendant knew the person transported was a minor. See 18 U.S.C. 2423(a). Congress has also determined that a defendant who produces child pornography should be sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison. See 18 U.S.C. 2251(a). Thus, if it were Congress answering the question posed to this Court, defendant s sentence would be 15 years, or at the very least, 10 years. The government agreed to allow defendant to plead instead to a Mann Act violation, so that this Court could exercise its own discretion regarding an appropriate punishment for defendant. The government believes that the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for transporting a minor for prostitution, or the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for producing child pornography, are too high for this defendant, primarily in light of defendant s age and lack of criminal history. Although the government anticipates that defense counsel will present a long list of reasons why the government s sentencing recommendation is unreasonable, the government asks the Court to keep in mind that the government s recommended sentence is a fraction of the sentence that would have been imposed if the government had insisted on a plea to the original charges. The Oregon State Legislature has also weighed in on the appropriate punishment for this offense. It is a Class A felony under Oregon law to use a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct if the person employs, authorizes, permits, compels or induces a child to participate or engage in sexually explicit conduct for any person to observe or to record in a visual recording. O.R.S Using a child in a display of sexually GOVERNMENT=S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM PAGE 4
5 explicit conduct is a Measure 11 offense, and requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 70 months imprisonment. Lack of knowledge of age is not a defense. See O.R.S Thus, the government s recommended sentence in this case is significantly less than the sentence that would have been imposed had the state prosecuted this defendant. The advisory sentencing guidelines also provide an appropriate benchmark for this Court s consideration. The guidelines range of months, upon which the parties agree, takes into account that the victim was a child, and that a sexual act was performed by the child. See U.S.S.G. 2G1.3(a)(4), (b)(4). Although the government represented in the plea agreement that it would recommend a 57-month sentence at the high end of the range, the government is instead recommending a sentence at the low end of that range 46 months in light of all relevant factors set forth at 18 U.S.C. 3553, and also in light of the victim s input that this defendant should receive less time in prison than his co-defendant, Laura Lambden. The government agrees with the victim that Ms. Lambden is more culpable than defendant, and notes that the government would have recommended a sentence greater than 48 months for Ms. Lambden had it not been for Ms. Lambden s cooperation in this case. The government also anticipates that defense counsel will attempt to persuade the Court that the minor victim in this case is untrustworthy, or unsympathetic. The government disagrees. Years ago, our criminal justice system tended to blame the victim in child sex trafficking cases. Some assumed that children who were being exploited in the commercial sex industry must be promiscuous, or that they were troublemakers or GOVERNMENT=S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM PAGE 5
6 delinquents unworthy of our compassion. That is an old-fashioned view. Today, we understand that the children who are being exploited in the commercial sex industry are exploited because they are the most vulnerable kids in our community. Oftentimes they are runaways, or from homes with absent or drug-addicted parents. Oftentimes they have dropped out of school, lack any support system, are drug-addicted themselves, or have had past police contacts. In many child sex trafficking cases in this district, the child victim has been molested, sexually abused or assaulted in the years before they are trafficked. Thus, while it may be difficult for us to understand why a child would run away from home or school, it is important to keep in mind that children are always running away from something, not to something. While it may be difficult for us to understand why a teenage girl would engage in commercial sex acts, it is important to understand what has happened in her young life up until that moment. Certainly, young girls are not lying in their bed at night dreaming of working in prostitution someday. On the contrary, young girls are being tricked, lured, coerced, and forced into prostitution by adults who seek to exploit and profit from vulnerabilities. Just as we do not blame a victim of sexual assault, we also must not blame a child for becoming a victim of commercial sexual exploitation. This is true if a child has been exploited one time, or many times. The same factors that make many young girls an easy target for exploitation are only amplified after the young girls have been exploited in the commercial sex industry for the first time. They feel dirty, and ashamed, and afraid to return to their families and friends. That shame and isolation often results in continued exploitation, because these young girls have nowhere GOVERNMENT=S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM PAGE 6
7 else to go or no other means to survive. We often see 16 and 17-year-olds who were first exploited at age 13 or 14, but who continue to be exploited in the sex industry, and that should come as no surprise. The material facts of this case are uncontroverted. Co-defendant Lambden transported the 14-year-old victim from Washington to Oregon for the purpose of performing commercial sex acts with defendant. Ms. Lambden did so at defendant s request. Before Ms. Lambden and the 14-year-old victim made the trip across state lines, Ms. Lambden sent defendant a photograph of the 14-year-old. The government will provide the Court with that photograph at the sentencing hearing, and the Court can decide for itself if the 14-year-old presented as a young girl. Once transported to Oregon, the 14-year-old performed oral sex on defendant in his home. The victim reported to detectives that she performed oral sex on defendant, defendant has admitted that the girl performed oral sex, Ms. Lambden has admitted that the victim performed oral sex, and the oral sex is memorialized in digital photographs found in defendant s possession. In other words, the government was able to corroborate the victim s account of what happened, and these facts are not contested at sentencing. The government anticipates that defendant may now represent that it was Ms. Lambden, and not he, who took the photographs. However, at the time of his arrest, defendant told detectives it would not surprise him if he had taken the photographs. Furthermore, in addition to the sexually explicit photographs of the minor victim found at the time of defendant s arrest, the government also found photographs in defendant s GOVERNMENT=S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM PAGE 7
