House Bill 66 will make sex workers and sex trafficking survivors charged with working or traveling together register as sex offenders

House Bill 66 will make sex workers and sex trafficking survivors charged with working or traveling together register as sex offenders. It will be on the Senate Floor May 14th! We need your help!

House Bill 66 was just a bad homicide/overdose bill, but just over a week ago the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Senator Matt Claman, turned it into a 40 page criminal justice omnibus bill that does everything from allowing hearsay at grand jury to making people convicted of first and second degree sex trafficking register as sex offenders.

It makes sense for people convicted of sex trafficking in the first degree – most of that statute is what we traditionally think of as sex trafficking. Sex trafficking in the second degree is just things like sex workers traveling together or sharing clients – things that are done even more often by sex trafficking survivors than sex workers.

Here is a story about our member Amber being convicted of sex trafficking in the second degree under the travel part of the statute. More recently, a mother who was a victim of horrifically violent sex trafficking was charged in a similar way.

We need your help!

Email your opposition to all of our Alaska Senators! Ask them to vote no on HB 66 as long as Section 30 (page 24, line 9) includes Sex Trafficking in the Second Degree.

Senator.Bill.Wielechowski@akleg.gov;

Senator.Kelly.Merrick@akleg.gov;

Senator.Shelley.Hughes@akleg.gov;

Senator.David.Wilson@akleg.gov;

Senator.Bert.Stedman@akleg.gov;

Senator.Jesse.Kiehl@akleg.gov;

Senator.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov;

Senator.Jesse.Bjorkman@akleg.gov;

Senator.Cathy.Giessel@akleg.gov;

Senator.James.Kaufman@akleg.gov;

Senator.Elvi.Gray-Jackson@akleg.gov;

Senator.matt.claman@akleg.gov;

Senator.Forrest.Dunbar@akleg.gov;

Senator.Loki.Tobin@akleg.gov;

Senator.Mike.Shower@akleg.gov;

Senator.Scott.Kawasaki@akleg.gov;

Senator.Click.Bishop@akleg.gov;

senator.robert.myers@akleg.gov;

Senator.Lyman.Hoffman@akleg.gov;

Senator.Donald.Olson@akleg.gov;

Why We Oppose House Bill 264

Please see the following short presentation that we created to explain why House Bill 264 is a bad bill for Alaskans. 

Not only would HB 264 create misleading of definitions of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in Alaska statutes, but these misleading definitions will create more barriers to evidence based policy and lead to bad laws that impact all Alaskans.

IMMUNITY CATCHES KILLERS

Amber Nickerson, a member of CUSP, wrote this about the immunity to report after attending the Brian Steven Smith trial in Anchorage, Alaska Feb. 2024.

I have been a sex worker in Alaska for 20 years. I started in 2004, leaving an abusive marriage because I could support myself and my two kids from my work. I have experienced stigma, shame and criminal charges due to being a sex worker.

My first day attending Brian Steven Smith’s trial was on Valentine’s Day. A fitting day, the five-year anniversary of when Tracy Lynn Day, an Indigenous woman from Juneau and my longtime best friend, became missing. I went to the trial to show support to the family of other women, who Smith was accused of murdering, and to witness the ending of a predator. I wanted to find the courageous woman that came forward and initiated the investigation, a woman the media described as a “convicted prostitute.”  When the media describes a person like this it dehumanizes and promotes stigma, and this makes sex workers easy prey for men like Smith.

Brian Steven Smith’s trial was for the murders of Kathleen Jo Henry and Veronica Abouchuk, two homeless Alaska Native women he picked up for sex. He regularly picked up sex workers. Smith had picked up Valerie Casler, a sex worker, and she stole his phone. She found images and video of the murder of Kathleen Jo Henry, in all of its horror, on that phone. 

Fearful of arrest, she transferred the videos to an SD card and contacted the Anchorage Police Department on Sept. 30, 2019, stating she had found the SD card in the parking lot. She was afraid of being arrested for theft of Smith’s phone and of prostitution. Both misdemeanors. 

She was afraid of being arrested for a moral crime when she had information about a horrific murder. 

The videos of the torture and murder initiated an investigation from APD. Officers recognized Smith’s accent from a prior investigation, when a woman named Alicia Youngblood had contacted the police in 2018 regarding Smith. 

