As a teenage runaway being threatened by a violent older pimp, Hope Zeferjohn ought to have been saved when Topeka police arrested the person for human trafficking. As an alternative, she was forged as a conspirator in his schemes and now faces greater than a decade in jail.
The scenario stems from their 2015 try and recruit a 14-year-old woman to dwell and work with them. Zeferjohn met the youthful woman earlier that yr at a church youth camp and so they turned pals. However the woman instructed Zeferjohn and Anthony “Angel” Lengthy, then 26, that she wasn’t focused on their association after which instructed her mother and father, who referred to as the police.
The 14-year-old by no means met Lengthy in particular person—contact was confined to Fb chats and textual content messages. She was by no means kidnapped or bodily harmed, although Lengthy did threaten her, police say. The woman was by no means marketed for business intercourse, nor did she ever have interaction in prostitution. And even Lengthy, who accepted a plea deal in February, was solely convicted of tried aggravated human trafficking, a third-degree felony. But someway Zeferjohn—somebody who was unquestionably underage on the time of the alleged offenses and is, by a number of accounts, an abuse and exploitation sufferer herself—has wound up on the hook for aggravated human trafficking, a felony within the first diploma.
‘She Tried to Get Away From Him Everytime She Got here House’
“On no account do I condone any wrongs Hopie has carried out on this mess—she was 17, and has a great head on her shoulders for probably the most half,” Stacey Duckworth, Hope’s Godmother, tells me. However “she would not deserve the remedy she’s getting, and had she had mother and father that have been extra concerned and financially secure, I do not suppose she’d be going through the fees she is.”
Hope was simply 15 when she first met Lengthy, who was almost 10 years older than her. Lengthy had a fame across the space as one thing of a creep and a legal report to again it up: home battery and violating a protecting order in opposition to his ex-girlfriend in 2013, threatening to assault a child-services employee in 2015. Nonetheless, Lengthy was initially a welcome visitor across the Zeferjohn’s Topeka, Kansas, dwelling. Hope’s mother and father have been busy with 4 youthful kids and, in accordance with kinfolk and neighbors, by no means ones to offer lots of parental supervision anyway.
“Angel groomed this household for a very long time,” says Duckworth. “He used to return into the house as a pal of the oldest daughter. There’s 5 ladies on this household.” In August 2014, when Heather and Hope have been each pregnant, the “household suspected Angel was father to each,” although DNA testing later dominated it out for Hope’s son. That very same summer time, 18-year-old Heather moved out into her personal residence and the remainder of the youngsters have been faraway from the Zeferjohn dwelling by the state’s Baby Protecting Companies (CPS). Three of the youthful kids went to dwell with Duckworth, and Hope was positioned with a household in close by Salina.
Hope’s CPS case managers additionally managed to get a restraining order in opposition to Lengthy.
In accordance with Duckworth, Hope “was doing superior in her foster dwelling. Her child got here, she graduated [high] college, began a job, took school courses. Purchased a automobile.”
By mid-2015, many of the Zeferjohn kids had been reunited with their mother and father (incomes them a photograph with Gov. Sam Brownback in a Division of Kids and Households press launch). Hope continued “excelling,” in foster care, says Duckworth. “Then Angel discovered her.”
In violation of the protecting order, Lengthy obtained involved with Zeferjohn, and kinfolk say he used extra than simply candy speak to steer Hope again to him. “He beat her, made her miscarry 2 completely different instances,” Heather Zeferjohn, 19, wrote final week on Fb in response to commenters who stated Hope deserved harsh legal remedy. In accordance with Heather, Lengthy instructed Hope “her son would die if she did not do what [Long] stated” and “held her at gun level when she did not do what he instructed her to.”
Hope “herself was intercourse trafficked,” Heather wrote.
In one other Fb remark, Heather claims that Lengthy “threatend to blow my home up with all my youngsters in it he did all of it off her fb so none of it could come again to him. However i wasnt dumb she would by no means speak like that to me. She tried to get away from him everytime she got here dwelling somebody he knew was all the time together with her she was by no means alone.”
