"Former Oregon House Speaker Dave Hunt cited in sex trafficking sting," the New York Post reported yesterday. It's one of a number of headlines that accuse Hunt—a Democrat who served in the state legislature from 2003 to 2013—of having been busted for sex trafficking.
He wasn't. To be considered sex trafficking (or "trafficking in persons," as Oregon's offense is officially known), a commercial sex act must involve either force, fraud, coercion, or someone under 18 years old. Hunt was simply caught by undercover cops who were conducting a prostitution sting.
The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) posted ads online, pretending to be sex workers. Eight men who took the bait—including Hunt—"were criminally cited on the charge of Commercial Sexual Solicitation," according to a PPB press release.
It seems Portland cops—like so many in law enforcement these days—are not above playing hero and pretending to solve serious crimes as they spend public resources on busting adults trying to have consensual sex with other adults. So PPB has shamelessly framed their vice sting as a "human trafficking" operation, complete with grandiose statements about how "human trafficking is not a victimless crime" and PPB is working in conjunction with the feds and other departments to stop it.
Of course human trafficking is not a victimless crime—no one disputes that. But human trafficking is not what Portland cops were actually fighting here.
Hunt—who now works in public affairs and serves on the board of Clackamus Community College—is being unfairly slandered as a sex trafficker. But before anyone starts feeling too bad for him, note that he voted in favor of a 2011 measure criminalizing the very activity that he tried to engage in.
That measure created the crime of patronizing a prostitute—since renamed commercial sexual solicitation—punishable by up to one year imprisonment, a $6,250 fine, or both when the person being patronized is an adult.
Hunt's attorney told the Portland Tribune that Hunt "denies the allegations, but respects the criminal justice process and will refrain from saying more until he has his opportunity in court."