Oklahoma, Human Trafficking and Facebook: How Not to Raise Funds for Bail

You can sell damn near anything online these days... or at least you can try.

As the Huffington Post recently reported, there's finally something in the great state of Oklahoma worth talking about besides the OKC Thunder:

According to police, Misty VanHorn of Sallisaw, Okla. tried (unsuccessfully) to sell her kids on Facebook.

As an Oklahoma criminal defense attorney, I feel somewhat obligated to throw out a nationwide disclaimer. Ladies and gentlemen, I promise this isn't an ordinary Oklahoman's normal course of business.

Sure, Oklahoma gets its fair share of major crime just like any other state, but this incident is obviously obnoxious beyond belief. Some critics might argue that is a naive statement, considering Oklahoma has one of the most dangerous cities in the nation smack-dab in the middle of its borders, but this entrepreneurial-minded mother is truly a sore-sight for all of our eyes.

Apparently, VanHorn was willing to sell her two children for $4,000 as a package deal, or for $1,000 apiece (I'll let you do the math). The kicker? She was apparently trying to collect funds to pay her boyfriend's bail. Ironically enough, she is now being held on bond herself. Call me crazy, but I don't see many folks running to the courthouse in an attempt to post bail... for either of them.

All jokes aside, this case will hopefully open many eyes. We've always known that Oklahoma is a hotbed for human trafficking, but the general consensus usually seems to lay blame on the fact that both Interstate 44 and Interstate 35 cut right through the heart of the state. The argument has always been that Oklahoma's location provides easy access for all sorts of unsavory characters...

Looks like the issue might be a bit more "how-grown" than we thought.

VanHorn is currently charged in Sequoyah County District Court with "Trafficking in Children," which is a felony that carries up to ten (10) years of incarceration in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections or a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00) per violation. If convicted, VanHorn could face both the fine and prison time.

Moreover, VanHorn could potentially be prosecuted in federal court as well: apparently, the woman she attempted to sell her kids to lives in Arkansas, which means the offer was undoubtedly extended over interstate lines (not to mention through a channel of interstate commerce). As such, VanHorn could be in for even more trouble than she already faces.

Truth be told, it seems that the majority of the big-time busts for human trafficking and sex trafficking cases in Oklahoma involve more wide-scale operations than just your average, locally owned mom-and-pop sex trade. Look no further than the recent sentences for human trafficking handed down on six individuals in Oklahoma federal court. Most of the large-scale operations unearthed in Oklahoma are ultimately prosecuted in federal court due to the interstate nature of the underlying acts.

However, this federal jurisdictional-hook is simply another catalyst for Oklahomans to shift the blame: "It's just a bunch of folks from somewhere else causing all the trouble."

Now, I don't want you to think Oklahomans are blind or delusional; we know that human trafficking (and the often-associated sex crimes that accompany it) is an issue that needs more attention from our state legislature. There is an active attempt to bring the under-belly of the sex trade to full light, but the process is piece-meal.

First and foremost though, there is a conceptual-hurdle Oklahoma citizens have to leap: this isn't the same ol' buckle of the "Bible-Belt."

Seems like Oklahoma is growing, and it's getting harder and harder to hide behind the waving-wheat.

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