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Arizona county attorney blasts sex trafficking study

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Attorney claimed a study on child sex trafficking in the Valley is filled with inaccuracies.

The study of 134 cases in four areas, including Phoenix, by Shared Hope International in partnership with Arizona State University said many child predators in Arizona are not being charged with state sex trafficking crimes.

County Attorney Bill Montgomery disagreed.

“I won’t call it junk science, but it’s pretty close,” he said.

A KTAR review showed the report listed the average sentence to be 5&frac14 years, but a spokesman for the County Attorney’s Office said the report erroneously claims the median time served is 90 days.

ASU and Shared Hope said the Phoenix portion of the study is based on 24 cases, though Montgomery claimed the partnership won’t disclose them.

“We can’t find out where they got some of their numbers from,” Montgomery said. “They won’t share with us the 24 cases that they say come from Arizona. A lot of it is based on Internet research.”

A scan of the report revealed one cited case, Arizona v. Michael C. Gilliand, the former CEO of Sunflower Farmers Market. The case, heavily covered by Valley media outlets, including KTAR, was resolved in 2012.

Gilliand plead guilty to offering an undercover officer posing as a 17-year-old girl $100 for sex despite knowing she was underage. He was indicted on one felony count of child prostitution, which carries a maximum sentence of 12.5 years. However, he pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to commit pandering, a misdemeanor, and sentenced to 30 days in jail along with one year of probation.

The report did not disclose other examples, but said it investigated 24 Phoenix cases, 23 of which were felonies. Of those cases, the report claimed, 13 resulted in a felony conviction, three in a misdemeanor and two in both a felony and misdemeanor.

However, the report took umbrage with what it termed “undesignated felonies” that only occur in Phoenix and could be shifted to a misdemeanor during conviction. It also claimed Phoenix, along with the D.C.-Baltimore area, had the highest number of suspended sentences.

Despite claims Phoenix failed to follow through on sex crime convictions, the study cited a state anti-human trafficking law and Phoenix city proposal as reasons the Valley is leading the way in the fight against sex trafficking.

“The Phoenix metropolitan area has emerged as a leader in crafting progressive and innovate responses to sex trafficking and those who would engage in its illicit business,” the study read.

It also said Phoenix investigated 619 cases of prostitution in 2013 and made 661 arrests, 151 of which were men purchasing sex. More than 70 percent were caught in online stings and all plead guilty to the charges.

Montgomery claimed the study has been deleted from at least one website because of the numerous inaccuracies. He insisted his office is aggressively prosecuting sex trafficking cases.

The KTAR Newsroom contributed to this report.