MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Teen Girl Sells Sex. Teen Boy Serves as Bodyguard. Teen Boy Gets Arrested by Homeland Security for Child Sex-Trafficking

If convicted, the boy—an 18-year-old homeless refugee from Ghana—faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in federal prison, with life imprisonment possible.

Edeme Missiadan/FacebookEdeme Missiadan/FacebookHere's a good example out of El Paso about the way America's fight against "child sex trafficking" works in practice. The short of it: three teens got involved in prostitution. The two girls—one 15 and one 17—had sex with clients for money, and the boy, who is 18, rented the hotel room in his name and acted as security. Now he's locked up on child sex-trafficking charges.

Who can we thank for taking down this dangerous predator? Obviously, it couldn't be left up to local police to deal with such a clear threat to our national safety. No, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the El Paso Police Department, and the El Paso Child Exploitation Task Force all participated in the arrest of our "sex trafficker," Edeme Missiadan.

Missiadan and the two girls, who used the pseudonyms "Lexi" and "Natalia," are from Phoenix. One of the girls was dating Missiadan's brother. Police say the trio traveled down to El Paso—where cops found an escort ad for Lexi, who purported to be 21-years-old, on Backpage.com—on Tuesday, July 27. The next day, cops pretended to be a client and set up an appointment, then raided the girls' hotel room. After detaining the girls, they found Missiadan in a nearby courtyard.

Missiadan was booked on one federal count of child sex trafficking. Appearing before a judge on July 29, the teen—who came to the U.S. in 2007 as a refugee from Ghana and has since obtained citizenship—said he didn't understand what crime he had committed. One of the girls Missiadan was allegedly trafficking told police that she had planned to come to El Paso by herself to work, but Missiadan didn't want her to go "without protection."

This is the real tragedy of the way we're going after prostitution in America right now: literally anything that makes sex workers safer is considered to be sex trafficking. Bring along a bodyguard? He's a sex trafficker. Have a friend drive you to a client and wait outside? She's a sex trafficker. Use a booker or escort agency to screen clients? They're sex traffickers! Search for clients via online ads instead of on the streets? The Internet is a sex trafficker! It's easy to see sex traffickers everywhere when you define all sex workers as victims.

But, but—these girls were under 18! some will point out, as if that means there must be someone to blame. People want someone to blame in situations like these. People hate the idea that innocent young things might actually choose to sell sex on their own accord. But some do. And de facto treating anyone who assists them in any way—including other teenagers—like a serious criminal doesn't help anyone. There are a lot of reasons why a young woman might start selling sex—poverty, pressure from a boyfriend, trouble at home, boredom, curiosity—but unless the reason is because-they-were-forced-to, it doesn't make any sense to "solve" the problem of underage prostitution by looking for anyone but the young woman to hold accountable.

If Missiadan is found guilty, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, with life imprisonment possible.

A public defender tried to get Missiadan—who had been in foster care until he aged out recently, and was now homeless—placed in a halfway house pending his trial but a judge refused, denying him bail.

Photo Credit: Edeme Missiadan/Facebook

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • R C Dean||

    The two girls—one 15 and one 17—had sex with clients for money, and the boy, who is 18, and thus an adult. Calling him a teenager is technically accurate, but overegging the pudding.

    SLD: Sex work should be legal, federalizing it is stupid, etc.

  • Florida Hipster||

    I'd call him a child. Not even old enough to buy a pack of smokes in Cali.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Let alone an adult beverage.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I hate that term.

  • R C Dean||

    I've only had a very few adult beverages in my lifetime. Mostly because Scotch older than 18 years is fargin' expensive as hell.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I guess the older of the two girls is fortunate that she wasn't caught a few months later, or she would have been an adult fully responsible for her crimes like the guy, rather than a victimized child in desperate need of help.

  • Juvenile Bluster||

    Not only would she not be considered a victim, she'd almost assuredly have been charged with sex trafficking the younger girl like this poor sap.

  • KLafayette||

    Correct. Nowadays LEOs and social workers always try to coerce sex workers into 'revealing' their 'victimhood' (i.e. throwing someone else under the bus, extra points for a black dude) to serve the current 'human trafficking' narrative -- which is, sadly, just today's ugly reincarnation of the old white-slavery-panic that's been with us for centuries.

  • honeygirl||

    Agreed!

  • honeygirl||

    These laws are why i as a sex worker cannot work with other girls. Im one bust away from her labeling me a sex trafficker and going to prison for 15 years! Politicians and think tanks have created a new class of victims.

