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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.

Robert Huffstutter/FlickrRobert Huffstutter/FlickrA 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.

Photo Credit: Robert Huffstutter/Flickr

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  • Bubba Jones||

    Stay classy, ENB.

  • sarcasmic||

    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.

    It will further the career of the prosecutor. Might even get him into an office with even more power to destroy lives.

  • Microaggressor||

    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.

    Not saying any of this is justified, but this doesn't make him look good.

  • Rhywun||

    At least he didn't leave them home alone.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Neither does his mugshot. Not that it should be illegal or anyone else's business, but he really does look like a dude who'd let you have sex with his wife for money.

  • sarcasmic||

    Looks a lot like the guy my ex wife is living with. Hmmmm. Wouldn't surprise me. She's got the morals of a billy goat.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    So he has a kind face?

  • ||

    Not saying any of this is justified, but this doesn't make him look good.

    Agreed. And I also think;

    Neither Hicks nor his wife Heather, 33, were involved in anything the average person would think of as sex trafficking;

    is a bit hyperbolic. At least, when I hear 'man drives wife to motel for prostitution' things like 'Russian bride' and 'sex trafficking' aren't entirely removed from my mind. Not to say that I'm not being presumptuous, but 'anything the average person would think of' comes across a bit as 'methinks thou dost protest too much'.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Prostitution is not sex trafficking. This really isn't complicated.

  • BYODB||

    ^ This.

  • ||

    Agreed. As in, I agree that the sex-trafficking charges are horseshit/unjustified.

    However, if you asked me, 'Do you think Jason Hicks has ever considered sex trafficking (even if only to dismiss it)?' or 'Could prostituting your wife be inclusive of sex trafficking or vice versa?' that I could honestly say 'No, absolutely not.' The idea that Jason Hicks (or the average person) is too classy to have even conceptualized it seems a little uppity.

    He's a scumbag who's looking at a prison sentence. I'll agree that the prison sentence is wrong but, you're not going to convince me he's not a scumbag. It's not illegal to be a scumbag in this country (yet).

  • BearOdinson||

    Why is he a scumbag? There is no reason to believe his wife wasn't totally on board. And frankly, just because HE had the kids with him, doesn't mean anything. If SHE had the kids with her in the room, then that would be sick. But the kids don't know anything.

    Whether or not you approve of this is certainly your choice. But when you call this guy a scumbag, tis really no different than socons calling gay man "butt-pirates" or lesbians "carpet munchers".

    And while you are at it, look up "hotwife".

  • ||

    Whether or not you approve of this is certainly your choice. But when you call this guy a scumbag, tis really no different than socons calling gay man "butt-pirates" or lesbians "carpet munchers".

    And?

    You say it as though no two people (or even single person) has ever used the term 'basket of deplorables' as an insult and a badge of honor simultaneously.

    He's a scumbag. A classy husband/pimp makes the nanny watch the kids or pays the muscle to watch his wife.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    The idea that Jason Hicks (or the average person) is too classy to have even conceptualized it seems a little uppity.

    Taken is a popular movie.

  • ||

    Do I think/assume Jason Hicks is importing Chinese girls in shipping containers for sex? No.
    Do I think he'd find it morally reprehensible? Probably.
    Could I imagine him defending something that, while differing from the prototypical sex-trafficking scenario, definition-wise still constituted sex trafficking? Yeah.
    Do I think, if you'd warned him that it would constitute sex-trafficking on his part that he would've refused? Maybe?

    Either I don't have the average imagination or the statement is presumptive about the average imagination.

    At some point, probably Taken 2, definitely Taken 3 he does become a really bad parent/tactician/operative/security expert, right? I mean, when you have your child lobbing live grenades off a rooftop to help save your wife from bleeding out, you've done at least one thing wrong, right?

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    I do not think the average persons anything about sex trafficking other than what they see in excellent action movies starring old Irish men, or something that happened on a cheesy police television show.

    I do not think the average person, let alone average defense attorney, are aware that, because of the fake sex trafficking menace, prostitution can easily be considered sex trafficking in the eyes of the law.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    average person *knows* anything

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    I noticed DareDevil saves a lot of blondes from Russian shipping containers on the pier.

    Just once I'd like to actually see the Feds save some girls life, just so there is a modicum of justification for any of this.

  • CE||

    So if she took the city bus to the motel, would the city be arrested for trafficking? Or just the bus driver?

  • Zeb||

    Prostitution is not sex trafficking.

    But a lot of people are trying really hard to convince everyone that it is.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    They don't need to convince. It is what they say it is.

  • CE||

    It is now.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Let's just say what everyone is thinking: gay marriage. That's the root cause of this particular problem. Traditional marriage holds the man as head of the wife and can do whatever his stewardship of her deems necessary. Read your Ephesians. But when there's no woman or no man in the marriage how can there be property and owner? Think about it.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    You one of those Christian BDSM people? Those people are so weird.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I had to the readings at my friends' wedding (Catholic), and one of them was the Ephesians reading I referenced here. It was a bit strange they chose that one because they're not really that type of people.

  • paranoid android||

    Trying to make us nostalgic for Eddie, Fist?

  • Eric Bana||

    Heh. I'd forgotten about Eddie.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    It's uncanny.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    I do miss Eddie. Especially in abortion threads.

  • Hugh Akston||

    You mean every thread he ever commented in?

  • ||

    Let's just say what everyone is thinking: gay marriage. That's the root cause of this particular problem.

    *dons biretta*

    In all fairness, I don't think we would be having the sex-trafficking discussion if a man had driven his husband or a woman had driven her wife to the motel with their kids in the car.

  • Sports Reporter Charles Manson||

    "And the lord spake unto Moses, saying, if your wife is real hot don't keep her to thyself, rent her out so others can share in her bootyliciousness."

  • BearOdinson||

    Do you have a newsletter I could subscribe to?

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    If human trafficking is defined as taking or causing another to be taken to a place of prostitution, then everyone that ever went to Waikiki or the Las Vegas Strip is guilty.

  • GiveMeLibertyOrHandouts||

    Hey!

    What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Unless you get herpes of course. Then that shit stays with you for life.

  • Eric Bana||

    Not unless we get that vaccine funded by Peter Thiel that the Daily Beast published a hit piece on recently.

    Clarification: I don't have herpes.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Clarification: I don't have herpes.

    This is exactly what someone with herpes would say.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    AMTRAK IS MURDER

  • CE||

    More like Russian roulette. Wait, is that a microaggression against Russian people?

  • ||

    If human trafficking is defined as taking or causing another to be taken to a place of prostitution, then everyone that ever went to Waikiki or the Las Vegas Strip is guilty.

    So, getting hammered as a group and waking up in a hotel room full of hookers in Vegas is the proper, legal way to do it.

  • Chupacabra||

    At least we now know Palin's Buttplug's real name.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    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

    So you're trying to justify a guy randomly punching someone because he didn't get a text? What if it had been a real escort ad, and his wife just forgot to text, dropped her phone somewhere, or had a hard time finding the room?

    The HT charge is ridiculous, but it's because he swung at the cop, not out of moral outrage. He should have said that she drove, not him, then he would have been in the clear (other than assault and neglect).

    That said, the plan of this guy and his wife seems pretty stupid. A person who was intending to harm his wife probably would have moved her to another room and certainly wouldn't be answering the door.

  • Bradley Strider||

    The HT charge is ridiculous, but it's because he swung at the cop, not out of moral outrage.

    This makes no sense at all

  • ||

    Boy, climate change is really making people do crazy things!

  • CE||

    Just think if this guy had been on the loose during the eclipse!

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's like ENB doesn't know that these scumbags broke the LAW, or she doesn't care.

  • Libertymike||

    Ratiocination rules!

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    There is only feelz.

    That said, I'm not sure why that line strikes you as 'emotions over logic.' Wouldn't a Vulcan say the same thing?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Only if you assume that "helping people" has anything to do with why laws are enacted and enforced.

  • Zeb||

    Well, as MJG points out, everything is ultimately about feels. There is no irrefutable proof that individual rights and autonomy are the most important things.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    I'd only quibble that you've given a very broad definition for "appeal to emotion," one that would apply to any argument made by and for human beings. The boast that we're cold and rational is silly, but it's also not as if ENB is crying about the children and how mean this all is. She's criticizing the law and the state's response according to their own justifications for such laws and their harsh enforcement. That's colloquially what separates a 'rational' response from an 'emotional' one.

  • CE||

    If they are being arrested and imprisoned and serving time for things that shouldn't be crimes, yes. And being held without bail? How is that remotely Constitutional?

  • Zeb||

    What did you mean? Are you saying that the analysis you quote is a case of emotions over reason? Seems to me that whether enforcement of a law helps anyone or punishes anyone deserving of punishment is exactly the calculus a libertarian should be using.

  • Mickey Rat||

    The headline is misleading. He was not arresred for driving his wife to a motel. He was arrested for performing the actions of a pimp, including attempted battery. Whether or not you believe that pimping should be illegal, the way this was framed is dishonest.

    A mom and pop "escort" service with mom as the product is just a bit weird.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    The headline mentions the charge, not the reason for his arrest. His charge hinges on the fact that he transported her.

  • Mickey Rat||

    The headline implies all that happened was they drove to a motel for a tryst with some other person. Which suggests they are into some kinky play rather than prostitution.

  • CE||

    No, the assault was a separate charge. Driving the car was the trafficking charge.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    *sigh*

    The law is the law, and this couple was clearly breaking the law, therefore they should face severe consequences.

    -Lawbertarian, out.

  • BYODB||

    The law needs to be changed, but not enforcing it just leaves the law on the books to be broken out whenever the state needs 'a little something extra' to prosecute you for.

  • Libertymike||

    BYODB -

    That this law is on the books demonstrates that we do not live in a society where the rule of law prevails. It is why rational peeps who ratiocinate giggle when other peeps chirp about the rule of law.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    ^ Not invited to the next Council of Lawbertarians gathering.

  • Libertymike||

    The Lawbertarians don't do no stinkin' ratiocination.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    So enforcing it 20% of the time is worse than enforcing it 100% of the time.

    Enforcing it also leaves the law on the books and, even worse, sees the law enforced.

  • Zeb||

    That is a concern, but unless there is good reason to believe that a law would quickly be repealed or changed if fully enforced, I would still say that not fully enforcing it is preferable. There are tons of laws on the books that are selectively or occasionally enforced. I don't think that things would be better if police started busting everyone they ever see violating any law and more vigorously enforcing laws that are currently not very vigorously enforced.

  • MarkLastname||

    You betrayed the Law!!!

    Lrawwwrrrr!!!

    Anyone get that reference?

  • sarcasmic||

    I thought Dr McCoy was a decent Dredd.

    *ducks and runs*

  • Hugh Akston||

    I thought he was a decent McCoy.

  • Libertymike||

    Hey dude, how have you been?

  • sarcasmic||

    Me? Life keeps kicking my ass, but I keep getting back up. That's about it.

  • Trainer||

    So, women are equal except when it comes to having sex for money. Then the woman is always the victim because "human trafficking".

  • gphx||

    Presumably the cop boned the guy's wife for free.

  • macsnafu||

    "Prosecutors say Hicks is guilty of "human trafficking" because he did "take or cause another to be taken to any place for prostitution." "

    Yeah, that's another example of how trafficking is being misused and abused by LEO's, because that's not trafficking.

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