A spokesperson from the Topeka Police Division declined to touch upon the case and stated full case information have been sealed. (I used to be solely in a position to entry docket information) The Shawnee County District Lawyer’s Workplace didn’t return my request for remark.
Victimizing the Victims
As of April 2017, Zeferjohn had been imprisoned in some a part of the Shawnee County Jail—first the juvenile detention ward, then grown-up jail after she’d turned 18 the prior August—since December 2015. Zeferjohn was transferred to Shawnee County custody after being picked up by police in New York, the place she had run away to with Lengthy, leaving her son within the care of her mother and father. On Fb, Hope’s father, Terry Zeferjohn, urged pals to name the police in the event that they noticed his runaway daughter, cautioning that Lengthy was armed and a “drug vendor” who “will kill anybody [who] will get in his methods.”
Duckworth says Hope “ran away to ny to ‘work’ for [Long], I suppose.” However how willingly went alongside is way from clear. Lengthy repeatedly threatened Hope and her household, in accordance with Duckworth. He “threatened her child and had overwhelmed her on extra then one event.”
In the meantime, the “little one intercourse trafficking” of which Zeferjohn is accused is completely confined to on-line chatter. This woman was by no means bodily abused by Lengthy (or Zeferjohn), by no means had intercourse for cash at his behalf, by no means felt he was somebody she could not escape. In accordance with police, Lengthy described sexual exercise he needed the woman to have interaction in with him and supplied to “prepare” her to please different males. He proposed that she come dwell with him, Zeferjohn, and Zeferjohn’s child as a “household” prostitution operation. And that is so far as issues went.
Fortunately, this woman reported Lengthy’s antics to her mother and father earlier than he might truly damage her or different younger ladies. And the woman had mother and father who discovered his conduct troubling sufficient to alert police—maybe partly out of concern for not simply their very own daughter’s security however that of the Hope and her toddler son, too. But slightly than deal with Zeferjohn like a second sufferer, Kansas officers have focused her as a lot as Lengthy for legal prosecution.
In January 2016, Lengthy was charged with 18 felonies, together with aggravated human trafficking, and two misdemeanors, for little one endangerment and contributing to little one misconduct or deprivation. The next June, Zeferjohn was charged with 9 felonies, together with aggravated human trafficking, conspiracy to commit rape, conspiracy to commit aggravated sodomy, aggravated intimidation, indecent solicitation of a kid, digital solicitation of a kid, and a number of other counts of constructing a legal risk, plus two misdemeanors. Aggravated human trafficking alone can include a penalty equal to second-degree homicide.
Is that this justice? In Zeferjohn, we’ve somebody who could be very doubtless the sufferer of a home abuser or an abusive pimp, relying on the way you take a look at it, and unquestionably a “intercourse trafficking sufferer” underneath federal regulation. It requires somebody to be participating in prostitution that is been compelled/coerced or to be participating in prostitution whereas underneath 18, irrespective of the circumstances, and Zeferjohn meets one if not each standards. The younger girl has already misplaced custody of her little one, and should register as a intercourse offender.
On March 31, she pled responsible to at least one rely of aggravated human trafficking, in trade for the opposite fees in opposition to her being dropped. Prosecutors beneficial that she be sentenced to 5 years and 11 months in jail, however the decide is free to disregard this suggestion on the July 7 sentencing. Eleven to 13 years is the everyday sentencing vary.
Lengthy accepted a plea deal in February, copping to at least one rely of tried aggravated human trafficking, 4 counts of felony little one sexual exploitation (for having nude photos of unidentified teen ladies on his cellular phone), and one felony rely every of indecent solicitation of a kid and digital solicitation. On April 7, a Shawnee County decide sentenced him to 35 years in jail. Native information channel WIBW described Zeferjohn as Lengthy’s 18-year-old “confederate” in a enterprise that concerned offering “a number of younger ladies between the ages of 14 to 16” with “meals and shelter in trade for sexual requests.” It failed to say that Zeferjahn was, on the time, one in all these younger ladies.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown