Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has announced that her newly created Human Trafficking Unit has successfully prosecuted its first criminal court case.
Assistant State Attorneys Jane Anderson and Wei Xiang prosecuted Robert Burton on charges of Deriving Support by Prostitution, Domestic Violence Battery by Strangulation, Interference with Custody, and Kidnapping.
Burton, who had no prior convictions, faced 7 Years State Prison to Life. Circuit Court Judge Judge Marisa Tinkler-Mendez sentenced him to 15 Years State Prison on February 26, 2013. This was the first criminal court case to come out of the State Attorney`s new Human Trafficking Unit.
The case originally came in to the Human Trafficking Unit as a Misdemeanor Domestic Violence case. Assistant State Attorney Wei Xiang had been assigned to handle it as a misdemeanor Domestic Violence Battery case. The victim came in and spoke to prosecutor Xiang for two hours about her life for the past ten years: the beatings, the prostitution, the strangulation, the psychological manipulation, and the use of her two children with Burton as a means of control. Assistant State Attorney Xiang brought the case to his colleague, Assistant State Attorney Jane Anderson of our Human Trafficking Unit, and together they continued to work with the victim for a year and a half to build the case.
At the end of January, Circuit Court Judge Bronwyn Miller held an evidentiary Williams Rule Hearing. After listening to the victim`s testimony, Judge Miller ruled that the State would be able to present evidence that the defendant had beaten, strangled and prostituted the victim for the last ten years. As Judge Miller stated, Everything comes in, everything. The trial took place before Judge Tinkler-Mendez and Burton was represented by criminal defense attorney Larry Handfield.
The victim testified for six hours during the trial. The jury came back in just twenty minutes with a guilty verdict. The victim was in court to hear their decision.
At sentencing, the Court heard from the victim and the defendant, as well as argument from the State and Defense. When pronouncing Burton`s sentence, Judge Tinkler-Mendez stated that the defendant had committed modern day slavery and that he had made the victim a broken person through his torment and indoctrination.
She called the defendant narcissistic stating that he continued to place blame on others even though it was his actions that caused the victim to become broken and his actions that have made his children potentially permanently damaged.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle declared that to effectively combat Human Trafficking, one has to develop a sensitivity to the nuances of the crime.
Knowledge and understanding are the sharpest, most dependable tools in the fight against Human Trafficking, commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. The more we know and understand, the better we can effectively combat these awful crimes. Human Trafficking frequently uses many of the control techniques we often see in domestic violence situations, particularly the use of affection coupled with violence bordering on torture.
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