Tuesday, Jul 26, 2016
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Gov. Kasich signs sex trafficking bill focusing on 'johns'

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich

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COLUMBUS — On June 10, a registered sex offender previously convicted of soliciting a 14-year-old for sex was caught in a Wood County sting trying to hire an undercover officer he thought was a 17-year-old girl.

He was charged with a third-degree misdemeanor and possibly faces a maximum of 60 days behind bars.

But if he’d been arrested today, after Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 130 into law shortly before noon, he would have faced a fifth-degree felony and as much as a year in jail.

“This is a market-driven bill ...,” the bill's sponsor, Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), said. “It’s simply about economics. No demand means no need for supply.”

The Toledo area shot to the top in terms of trafficking recruitment statistics, entering the same club as the likes of Las Vegas and Miami, in 2005 when a federal sting broke up a Harrisburg, Pa., ring involving 177 females — 77 of them, including a 10-year-old girl, from the Toledo area.

Prior legislation over the last few years increased penalties primarily for those who coerce and manipulate minors and vulnerable adults for their own profit and worked to treat those rescued more as victims instead of criminals.

The so-called End Demand Act shines the spotlight on “johns” who fuel the market on which traffickers depend, raising penalties for solicitation of minors, making it easier to prosecute them when minors are under the age of 16, and cracking down on massage parlors fronting for prostitution.

The bill took effect immediately upon Mr. Kasich’s signature at a trafficking forum hosted by the Salvation Army that was attended primarily by women.

“What this mosaic here represents, in my opinion, is the fact that people said, ‘I’m not going to wait for the government. I’m not going to wait for the police officer. I’m not going to wait for anything. I’m going to figure out how I can step up and do something that will make a difference in somebody else’s life’,” Mr. Kasich said.

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