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    Agreed. Care to weigh in on freedom of contract for the incompetent or the minor?

  • R C Dean||

    I'd actually be just fine with a law saying you can't do sex work until you are 21, even though there are other kinds of work that minors are allowed to do.

    People who are legally incompetent, due to age or to mental capacity, don't have freedom of contract. They don't have the capacity to enter into contracts. That's what "incompetent" means in this context.

  • KLafayette||

    I wholly disagree, since I think it's a joke that our country treats people of age 15 or 17 as 'minors' with the same legal rights as infants and toddlers, but I'm curious...why 21? As the law currently stands, I could legally begin selling filmed sex acts at 18 -- why should I have to wait another 3 years before engaging in the same business off-camera? If individuals are legally considered 'adults' at 18, why continue to deny them freedom of contract when it comes to this one specific type of work?

  • R C Dean||

    21 was a brain fart. Meant 18.

    The reason a sharp cutoff between "minor" and '"adult" makes sense is that individually determining and adjudicating the actual mental capacity of every teenager on an ongoing basis to see if they are "competent" is a giant waste of time.

  • Jay Dubya||

    its not a giant waste of time. its the bare minimum requirement for having anything remotely resembling a rational basis for the underage=retarded canard that undergirds our courts. that this bare minimum would be impossible to effectively introduce doesnt make such the requirement a waste of time, but it does make courts who fail to meet this minimum unjust.

  • R C Dean||

    I'd actually be just fine with a law saying you can't do sex work until you are 21, even though there are other kinds of work that minors are allowed to do.

    People who are legally incompetent, due to age or to mental capacity, don't have freedom of contract. They don't have the capacity to enter into contracts. That's what "incompetent" means in this context.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    who came to the U.S. in 2007 as a refugee from Ghana

    SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LET DIRTY FURRINERS INTO THE COUNTRY? / Papaya

  • Florida Hipster||

    Then we get to have sex with young women?

  • Free Society||

    Probably not the best example of a hapless refugee just looking for some refuge.

  • SugarFree||

    You mean this small businessman who came here when he was 9?

  • PapayaSF||

    ^Yup. But hey, his level of liberty increased, so it's all good, right? Screw the taxpayers. They don't count.

  • Idle Hands||

    It's hard out there for a pimp.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Police say the trio traveled down to El Paso

    That's where they ran into a great big hassle

  • AlexInCT||

    Shot a man while robben' his castle?

  • $park¥ is totally a Swifty||

    Here's what's pretty fucking irritating. When an 18-year-old is supposed to be a sympathetic character, he is a teen. When an 18-year-old is supposed to be a piece of shit, he is a man. I wish every news outlet in the US would knock this shit off.

  • hroark314||

    Only seems to apply to black people. I think that's because the media is so invested in racial politics.

  • ant1sthenes||

    I guess calling a black adult male a teen is less racist than calling him "boy"?

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    There are a lot of reasons why a young woman might start selling sex—poverty, pressure from a boyfriend, trouble at home, boredom, curiosity—but unless the reason is because-they-were-forced-to, it doesn't make any sense to "solve" the problem of underage prostitution by looking for anyone but the young woman to hold accountable.

    I see. So only punish the persons involved in the transaction. In this case, two minor children.

    "Your Honor, I merely drove these children to the mescaline playroom. I did not force them to consume any."

  • Cliché Bandit||

    This is accurate. Strange and foreign concept personal responsibility, don't you think?

  • BYODB||

    They are neither children, nor are they adults; rather they are 'young adults'. When does this magically happen? I couldn't say for sure, but I'd wager it's somewhere after the point where they drive a few states away to prostitute themselves for money.

  • Dennis, Constitutional Peasant||

    The two girls—one 15 and one 17—had sex with clients for money, and the boy, who is 18, rented the hotel room in his name and acted as security.

    i agree that the trafficking charges are fucking absurd and simply add layers of awfulness that incentivize prosecutors to turn some variance of a few years in age into a 5X more serious penalty, etc.

    unless the reason is because-they-were-forced-to, it doesn't make any sense to "solve" the problem of underage prostitution by looking for anyone but the young woman to hold accountable.

    absolutely agree.

    I suspect the problem is that there's not any clear line, necessarily. Whose testimony is to be taken as the final word on the subject? the 15yr old?

    the law treats minors as wards of others; anything they do is always 'someone else's fault' to some degree. You can't really get around that, whether its prostitution or not.

