Child Exploitation Victim, Latesha Clay, Finally Released from Custody
Washington, D.C. – Rights4Girls, a human rights organization working to end gender-based violence against vulnerable young women and girls in the United States, applauds the release of Latesha Clay, a victim of child exploitation whose initial sentence was a clear miscarriage of justice. Rights4Girls Executive Director Yasmin Vafa issued the following statement announcing Latesha Clay’s release from custody:
“One year ago, 15-year-old Latesha Clay was sentenced to nine years in adult prison. Today, Latesha walked out of court after having spent over a year appealing her case. Latesha’s case garnered national attention because as facts about her case began to unfold, it became clear that she had been the victim of extensive abuse, neglect, and exploitation and that her initial sentence was a clear miscarriage of justice.
Latesha’s charges stem from an incident in which two adult men were robbed in a hotel room after responding to a sex ad on Backpage.com. When the men arrived at the hotel to meet 15-year-old Latesha, two other individuals robbed them. As a result, Latesha was charged with robbery and sentenced as an adult.
Upon further investigation by Michigan’s State Appellate Defender Office, it became clear that throughout her life, Latesha had been exposed to extreme trauma and exploitation that interrupted her education, forced her and her two small children into homelessness, and delayed her emotional and intellectual ability to understand her victimization and access safety. To make matters worse, Latesha was incarcerated in an adult correctional facility which required her to be held in isolation, separate from the adult inmates.
Fortunately, due to the zealous advocacy of her incredible team of appellate attorneys from Michigan’s State Appellate Defender Office, Dykema Gossett PLLC, and child trafficking experts from University of Michigan Law School’s Human Trafficking Clinic, today Latesha’s initial convictions were vacated and she was released from custody. Having pled guilty to lesser charges, she will continue to be supervised by the court but will have the opportunity to live in the community and obtain the services that will allow her to heal from a lifetime of trauma and care for her two small children.
Like too many girls across the country, Latesha fell victim to the abuse to prison pipeline that criminalizes girls for their experiences of violence and trauma. Instead of being seen as a victim of crime, Latesha was punished and ultimately criminalized for her exploitation. Today, Rights4Girls celebrates her release and applauds the unrelenting efforts of her advocates to ensure that Latesha did not become a victim of the pipeline, but that she receive the services and support she needs and deserves.”