Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

Man convicted of human trafficking gets 34 years in prison

TAMPA — A federal judge set a precedent for human trafficking cases when she ruled Wednesday that a Lutz man used illegal prescription drugs to coerce women into prostitution.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew sentenced Andrew Blane Fields, 62, to nearly 34 years in prison on drug and human trafficking charges.

In the past, coercion in sex trafficking cases has required evidence of beatings or other physical force. Prosecutors successfully argued that Fields would wait until the women were experiencing symptoms of drug withdrawal — including vomiting and diarrhea — and then forced them to engage in prostitution to get additional drugs.

"He made me believe that he cared and that he loved me and he was going help me get off the streets," said Jordan Rennie, 22, one of three victims who gave statements during the sentencing. "Instead, he got me addicted to Roxicodone, Xanax, methadone and Somas, which were all bought illegally for the purpose of addicting me and controlling me."

Fields was charged in March and convicted in November after authorities found nearly 9,000 prescription pills in his home. Dressed in a navy blue county jail jumpsuit and bound at the ankles, he interjected several times during the proceedings and often turned to make eye contact with the victims.

The women expressed shame and regret over their time spent with Fields. One told a story of how she can't be intimate with her fiance without wondering if she's only worth the money in his wallet.

In their statements, the women shared conflicting feelings for Fields.

As is often the case with human trafficking, the victims formed a strong attachment to their captor. One called him a father figure. Another said she still had love for him and wondered if it was bad to want his forgiveness for testifying against him.

Turning to the other victims present, a woman known only as A.D. in court records urged the women to move forward with their lives.

"I care about you girls," she said. "You're beautiful. You're strong. You shouldn't be ashamed."

When Bucklew handed down the sentence of 33 years and 9 months — the longest term suggested in the guidelines — all three women exclaimed relief and thanks.

Fields quickly asked about the appellate process.

The defense had tried to argue for a lesser sentence because many of the victims had engaged in drug use and prostitution before meeting Fields. Judge Bucklew expressed a different view, saying Fields targeted women he knew were vulnerable.

"That's exactly what you were, you were a predator," Bucklew told Fields. "You are a 60-year-old man … and you were preying on those young women because they were just that. They were vulnerable.''

Human trafficking has become a prominent issue in Tampa Bay over the past year, but law enforcement and prosecutors have had difficulty getting convictions. To distinguish sex trafficking from prostitution, they must prove force, fraud or coercion.

"This kind of case has been brought forth before, and this is the first sentencing where drugs were substantiated as the sole means of coercion," Department of Homeland Security special agent Bill Williger said. "It sets a precedent so now we can bring cases forward where you don't need to prove violence. It's just another tool we have now to prosecute these cases."

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443.

     
   
Comments
Father dead, suspect in custody after hit-and-run driver plows into New Tampa family on bike ride

Father dead, suspect in custody after hit-and-run driver plows into New Tampa family on bike ride

A Tampa man is dead and his 3-year-old son is in serious condition after being struck by a hit-and-run driver as they went on a family bike ride Sunday afternoon.A male suspect is in custody and being interviewed by police but his name has not yet be...
Updated: 3 hours ago
A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

TAMPA — Every year during draft season, players from the Tampa Bay area are selected in the NFL, MLB and even NBA drafts.But NHL?Sure enough, in the third round of Saturday's NHL draft, the Jets selected Nathan Smith, a forward who was born in ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Office building demolition at Midtown Tampa site proves tougher than expected

Office building demolition at Midtown Tampa site proves tougher than expected

TAMPA ó Stripped to the girders, the old Bromley office building looked about as substantial as fish bones on a dinner plate.But the 5-story structure proved Sunday it still had a surprising amount of fight left in it.A demolition team had planned to...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays season turning into good one

Rays season turning into good one

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays are not the best team in baseball. They are not going to win the World Series this year. Heck, they probably won't even make the playoffs.But I tell you what. This team is a heck of a lot of fun to watch.And ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays first baseman Jake Bauers sat at his locker after Sunday afternoon's 7-6, 12-inning win over the Yankees and thumbed through his text messages. There was no way he could get through them all. That's what happens when ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

ST. PETERSBURG — Ryan Yarbrough was only supposed to throw on Sunday if it was an emergency. In the 12th inning with the score tied 6-6 and a runner on first, there was an emergency.Jonny Venters tweaked his right hamstring trying to cover firs...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

ST. PETERSBURGSuspect dead, 2 injured in home invasion, shootingThree people forced their way into a St. Petersburg house before dawn Sunday before gunfire broke out, killing a suspect and injuring two residents, police said.About 5:30 a.m., the peop...
Updated: 6 hours ago
A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

The coast of White Rock, British Columbia, in western Canada looks to be an ideal place for a run, with its sweeping views of the Semiahmoo Bay to the west and scores of waterfront homes and seafood restaurants to the east. Thatís what 19-year-old Ce...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Head-on crash kills Pasco teenager, injures three

Head-on crash kills Pasco teenager, injures three

NEW PORT RICHEY ó A 19-year-old driver died in a three-car crash on Moon Lake Road on Saturday afternoon, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.Jillian Faith Hitt, 19 and of New Port Richey, was driving north on the road in a 2008 Hyundai Accent, weari...
Updated: 11 hours ago
President Trumpís trade war threatens the US newspaper industry

President Trumpís trade war threatens the US newspaper industry

STERLING, Ill. - As a longtime editor of small-town newspapers, Jeff Rogers has seen his industry face the collapse of print advertising, the rise of the internet and more. Today, his 18 employees work in a newsroom here that puts out two daily newsp...
Updated: 11 hours ago