    A side question i'd have is - what's an underage 'refugee' from Ghana doing in the US anyway? if he aged out of foster care, it suggests he arrived when he was a minor. unaccompanied? wtf

  • waffles||

    I'd say this law is working exactly as intended. Pimping was never meant to be easy.

  • Dennis, Constitutional Peasant||

    anything goes when it comes to hos

    What is notable is that this song-theme has been reworked by... well, just about everyone. over and over again.

    the OG version

    the 4-Tay West Coast Version

    the slick rick version

    the Ice-T remix of that

    The gangsta-gospel female version

    the Eazy-E version

    The Snoop Dog version

    the buttery soul version

    The Big Tymers version

    Your "modern bullshit autotune jabber"-version

    My favorite version. doesn't even get out of her chair. sick raps

  • DEG||

    Eye candy for the gay and bi men? It can't be for the women, because there are no libertarian women.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "The two girls—one 15 and one 17—had sex with clients for money, and the boy, who is 18, rented the hotel room in his name and acted as security."

    Was he paid for this service? That's called "pimping".

    IF IF IF he pimped a 15 year old girl (under the age of consent) to an adult, then he should be charged as an accessory to child molestation--one count for every time he did it.

    At the very least, under those circumstance, he would be an accessory to statutory rape--and that should be a felony even if prostitution itself should be perfectly legal.

    If you don't want to be convicted as an accessory to child molestation because you pimped a minor, there's an easy way to avoid that. Can you guess what it is?

    Yeah, maybe he's being charged with the wrong crime. Other than that, I hope the other inmates don't abuse him for what he did--because that would be wrong. He should probably ask for protective custody.

    Meanwhile, throwing people who pimp underage girls in prison is a legitimate function of good government.

    Too bad we can't deport his sorry ass back to Ghana, but being a U.S. citizen either means something or it doesn't.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Not sure this is that cut and dry. What if he wasn't paid? What is your suggested action then. What about the convenience store clerk who sold her a bottle of water just before hand, and she said she needed it cause she was hooking and needed to stay hydrated, What about the Uber driver who dropped them off (not saying one did but..) What about the little old lady who opened the door for her as she was leaving the same location conducting other business (think hotel)? What if she told him she was going to apply for a basket weaving job in this creepy neighborhood, and paid him to wait for her, but she was really underage hooking?

    While I get your desire for simplicity here I just see too many unprincipled approaches to what you are suggesting. Principles are ALL that should guide good government.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Ken's desire for simplicity will never be satisfied until they discover something with less than one dimension.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Taking a share of the proceeds of prostitution for security, etc. really is the definition of pimping.

    There isn't very much that's ambiguous about pimping a 15 year-old.

    Even if he didn't take money from the 15 year-old's prostitution earnings, facilitating sex acts with a minor is being an accessory to statutory rape.

    Sometimes thing are ambiguous. There isn't much that's ambiguous about any of that.

    I'll take the suggestion that I tend to oversimplify things to heart, but I don' think this is one of those times.

  • Tasty But Whole||

    What if he wasn't paid?

    Then he is one generous soul for renting a room for them.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Do you consider a transaction pass-through payment?

  • Tasty But Whole||

    Do you really believe that was the arrangement they had?

  • Cliché Bandit||

    No and that isn't the discussion point. The point is does that change the legal landscape?

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't think I'm oversimplifying. Some things really are simple.

    Providing security for prostitutes is what pimps do. If he didn't do it for money, then a jury may decide he wasn't really pimping. There's some ambiguity there.

    However, even if he wasn't getting paid, if he was providing security for a minor to pimp herself to adults, then he should be charged as an accessory to statutory rape.

    Back in the day, there was a punk rock band I used to love called Reagan Youth. Saw their shows at Fenders, in little clubs and such. Here they are in Tompkins Park just after or ahead of the police riot.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qf_X7UL2F6g

  • R C Dean||

    Providing security for prostitutes is what pimps do.

    I think its pretty subsidiary to doing the collections work, myself.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The singer is a guy named Dave Insurgent. He committed suicide. He had to be lobotomized after having had his head beaten in with a baseball bat in a heroin deal gone bad, and he couldn't really play anymore. His girlfriend was supporting their heroin habit through prostitution. Dave would take down the license plate numbers of her Johns. Unfortunately, the last customer turned out to be notorious serial killer Joel Rifkin. It was Dave Insurgent who called in the cops with the car description, and when they found the car, his girlfriend was dead in the trunk--and Joel Rifkin was off the street. Dave was devastated.

