7/2/2018 - OKC, OK -- (By Brian Bates) An Oklahoma City woman, originally charged with the sex trafficking of two minors, has been sentenced to probation, with the opportunity to have her criminal record expunged. Is this another example of Oklahoma County's hug-a-thug mentality when it comes to human sex trafficking, or is this an example of compassion and second chances in the courtroom?
Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to sit in on the sentencing of Makinzie Danielle Nida of Perry, Oklahoma. Makinzie stood before Oklahoma County Judge Ray Elliot as he listened to arguments by both the prosecution and Makinzie's defense lawyer. Makinzie was originally charged last July with two-counts of felony human trafficking and one count each of possession of cocaine and marijuana. In Sept. of last year, Makinzie's human trafficking charges were reduced to pandering. In exchange for the reduced charges, Makinzie entered a blind plea of guilty, waived her right to a preliminary hearing and agreed to participate in in-custody Regimented Inmate Discipline ("RID" - aka, juvenile offender camp). Makinzie would not have been eligible for RID had her original human trafficking charges not been reduced. Additionally, human trafficking comes with mandatory prison time of five years (to life).
According to court testimony, and the probable cause affidavit filed in this case, back in June of last year, members of the Oklahoma City Vice Unit detained two juvenile females for engaging in Internet prostitution. The juveniles, both reportedly 17-years-old, indicated that they were being pimped out by Makinzie - who herself was only 18 at the time and had been engaging in prostitution for several years.
Police then used this information to locate Makinzie's own prostitution ads on Backpage.com and her social media profiles. Based on this information, around 11:30 p.m., police were able to locate Makinzie at the Studio 6 motel at 4601 SW 3rd St. in Oklahoma City (Reno and S. Meridian area). When uniformed members of the Oklahoma City Police Dept. arrived at Makinzie's motel room, they did an "knock and talk" and Makinzie gave the officers permission to enter her motel room. Once inside, officers saw drugs and drug paraphernalia within plain view.
Makinzie was placed under arrested and held at the Oklahoma County Jail on an initial $54,000 bond. At her July 27, 2017 arraignment, Makinzie's bond was raised to $106,000.
After spending (according to the defense) "nine-months in prison", successfully completing the RID program and getting her GED, Makinzie's defense attorney, Ben Munda, argued that charging Makinzie with human trafficking was a "miscarriage of justice" and that Oklahoma's trafficking laws are "insane." Munda asked Judge Elliot to either dismiss the charges against Makinzie altogether or to give her a three to four year deferred sentence.
The prosecution, who were completely unprepared for the sentencing (court had to take a recess while a member of District Attorney David Prater's office went looking for Makinzie's file) pointed out that Makinzie's RID history showed that she was written-up because she refused to take responsibility for her actions. Specifically, RID reported that Makinzie claimed that she wasn't caught committing any crimes and that she was only busted because the juveniles snitched on her.
Makinzie's defense lawyer argued that Makinzie didn't prostitute anyone, she herself was once a victim of human trafficking and that this arrest was "life changing" for her.
Judge Elliot addressed Makinzie directly on this point and reminded her that she had previously pleaded guilty to directly facilitating the prostitution of her two minor victims by instructing them on how to prostitute themselves, posting prostitution ads for the juveniles online and taking their monetary proceeds.
Makinzie's defense lawyer responded by saying, "it's not like these victims were 12-years old or anything." Defense lawyer Munda went on to make some reference that the victims were from broken homes and "wanted" to prostitute themselves. Munda continued to forward his opinion that the prosecution of his client was "disgusting."
Prosecutors did not ask for any prison time for Makinzie and instead urged Judge Elliot to sentence her to 15-years suspended.
Judge Elliot spent about 10 minutes lecturing Makinzie, asking her questions and reminding her that she ultimately faced a sentence up to 46-years in prison.
In the end, Judge Elliot sentenced Makinzie to only 5-years deferred and told her the next time he wanted to see her was after she had earned a college degree - stating "that would be really cool." Judge Elliot reminded Makinzie that she should not take a deferment from him lightly and that if she screwed up he would sentence her to prison without hesitation. Judge Elliot ended his conversation with Makenzie by stating, "today is your chance" there are no other chances.
Makinzie, whose parents were in the courtroom, told Judge Elliot that she planned to move to housing outside of Oklahoma City made available to her by "her tribe" and that she wanted to continue her education.
As part of Makinzie's deferment, she is to maintain full-time employment or be enrolled full-time in school.
A quick look back at Makinzie's Facebook profiles (click image below) during this time shows a young woman very lost and caught up in "easy money" and the pimping and ho'ing lifestyle.
McKenzie herself last posted to her original Facebook profile on June 28, 2017 - the day of her arrest.
On July 19, 2017 Makinzie (spelling her name "Makenzie") created a new facebook profile - explaining, "[I was] blocced [sic] from my old page so had to make a new one! Free at last."
It would appear, though JohnTV does not have definitive proof, that Makinzie was utilizing an illegal cell phone in the Oklahoma County Jail to make posts to this new Facebook profile, while making it appear she was no longer in custody. Online records indicate that Makinzie was still in custody when she posted the the image below on July 29, 2017...
Posts to Makinzie's new Facebook profile ended on Sept. 25, 2017 - the same day she was sent to in-custody RID and would have lost access to any cell phones smuggled into the jail.
Only time will tell if this second chance opens the door for Makinzie to victimize others again in the future or if deferring her sentence gives her a lifeline to become a productive citizen.
So, was justice served in this case? Should we support and encourage a zero tolerance justice system that holds human traffickers responsible and locks them away to keep them from trafficking others - or - should we support a system that exercises discretion and does not condemn individuals to lifelong persecution and obstacles because of mistakes they made in their youth? Is the act of sexually trafficking others, especially minors, ever a 'mistake', or is it a decision one makes and the repercussions of that decision should be harsh - regardless of the offender's gender or age?
Personally, I have seen this play out several different ways with completely contrasting outcomes.
JohnTV readers will recall a similar case from 2013. In that instance a young adult was caught prostituting a juvenile out of an Edmond motel and he too participated in RID and then was given a deferred sentence. In that case the trafficker was a 21-year-old male named Joshua Hudson and his victim was a 16-year-old female.
Upon his guilty plea and completion of RID, Hudson was sentenced to just 8-years deferred. When Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater was asked by the media why he approved of such a lax sentence he replied, "with a person as young as Hudson was at the time [of his crime], I try to be more lenient."
I spoke out against Hudson's deferred sentence to the media at that time...
And, as I predicted, Hudson threw away his second chance and just a year later he was was shooting at police officers and after a 16-hour manhunt was found hiding in a wooded area with a 15-year old girl wearing nothing but a bikini - crimes he could not have been committing had he been serving the prison time he deserved.
Hudson was subsequently sentenced to 30-years behind bars.
Local media once again interviewed me following Hudson's attempt to traffic more young women and kill police...
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