In the last few weeks, two articles buried in the TNT’s local section detailed the convictions of two men for seemingly unrelated crimal offenses. But their crimes are not only connected, but intimately so.
On July 3, Gilardo Zaldivar-Guillen, a Sumner man, had the unenviable distinction of becoming the first person convicted of patronizing a juvenile prostitute under a revised sentencing guideline (TNT 7/4).
Under this new guideline, the crime of Commercial Sex Abuse of a Minor (RCW 9.68A.100) was elevated to a Class B felony. That makes it on par with crimes such as Robbery 2nd degree and Drive-by shooting. More importantly, it also carries a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment.
While Zaldivar-Guillen awaits his sentencing – likely in a state of shock for a crime that would be a misdemeanor if not for the age of his his decision to patronize a child prostitute – his conviction is a harsh wake-up call for the tawdry predators who troll the highways, byways and online sites where juvenile prostitutes congregate.
Then there is Alexander Walls, a 27-year-old Tacoma man, whose role in the sex trade caught the attention of federal investigators (TNT 7/11). Walls, a local pimp, was convicted of several crimes including conspiracy to transport a juvenile for prostitution, interstate transportation of a child for prostitution, three counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion and witness tampering.
On Thursday he was given 23 years in federal prison, a hefty sentence handed down after the court determined that his penchant for wooing women and young girls across state borders into a life of sex slavery deserved little mercy.
As buyer and seller, Zaldivar-Guillen and Walls, respectively, represent book ends in the illicit human trafficking business. For years now, law enforcement agencies have recognized that such criminals have been preying on vulnerable young girls and women in huge numbers. Their convictions signal a victory for the legislative process, which has succeeded in passing laws that directly target both ends of the sex trade supply chain.
Though it is unlikely Zaldivar-Guillen and Walls ever crossed paths, if they did it would most likely have been online. There, each would have access to websites which serve as the marketplace for the sex trade – websites such as craigslist and Backpage.com, the latter virtually synonymous with prostitution.
Unlike the two men who used their services, both sites have somehow managed to circumvent or sabotage the legislative restrictions aimed at curtailing their involvement in the sex trade. Shutting down these spaces – an endeavor pursued by former Attorney General Rob McKenna – continues to be a frustrating game of “whack-a-mole.” Nevertheless, that is a battle that must be won.
For today, those who fight to protect innocent young girls can take solace in the convictions of Zaldivar-Guillen and Walls. Albeit quietly, at least the message is getting out.
And the message to those who patronize prostitutes is simple: Stay away from children.