Hit & Run

Husband Gets Human-Trafficking Charge for Driving His Wife to a Motel

There was no trafficking victim here-just a couple attempting private sexual activity with another consenting adult. But Maryland cops don't care.

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Robert Huffstutter/Flickr

A husband and wife who conspired to get her (safely) paid for sex were arrested. She was charged with a misdemeanor. He's facing a human-trafficking charge and decades in prison.

The case perfectly encapsulates how harsh laws against human trafficking are used to target sex workers' families, friends, and colleagues who so much as drive them to meet a client. It also showcases the sexism at work in enforcement of prostitution and trafficking laws. While it's unjustified to punish either one of these people for this attempt at private sexual activity with another consenting adult, it's especially egregious that the man here is facing a much more severe charge.

On September 1, Washington County District Court Judge Robert Wilcox ordered the man, 35-year-old Jason Hicks, to be held without bail until the case is resolved. As a reason for denying bail, Wilcox (who retired in 2010 but works as a freelance judge a few days a week) cited Hicks' history of arrests on minor, nonviolent, non-sex-related charges.

Neither Hicks nor his wife Heather, 33, were involved in anything the average person would think of as sex trafficking; this was just an old-fashioned vice sting. Police in Hagerstown, Maryland, responded to online "escort" ads last October and arrested the women who showed up to meet undercover cops at a local motel.

But Heather hadn't arrived alone. Her husband had dropped her off and was waiting in the parking lot with the couple's two young children until Heather texted to say she was OK.

When his wife never texted, Hicks knocked on the door of the motel room she had entered and was greeted by an undercover cop. Hicks—who may have had every reason to believe the cop was just some "john" who had harmed his wife—took a swing at the officer and was "taken to the ground," according to local news.

Both Heather and Jason were taken into custody. She was eventually booked on one count of prostitution, a charge that can come with up to one year in prison or a fine of up to $500. Her trial is set for November 7.

Meanwhile, Jason Hicks was charged with one count of human trafficking, one count of second-degree assault, and two counts of neglect of a minor.

Prosecutors say Hicks is guilty of "human trafficking" because he did "take or cause another to be taken to any place for prostitution." If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The assault and child neglect charges could cost an additional 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

How saddling the mother of two young boys with a criminal record and imprisoning the children's father for decades (and labeling him a sex trafficker) will help anyone is unclear here.

But restoration and justice aren't the true aims of vice laws. The point is keeping cops busy, giving them a chance to play hero, and letting them seize all the assets they can. These days, sadly, that's often true of trafficking laws too.