Texas mom’s ‘horror’ plea agreement 2023

Irma Reyes’ mind raced as her husband drove through the predawn darkness into a courthouse hundreds of miles from home: Don’t they realize my kid matters?

Since Texas prosecutors intended to liberate the two men accused of sex trafficking her daughter, Reyes had barely eaten. She went to court to halt them.

In 2017, guys named “Rocky” and “Blue” held Reyes’ 16-year-old daughter and another girl at a San Antonio hotel where men paid for sex. The proceedings against Rakim Sharkey and Elijah Teel, the traffickers, have witnessed years of delay, a parade of prosecutors, an aborted trial, and a government retreat.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who faces a federal criminal probe, is dysfunctional, and hundreds of cases are affected. Trafficking cases have raised questions about how the agency, which fights court battles impacting individuals far outside Texas, spends millions of state tax money on a subject Republican leaders tout as a priority while blasting Democrats’ border security policy.

Kristen House, the attorney general’s spokesperson, declined to comment.

Reyes called it a nightmare.

Reyes’ stomach twisted as she contemplated the two men’s five-year probation in the courts in January. Original charges brought decades-long jail terms.

“You will not find a stronger corroborated case,” said Kirsta Leeburg Melton, who led the attorney general’s human trafficking section until late 2019. “I’m ill. Incorrect.”

Reyes listened as the judge recounted the case’s twists and turns: years lost to the pandemic, delays owing to “turnover in the attorney general’s office,” days of testimony last year only to have many individuals get COVID-19 and force a mistrial.

She was shocked when the new prosecutor told the judge Reyes’ daughter was “on the run.” Reyes said the 22-year-old fled home after a disagreement, but they text often.

Sharkey and Teel pled “no contest” to aggravated prostitution promotion. Velia Meza convicted the men to seven years of probation, despite prosecutors’ recommendation of five, so they wouldn’t have to register as sex offenders.

Reyes thought about her daughter as she made a victim impact statement.

The AP does not identify sexual assault victims. Reyes told AP she discussed this topic with her daughter, who declined to respond or be interviewed.

Reyes stated her daughter was bullied and ran away. She began taking drugs in her teens and entered treatment in 2017.

Court records suggest their images were sold online for “dates” days after Reyes’ daughter and another girl ran away from treatment. “Blue” met them outside a motel where they couldn’t stay. He introduced “Rocky.” According to documents, the two hired the girls a room, arranged up sex sessions with males, and took half the money.

After “Rocky” struck her, Reyes’ daughter contacted her mom and cops discovered them. The young woman identified “Rocky” by pointing to Sharkey.

Jason Goss, Sharkey’s lawyer, told AP that his client would have been acquitted but had to plead no contest to the lower charge because a life sentence was too hazardous. Brian Powers, Teel’s attorney, declined comment.

Reyes, her daughter, and the prosecution decided to retry the case after the June mistrial. After that, a flood of experienced lawyers left the attorney general’s office over procedures they believed slanted legal work, rewarded loyalists, and silenced opposition.

According to court papers, Reyes met James Winters, the office’s eighth and last prosecutor, in October.

Reyes’ daughter assured Winters she would testify again. The lawyer told Reyes of the plea arrangement after the court denied a postponement. After appearing in court, Winters resigned.

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