    Tragic story isn't it, but was Dave Insurgent a pimp?

    I don't really care. If the case came up before me on a jury of Dave Insurgent pimping his girlfriend by taking down license plate numbers, I probably wouldn't vote to convict.

    But ff his prostitute/girlfriend was 15 years old?

    I'd at least want him convicted as an accessory to statutory rape. If he wasn't getting cash out of pimping a 15 year old girl, I'd want him to go for facilitating child molestation.

    The simple difference may not be whether he was getting paid. In Dave's case, seems that his girlfriend was getting heroin for both of them--and maybe that's ambiguous. But the simple difference is that Dave's girlfriend wasn't 15 years old. That changes everything.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    What about 17 and 11 months and 29 days?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Look at the color spectrum. Because the shades between blue and purple are difficult to tell apart where they come together doesn't mean that blue and purple aren't different things.

    When individuals are free to make choices for themselves, they're also responsible for the consequences. Because children aren't really capable of comprehending the consequences of their choices (especially in the long term), there are choices they aren't free to make.

    Yeah, that's the legitimate rationale behind laws against statutory rape, child pornography, and other crimes, but it's also the rationale behind children not having their contracts considered enforceable (unless it's for necessities), as well. Children can't take cars out onto public highways.

    In other words, the distinction between children and adults (like the distinction between blue and purple) is not arbitrary. If you can't be held responsible for your choices, your ability to make choices to do certain things with consequences is and should be compromised. That isn't to say that children don't have any right to make any choices for themselves or that their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness shouldn't be protected by the law.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It means that there's a fundamental interrelationship between freedom and responsibility, and if either one of those is compromised in some way, there is a corresponding reaction in the other. This doesn't just play out in the treatment of children; you can also see it when people have down syndrome or are insane. If you can't comprehend the consequences of your choices, you can't be held responsible for them.

    We can see that interrelationship demonstrated in cases where people are perfectly in charge of their faculties but their ability to make choices is inhibited for other reasons. Generally speaking, the consequences of shooting someone include prison or worse; however, that all goes out the window if you shot someone in self-defense. The law says, correctly, that if you didn't have a choice, you shouldn't be held responsible for the consequences of killing someone.

    Fraud is the same thing. If you were defrauded into a contract of some kind, then you aren't responsible for the consequences in the contract because you you couldn't have comprehended the consequences under the delusion of fraud.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Seen in that light, the distinctions between children and adults maybe aren't so different--in that one respect. When you are unable to comprehend the consequences of your choices, your ability to be held responsible for those choices is limited. When certain people are clearly incapable of comprehending the consequences of their choices, we have an obligation to respect their inability to make choices.

    After all, rights are people making choices, and we are all obligated to respect each others' rights.

  • hroark314||

    I'm in favor of legalizing prostitution. I also think our society is nuts about teens and sex (like charging teenage girls with distribution of child pornography for sending naked photos of themselves), but there has to be a line where behavior crosses from legal, if unsavory, to illegal. Clearly, Reason wouldn't be defending this guy if the girl were 2 years old. I'd say providing "protection" to a 15 year old prostitute sounds a lot like something that should be illegal.

    Maybe the bodyguard's age should be a mitigating circumstance, but when I think of the things that would have gotten teenaged me blacklisted from every decent college in the country, it's not clear to me why an 18 year old shouldn't know that it's wrong to help a 15 year old turn tricks. This case doesn't have an obviously libertarian angle to my mind.

  • Hugh Akston||

    So you would prefer 15-year-old prostitutes to work without protection.

  • $park¥ is totally a Swifty||

    I would prefer it if they didn't need protection.

  • R C Dean||

    I would prefer that there be no 15 year old prostitutes, and would support a law against it.

  • Hugh Akston||

    And when 15-year-olds inevitably break that law, you would throw them in jail along with anyone providing protection to them?

  • Tasty But Whole||

    What's Latin for "Bullshit, that's not what he said?"

  • ant1sthenes||

    No, just the people providing protection. Which is a euphemism for pimping; if they were actually protecting the child, they would be preventing them from being (as far as the law is concerned) raped, not enabling it.

  • Hugh Akston||

    He is preventing them from being raped. That's what protection means. He's providing a measure on control and safety for the girls to do their jobs.

  • ant1sthenes||

    He is preventing them from being raped.

    If you want to make it legal for adults to fuck minors, then he would hypothetically be preventing them from getting raped in that fictional scenario.

