“You’re known as P.T., Party Time. Well, party time is over,” Judge Jack Zouhary said. It was 2012, and Anthony Willoughby had just been sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor. Steve Dettelbach, then, the United States Attorney of Northern Ohio and, now, the Democratic nominee for Attorney General, brought this case to trial and saw it through to justice. I know, because I was there.
Steve and I worked closely on the Willoughby case together. I worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney at the time and I’ll never forget it. This case was monumental in that it initiated a shift in how human trafficking is addressed in Ohio. Steve led that shift.
As a direct result of Steve’s pioneer work on human trafficking, Willoughby’s case was one of the first human trafficking cases to go to trial in northern Ohio. Prior to this, human trafficking was treated as a state prostitution issue. Steve rightly challenged the status quo, insisting that there needed to be a unique approach to prosecuting these cases if we were to get a handle on this very specific type of evil endangering Ohioans, especially and statistically speaking, young women in Ohio.
Under Steve’s leadership, the U.S. Attorney’s office and Northwest Ohio Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force worked together in an effort to “eradicate modern-day slavery.” The NWOVCACTF includes members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, Toledo Police Department, Lima Police Department, Perrysburg Township Police Department, Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. The task force is a clear-cut example of the effectiveness that results from collaboration across various sectors of law enforcement.
In 2013, after an investigation by this task force, Steve and I prosecuted Roy Calhoun, a Toledo man who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the sex trafficking of minors. Calhoun recruited females, including minor children, to work as prostitutes between 2007 and 2010. He posted online advertisements soliciting a minor for sex and drove the minor to Toledo-area hotels.
Steve believes no one is above the law, no one is below the law, and no one is beyond its reach — and that came through every single day working alongside him on this issue. He used the law to hold human traffickers accountable for breaking the rules, and, just as importantly, to take a deliberate stand for Ohio’s most vulnerable.
While we’ve made progress in developing strategies to eradicate human trafficking in our state, I know - and Steve knows — that there is much work to be done. According to statistics collected by the Ohio Attorney General, human trafficking investigations hit an all-time high in 2017. Ohio has among the weakest human trafficking laws in the country — laws that leave law enforcement without critical tools to combat this scourge and leave victims without critical protections and recovery services.
As someone who has worked alongside Steve on this issue for years and witnessed him work tirelessly to protect victims no matter what, I know that he is the clear choice to move Ohio towards becoming a state that is leading on combating human trafficking, versus ranking in the bottom of the fight. As Ohio’s next Attorney General, Steve will ramp up the fight against human trafficking in Ohio. His plan will create new resources for law enforcement to catch traffickers, give prosecutors new tools to send criminals to jail, and give victims the resources they need to rebuild their lives.
Jim Moroney, now retired, was Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Ohio from 1987 until 2017.
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