8 possession of at least one other (adult) woman performing oral sex on defendant. Contrary to defendant s assertion that it must have been Ms. Lambden who took the photos, the government believes that it was defendant who snapped the photos, in light of the angle of the photos, the victim s account that it was defendant who took the photos, Ms. Lambden s account that it was defendant who took the photos, and defendant s proclivity for photographing oral sex. However, the government submits that whether defendant held the camera, or handed his camera to Ms. Lambden to take the photos, is a distinction without a material difference. The irreparable harm caused by producing child pornography is the same in either scenario: this young girl must live with the fact that her sexual exploitation by a 64-year-old man was recorded, and made permanent, by these photographs. That harm is part of what distinguishes this case from other cases involving johns. The government also anticipates that defendant will allege that the minor victim is lying about telling defendant her age at the time of the offense. The Court will recall that the minor victim testified under oath at Ms. Lambden s September 2014 sentencing hearing that she told defendant how old she was at the beginning of the date, and defendant said, I m not going to get in trouble, am I? This is the same account the victim gave detectives when she was first interviewed in February 2013, even though the government did not review the February 2013 police report with the victim between February 2013 and the September 2014 sentencing hearing, or discussed her testimony prior to the sentencing hearing (indeed, the government did not anticipate that the victim would be called to testify GOVERNMENT=S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM PAGE 8
9 at that sentencing hearing). Defendant will apparently deny that this discussion ever took place, but he has also claimed that his memory is so fuzzy from that night that he cannot remember who took photographs. In other words, he claims his memory is clear enough to remember that a specific conversation never occurred, but not sufficiently clear to remember who took the photographs. The government submits that the victim s account of the conversation has been consistent, and that all of the other material details she reported about the offense were corroborated by physical evidence and by Ms. Lambden. However, whether or not the Court believes that this conversation about the minor victim s age occurred, defendant should have known that this young girl was not an adult, and he should have cared. Portland State University completed a study last year documenting that at least 469 children have been victim of sex trafficking in Portland in the past four years. That number is a low estimate, and reflects only those victims who came into contact with the Department of Human Services (DHS) or the Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC). The study found that the average age at which victims were referred to the DHS was Perhaps not surprisingly, 16.62% of these CSEC victims had a baby. The impact of commercial sexual exploitation on these children is devastating, and it is long-lasting. According to experts, children who have been exploited in the commercial sex industry typically experience posttraumatic stress disorder, acute anxiety, depression, and drug and alcohol addiction. Age-adjusted mortality rates double for this GOVERNMENT=S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM PAGE 9
10 population, according to John Hopkins School of Public Health. By adulthood, more than 90% of CSEC victims have co-occurring substance abuse/dependency needs. That brings us back to the question: what is the appropriate punishment for an adult who buys oral sex from a 14-year-old girl, and who memorializes his exploitation of the young girl with photographs? Congress has answered this question (at least 10 or 15 years in prison), and the Oregon Legislature has answered this question (at least 70 months in prison). The Court s answer to this question will do justice for this young girl, and will punish defendant for the choice he made and the harm he caused. A serious prison sentence for this defendant will also send a message to Portland that buyers of commercial sex with children will go to prison. That message will lower demand, and will consequently lower the recruitment and supply of children in the commercial sex industry. The commercial sexual exploitation of children is going to thrive in Portland until our courts begin to hold the buyers of children accountable. The government s recommendation of a reasonable sentence in this case takes into account defendant s age, his lack of criminal history, that he may not have known the victim was only 14 years old, and that he may not have been the one holding the camera. It also takes into account that it was a 14-year-old girl who showed up at defendant s door, that he either did not ask or did not care how old she was, that photographs have preserved defendant s exploitation, and that the memory of and damage caused by this experience will plague this young girl for the rest of her life. ///// GOVERNMENT=S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM PAGE 10
11 IV. CONCLUSION For all of the reasons discussed herein, the government joins in the recommendation of the U.S. Probation Office, and respectfully recommends that the Court sentence defendant to 46 months in custody. The victim is not seeking restitution, but the government will present, and ask the Court to enter, a final order of forfeiture. Respectfully submitted this 13th day of November, S. AMANDA MARSHALL United States Attorney District of Oregon /s/ Stacie F. Beckerman STACIE F. BECKERMAN Assistant United States Attorney GOVERNMENT=S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM PAGE 11
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