    As it stands, he is at best helping to ensure that, when they get raped, it's the right kind of rape. And that's assuming that without his "protection", they would still be hooking.

  • R C Dean||

    The adults involved in the business enterprise should go to jail, yes. Consistent with the statutory rape laws that are also being violated, the 15 year old would not be prosecuted.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The 15 year old is a crime victim.

    You don't prosecute crime victims.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I meant--you don't prosecute crime victims for being the victim of a crime.

  • hroark314||

    I'd prefer she work without "protection". You know there's a reason I put it into quotes, right? I'm suggesting that we should make it illegal for adults to participate in selling sex from children in any way because there's obviously a massive risk of coercion and because children suffer disproportionate damage from bad sexual experiences relative to adults.

    In other words, I'm saying the law should protect kids (and I qualify a 15 year old as a kid) from predatory adults (and I qualify an 18 year old as such).

  • hroark314||

    What are your thoughts on my hypothetical? If the girl had been 13, or 11, or 9, or 2 years old would you change your opinion? If so, then we're really just quibbling about the exact age at which an adult should not be allowed to help a child sell sex.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Said he didn't understand what crime he had committed."

    You mean pimping minors is illegal? Who knew?!

    He may be a sociopath.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "One of the girls was dating Missiadan's brother."

    Pimps stereotypically get their merchandise by turning their girlfriends into prostitutes.

    The stereotype has it that pimps are just leading gullible girlfriends astray, getting them hooked on crack or heroin, and then turning them into prostitutes to support their habit, etc. But people I've talked to suggest that there is often love between pimps and their prostitutes.

    It's like an abusive wife-beater who breaks down completely when his wife finally leaves. It's not that abusers don't love the women they abuse; it's that abused women should leave those men--regardless of whether those men love them.

    Under normal circumstances, it is (and should be!) difficult to get women to make sacrifices for your benefit. Women rightly feel imposed upon for doing things like housework--if you're not doing your share. However, women will typically put up with more by way of self-sacrifice if they think the person they're sacrificing for really loves them. Seen in that light, it shouldn't be surprising that prostitutes often think of themselves as the genuine girlfriends of their pimps--and think that their pimp really loves them. Believing that is basically like a precondition for doing dangerous and degrading work--and then handing the money over to some guy.

    The best way to trick a girl into thinking that you love her is to genuinely . . .

  • Ken Shultz||

    Suffice it to say, I wouldn't put much stock in the suggestion that one of the prostitutes was dating the pimp's brother--as if that were evidence to exonerate him from being a pimp. If anything, that's pretty typical of pimp/prostitute relationships on the street.

  • Tasty But Whole||

    ^^This^^

  • Atanarjuat||

    You see, a pimp's love is very different from that of a square.

  • AlexInCT||

    But people I've talked to suggest that there is often love between pimps and their prostitutes.

    The love of a pimp is very different than that of a square....

  • Bill Dalasio||

    but unless the reason is because-they-were-forced-to, it doesn't make any sense to "solve" the problem of underage prostitution by looking for anyone but the young woman to hold accountable.

    Doesn't make sense? Are you kidding me? You get to appeal (in this case) to the nativists by "taking a stand against those dirty foreigners stealing the innocence of our nation's womanhood. You get to appeal to the social conservatives who love a way to crack down on prostitution without looking like they're mean to women. And you get to appeal to feminists who love a story of female victimization.

    I'd say it makes all the sense in the world.

  • ant1sthenes||

    So, an adult was pimping underage girls (sorry, providing "security") and got busted.

    The horror. Why, government sure has gone amok and run off the rails here.

    If there's any outrage, it's only that this little pedo pimp will probably get a much harsher punishment than rather more well-connected (to Clinton and Trump, anyway) billionaire pedo pimp Jeff Epstein.

  • Juvenile Bluster||

    "Pimp." You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Or I'm not a sucker for a criminal's attempt to justify his sociopathic behavior.

  • honeygirl||

    All of them are similar enough in age to go to the same high school...

  • R C Dean||

    That pic could be an early photo of Gadabesi (sp) from Oz.

    That is all. Carry on.

  • Brian||

    I'm sure that, once we dial the crimes and punishments just right, I'll be perfectly happy with who is going to prison for what. Even if it has nothing to do with me.

  • honeygirl||

    This is what i tell antiprostitution zealots all the time-these 15, 16, 17 year old girls on bp by and large are trying to sell themselves! No one is forcing them. Yes,dear parents, your baby is having sex.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online