The Jeffrey Epstein and Elk Grove exceptions

Child sex trafficking prosecutions, which steadily climbed under Obama, are on pace to fall to their lowest level in five years.

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the Aug. 8, 2019 issue.

Two Elk Grove men can expect decades behind bars for sexually exploiting children—at the same time that federal prosecutions of such crimes continue to fall under President Donald Trump.

According to a review of Justice Department data by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, child sex trafficking prosecutions “under a law used against financier Jeffrey Epstein” plummeted 26.7% over the past fiscal year—the second year in a row that such prosecutions have fallen. TRAC correlates the decline with a growing independent streak among federal prosecutors, who are taking fewer accused child traffickers to court under Trump.

In the Obama administration’s last full year, appointed U.S. attorneys pursued 49% of the child sex trafficking cases brought to them by state and federal authorities. During the first eight months of the current fiscal year, Justice Department records show the rate has fallen to 39%, TRAC reports.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, which covers Sacramento, isn’t among TRAC’s top 10 for prosecuting child sex trafficking, despite being one of the nation’s largest federal judicial districts. Its most recent conviction may have come a year ago:

Abdul Basier Hashimi of Elk Grove pleaded guilty last August to sexually trafficking a child he met on social media when she was 13. Hashimi was sentenced to a dozen years in prison this past February, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Child sex traffickers often prey upon our community’s most vulnerable minors—runaways, foster kids, children who face difficult circumstances—promising the young victims that they will receive care and support,” Sean Ragan, special agent in charge of the FBI Sacramento Field Office, said in a prepared statement. “In actuality, traffickers treat their victims as commodities to acquire and sell, generating profit from exploiting them and leveraging their youth as a selling point.”

That appears to have happened in a more recent case traced to Elk Grove.

On July 30, a Sacramento Superior Court jury convicted Robert Michael Taylor, 42, of Elk Grove of seven felonies involving underage victims, including one count apiece of human trafficking, pimping, pandering, statutory rape, child molestation, sodomy against a minor and conspiracy to commit a crime. Online court records show Taylor was acquitted of a second human trafficking allegations.

According to a release from the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, as well as arrest and jail logs, the story began in January 2017, when a 14-year-old runaway from another state was selling her body to survive on one of Sacramento’s notorious prostitution strolls. That’s where she met an older girl who recruited her to work for Taylor, Deputy District Attorney Danielle Abildgaard argued at trial.

Taylor pimped the girls and two other women out of an ice cream truck, the prosecutor’s office states. He kept the money they made from prostitution, raped the underage girls, and allegedly beat one of the women with belts, metal hangers and his hands.

Four months into her servitude, the 14-year-old called 911 to report that her pimp had “put his hands on her,” the DA’s release states. Elk Grove police arrested Taylor in April 2017, and discovered that he had run at least 10 girls and women since his 2012 prison release. He kept their prostitution earnings in exchange for giving them a place to live, the DA’s office states.

Taylor faces a maximum of 90 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 30, nearly two weeks after his 43rd birthday.

A co-defendant, Najla S. Jones, had multiple felony counts of human trafficking and pimping dismissed against her on July 22, online court records show. She pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of being an accessory after the fact, for which she was given five years of formal probation.

Jones was previously convicted of misdemeanor prostitution in 2014 and prostitution and petty theft in 2011. A number of other charges were dropped against her in more recent years.

The DA’s office is arguing that a 1995 first-degree burglary conviction against Taylor constitutes a strike offense that should be considered at his sentencing.