Two-Year Journey for ICT S.O.S Founder Comes Full-Circle

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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A campaign two years in the making against human trafficking came full-circle this week for Jennifer White in her kitchen.

"I was actually doing the dishes," White said.

That's where she got an unexpected phone call from an exploited and missing children's unit (EMCU) officer.

"When I answered, he said, 'I have some news I think you will be pretty excited about,'" White said.

The news he was excited to share: There had been a verdict in a human trafficking case that has special meaning to White.

"This was the case that was in the original newspaper story that I read that was the catalyst for this all starting," White said.

White started the grassroots organization ICT S.O.S. to raise awareness about human trafficking in response to the story she read online in 2010 about a 13-year-old Wichita girl being sold for sex. A 48-year-old man had picked up the young girl in a black escalade outside of a Wichita QuikTrip, and within 24 hours, had sex with her and sold her to another man.

When she heard the officer say the man, Donald Lee Davis, had been found guilty on six counts, her response was something of deja vu.

"I just sat in the living room and cried, just like I sat in my living room and cried when I read the original story," White said. "Just to see it come full-circle and see her get some justice, that was huge for me."

Marc Bennett, Sedgwick County Deputy District Attorney and lead prosecutor on the case, says Davis was found guilty of three counts of rape and three counts of aggravated trafficking.

"The testimony this week was that a girl was sold by Mr. Davis on three occasions to a man in his late 40's or 50's who had sexual intercourse with her for money," Bennett said.

He says the rape convictions fall under Jessica's Law, legislation passed about five years ago to increase the penalties for sex offenses committed against children. Because of that law, the three rape convictions carry sentences of 25 years to life in prison.

"It's the same as first-degree murder," Bennett said. "If an individual had killed a child or an adult, it would be the same penalty as a Jessica's Law sex crime."

The three trafficking convictions carry up to 41 years in prison in addition to the three possible life sentences for the rape convictions. The judge has the option of running those concurrently or consecutively.

Davis is scheduled to be sentenced in early December, according to court documents. A co-defendant is yet to go on trial.

Bennett says the harsher sentences help his office to send the message that this behavior will not be tolerated. He personally filed the first trafficking case under the new state law in Kansas: State of Kansas v. Marlin Williams.

"When those cases get brought over, we file as many of them as we can. We prosecute them as vigorously as we can," Bennett said.

He says the work that White and ICT S.O.S. has done in the past two years is making a difference in his ability to prosecute these cases.

"It's been very nice to see a group of citizens moved enough by crime in the community to want to take a positive step," Bennett said.

Bennett says thanks to ICT S.O.S. there is more awareness in the community and more people keeping their eyes open for possible human trafficking behavior such as what happened at that QuikTrip in 2010.

"The fact that we are having that conversation as a community and saying we are not ok with this happening in our city, I think that shift happening over the last two years has been big," White said.

Following Davis' conviction Wednesday, law enforcement officers showed their appreciation to Jennifer White by giving her a special opportunity.

They introduced her to the young girl Davis took advantage of back in 2010. She was interested in meeting Jennifer White.

"She's been a symbol over the last year or so but I never knew her name," White said. "To be able to tell her, 'This is what's happened over the last year and a half because you were so brave,' really meant a lot."

Even more, White said, meeting the young woman who now wants to be a district attorney, reaffirmed that the work ICT S.O.S. is doing is worth it and is making a difference.

"When you sit across the table from somebody and you look at them and know the work that's being done in this community is going to directly affect the rest of her life, that's huge," White said. "Between the officers and the judge and the social workers and everybody who has supported her during the past two years, they have given her a chance."

But she says while that particular case has come full-circle, her organization has a lot more work to do, a lot more it wants to accomplish.

"Just like she's at the beginning of her new life, our organization is still so young, if anything this is more ammunition to say, 'Alright we are heading in the right direction,'" White said. "This is really going to fire everybody up to keep going and keep fighting."

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