Congress can require pimps to pay restitution to overseas sex-trafficking victims, 11th Circuit says
By William G. Hodge
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has recently ruled that Congress has the power to require international sex traffickers to pay restitution to their victims for sex-trafficking that occurs overseas.
On March 24th, the federal appeals court convicted pimp Damion St. Patrick Baston when he forced a woman to perform prostitution work for him in Australia, the Daily Business Review reported. Baston was required to pay the woman $400,000 for her work in Australia and $78,000 for her work in the United States.
Baston initially entered the United States illegally with a stolen identity and traveled the world forcing women to prostitute for him. Using advice that he obtained from a book called Pimpology, Baston recruited women that had been sexually abused as children and took any money they earned. Baston also subjected his victims to violence by choking, slapping, and threatening to kill them if they defied him.
During his case, Baston argued that requiring him to pay restitution to his victims exceeds the power granted to Congress through the Foreign Commerce Clause and Due Process Clause. The 11th Circuit Court disagreed. Baston also challenged the sufficiency of evidence regarding whether his conduct was “in or affecting” interstate commerce. However, Baston failed to raise the challenge at the district court level. The court noted that even if the challenge had been made at the district court level and Baston trafficked his victims only in Florida, Baston’s use of cell phones, the Internet, hotels, and buses to facilitate his trafficking was “in commerce.”
Essentially, the court ruled that Congress had a “rational basis” that sex-trafficking by force overseas is part of an economic class of activities that has a substantial effect on commerce between the U.S. and other countries, which expands Congress’ power under the Foreign Commerce Clause.