Alicia Youngblood had a brief previous relationship with Smith and had contacted police in 2018 after he had made comments to her about killing a woman. Not much is mentioned regarding that investigation. We were told that Youngblood had testified for the grand jury in this trial, but sadly in July of 2021 she died.

Casler didn’t know that sex workers have immunity from prostitution charges when reporting heinous crimes, thanks to the work and effort of Community United for Safety and Protection addressing the issue and getting the prostitution statute modified in 2016 as part of SB91. Encouraging victims and witnesses to come forward and report violent predators in our communities is important. Letting the public know this is even a viable option is part of stopping serial killers like Brian Steven Smith. 

Clients of sex workers don’t have the same immunity from prostitution charges to report heinous crimes. Clients are first responders in cases of actual sex trafficking and can be the only people a trafficking victim is ever alone with to confide in, but they risk an embarrassing charge and news coverage that could have long-term effects on their careers and families if they report crimes like sex trafficking or murder. This year in House Bill 265, legislators are considering modifying the immunity section of the prostitution statute and they could choose to add clients into its protections. 

If more people knew that sex workers could report crimes without fear of legal repercussions it could answer lingering questions left after Smith’s trial. 

For example, there was unknown female DNA found on the tailgate of Smith’s Ford Ranger. An FBI DNA forensic examiner from Quantico testified that DNA evidence ruled out Veronica Abouchek and Kathleen Jo Henry. Swab samples from Stephanie Bissland, Smith’s wife, were sampled, compared and excluded. The female DNA was possibly from another victim. 

On Feb. 22, 2024, the jury deliberated for close to two hours and came back with their verdict. Smith was found guilty on all 14 counts, including an aggravator that Smith subjected Kathleen Jo Henry to substantial physical torture. Fortunately, Casler’s fear of police and the resulting chain of custody of the videos was only a small hiccup the defense focused on. 

I met up with Valerie Casler the day after. It turns out, Feb. 22 was her birthday. When I told her of the verdict she looked at me and smiled. “The DA said they would call me, I didn’t know!” she laughed, nodding her head.

“I’d do it again, ‘cause those ladies needed to cross over and their souls make it to heaven,” she said. 

Valerie knows she saved lives. She knows she stopped a serial killer from killing more Alaska Native women and sex workers. 

Sentencing is set for July. 

SAFETY ALERT

During the recent serial killer trial of Brian Steven Smith disturbing information came out about IAN CALHOUN. We believe he is a DANGER to sex workers and Alaska Native women. Be aware and stay safe!

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

‘I have something to show you’: Smith texted Anchorage man in hours after hotel room killing, met him at Hillside park – ADN

In one text, the detective said that Calhoun texts Smith: “I was not up, sounds like you were having a lot of fun.”The detective said Smith replied: “I did have fun. Wanted to share.” Alaska Newsource

During the trial, prosecutors showed texts between Calhoun and Smith, which indicate that Smith wanted to show him Kathleen Henry’s body, before he disposed of it along the Seward Highway. Alaska Public Media

Who can you contact? CALL FOR THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY TO PRESS CHARGES!

Brittany Dunlop and Heather Nobrega (907) 269-6300

What can you do? Save and share the safety alert, call your representative and senator to let them know how you feel about Ian Calhoun not being held accountable. Find your rep/senator here.

Join in and have your voice heard! There are protests happening in Anchorage calling for the arrest and further investigation into Ian Calhoun. Find us on FACEBOOK and stay up to date on future protests.

SIGN THE PETITION! We have over 600 signatures! You do not need to donate, just sign, share, and help our community hold Ian Calhoun accountable.

We are calling on the Anchorage Police Department and the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office to arrest Ian Calhoun immediately for his involvement with convicted murderer Brian Steven Smith. Ian was in communication with the murderer and appears to have had firsthand knowledge of the crimes committed by Brian Steven Smith and he did not report them to authorities.

Feel free to print the flyer below out and share with your community.

Customer Extortion Alert

Over the past months, Fairbanks and Anchorage clients of sex workers have reported extortion attempts by two bad actors pretending to be Fairbanks and Anchorage Police Department Detectives. The impersonators appear to call from a spoofed number associated with the police departments, but when one client called FPD to verify they were told that FPD had no detectives by those names and that the callers were impersonating police. 

The Community United for Safety and Protection (CUSP) is concerned that these recent crimes targeting clients of sex workers are a result of hostile rhetoric about clients during the 2023 legislative session, which created an environment where our clients are prime targets. In 2016 SB91 gave immunity from prostitution charges for sex workers and sex trafficking survivors reporting heinous crimes, but there is no such protections for clients reporting crimes like extortion or sex trafficking. Extortion and impersonating police officers are both felonies under Alaska state law. 

The extortion attempts seem to be associated with fake escort ads. Because the criminalization of prostitution has forced sex work into the underground, it is important for clients and sex workers to vet each other for safety and to avoid bad actors. 

The Community United for Safety and Protection is a group of current and former sex workers and sex trafficking survivors working towards safety and protection for everyone in Alaska’s sex industries.

Alaska Sex Workers Condemn Prostitution Stings

On January 24th the Department of Public Safety announced that it’s Special Crimes Investigative Unit (SCIU) had posed as sex workers and conducted prostitution stings on 22 men (https://dailydispatch.dps.alaska.gov/Home/DisplayIncident?incidentNumber=AK21146350).

The SCIU has recently been reinstated after a hiatus. Previously the SCIU operated between 2014 and at least 2017, with the it’s “main purpose to locate and rescue juvenile victims that [sic] are being forced to work as prostitutes in the commercial sexual exploitation of children.” During its years of operation, the SCIU, which consisted of one Sergeant, two Investigators, and a Technician, did not find anyone to charge with sex trafficking of a minor. They refused to take reports from sex workers (https://www.vice.com/en/article/kwpkqm/alaska-declares-open-season-on-sex-workers-922) and when a woman tried to report that she was being sex trafficked, they followed up with her months later by conducting a prostitution sting, during which the Investigator can be heard moaning and saying, “Oh baby I’ve never had that before! Can you feel my heartbeat?”

Colonel Bryan Barlow is quoted representing that arresting clients of sex workers will address sex trafficking, and the complaints make similar claims with no documentation.

In fact, clients of sex workers are our first responders in the war on sex trafficking, and often the only people that genuine sex trafficking victims have unsupervised contact with. The 2019 arrest of Alex Asino for sex trafficking of a minor was due to a report made, in part, by a sex work client he had confided in. Mr. Asino was, at the time, the only person to be charged in Alaska with sex trafficking an actual, non-ficticious minor in the commercial sex industry in a decade.

The arrests and public shaming of clients by naming them before they’ve even been charged alienates those who are most likely to encounter sex trafficking victims from police. Without access to equal protection, sex workers and our clients are left to attempt to help victims on our own, with no training or resources. This is in direct opposition to public safety.

“I’ve had customers call me for help after helping a woman get away from a trafficker,” said Terra Burns, “and it’s just a travesty that neither the customer nor the victim felt safe to call the police.” Senate Bill 91, which established immunity for sex workers and sex trafficking survivors reporting heinous crimes, did not include immunity for clients.

The SCIU’s 2014 personnel budget was $578,239. Alaska’s public resources are so limited that one must wonder which budget is being cut to fund police arresting people who are attempting to engage in consensual, private, adult sexual activities.

The Community United for Safety and Protection is a group of current and former sex workers, sex trafficking survivors, and our allies, advocating for safety and protection for everyone in Alaska’s sex industries.

Anchorage Community Safety Alert: Troy Lyle Smith

Today, Troy Lyle Smith was once again released from jail and is free to again prey on vulnerable Alaskans. Mr. Smith is known to our community to be a violent, sadistic pimp who has targeted minors. We believe him to be a serious and ongoing danger to vulnerable Alaskan women and young people.

CUSP has never done a community safety alert like this before. In this case we believe it to be warranted because of the danger to minors and the justice system’s repeated failure to hold Mr. Smith accountable and protect our community. Our primary concern is for the safety of his victims and potential victims, and we are also concerned for the integrity of any potential criminal investigation(s). For those reasons, we will not be answering questions or providing any additional information.

CUSP is a group of current and former Alaskan sex workers, sex trafficking survivors, and allies working towards safety and protection for everyone in Alaska’s sex trades.

Here are some pictures of Troy Lyle Smith: