The Kern County District Attorney on Monday announced the guilty verdict of the first human trafficking case in Kern County under new laws that would enhance sentencing for the accused.
Jerome Henderson was convicted on two counts of human trafficking of a 13-year-old girl.
Henderson faces a maximum sentence of 32 years, eight months in state prison.
According to investigative reporting from Bakersfield Now, KBAK and KBFX, Henderson allegedly offered $30 to a 13-year-old girl to meet him at a Bakersfield hotel, where he forced her into sex acts. It was also reported that an employee at the hotel “tried to convince the teenager to work as a prostitute for Henderson.”
Eyewitness News was able to obtain investigation reports of the case. According to these reports the girl entered Henderson's hotel room and was told by “Tech”, as Henderson called himself, she would make a lot of money, but was not told how.
“While the victim was in the hotel room a white female, Vannessa Burgess, spoke to her about being a prostitute,” as quoted from the report obtained by Eyewitness News. “Burgess showed the victim her advertisements on the Internet and the victim stated that Burgess was not wearing any clothes.”
Law enforcement arrested Henderson in April. Police reported the alleged acts happened in January and the girl notified police in February, later identifying Henderson as the perpetrator.
The girl told investigators that she suspected Henderson was going to take her to Sacramento. Henderson was arrested in Sacramento
He will be sentenced on Sept. 24 under the new Prop 35 guidelines. Proposition 35 was passed by voters in 2012 with 81 percent of voters in favor of the measure. It increases penalties for human trafficking, including prison sentences up to 15-years-to-life and fines up to $1.5 million, requires sex offenders to provide information regarding Internet access and identities when they engage in online activities and prohibits evidence that victim engaged in sexual conduct from being used against victim in court proceedings.
Henderson’s crime is a shocking revelation, but human trafficking is not a new phenomena. It has become increasingly prevalent. Human trafficking is a form of slavery and usually for sexual purposes.
Approximately three out of every 1,000 people worldwide were in a forced labor situation at anytime between 2002 and 2011.
“Human trafficking is the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise and is an estimated $32 billion-a-year global industry,"according to the state Office of the Attorney General. "After drug trafficking, human trafficking is the world's second most profitable criminal enterprise, a status it shares with illegal arms trafficking. Like drug and arms trafficking, the United States is one of the top destination countries for trafficking in persons. California – a populous border state with a significant immigrant population and the world's ninth largest economy – is one of the nation's top four destination states for trafficking human beings.”