Ohio Teen Trying to Escape Her Pimp Paid Steep Price

'Washington Post' takes a deep dive into Alexis Martin's case
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2021 4:35 PM CDT
How Ohio's Cops, Courts Failed a Sex-Trafficked Teen
   (Getty Images)

When Alexis Martin was sentenced to 21 years to life for her role in a robbery that ended in murder, a judge described her as "working" for the "escort" business run by Angelo Kerney, the man who police found dead in November 2013. Except as Jessica Contrera writes for the Washington Post, Alexis was just 15, and what she really was at the time was a "child sex trafficking survivor." She was released from the Ohio Reformatory for Women in April 2020, at age 22, having been granted clemency by Gov. Mike DeWine, who described her using the aforementioned four words in explaining his move. As Contrera writes, things went wrong with Alexis' case from the start. The investigators who interviewed her asked why she was referring to Kerney as her "dad." She explained it was because he was a pimp.

That should have immediately kicked Ohio's then-17-month-old Safe Harbor law into action. It specifies that minors who are charged with crimes and reveal they have been trafficked should see the legal proceedings against them paused while they are connected with specialized lawyers, therapists, and more. Investigators also didn't ask what her motive was for leading two masked men to the house to steal from Kerney. If they had, she might have revealed how he groomed and then abused her, and how one of the men involved told Alexis they could get enough money for her to escape Kerney with her siblings. "He beat and raped me more times than I can count," she wrote while in prison, provided her with drugs, and sold her to men. But prosecutors went after her hard, successfully pushing for her to be tried as an adult. (Read the full story for much more on the case and its aftermath.)

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