More than 125 local cops, doctors, teachers, philanthropists and citizens recently gathered for the biggest anti-human-trafficking conference ever held on Colorado’s Western Slope.
That one-day summit happened because Glenwood Springs Attorney Angela Roff asked Carbondale resident Beth Klein to make it happen.
Beth Klein, a Boulder attorney who retired here with her husband James two years ago, has a history of making things happen: she wrote Colorado’s 2010 and 2011 anti-human trafficking laws. Former Governor Hickenlooper appointed her to the Colorado Children’s Trust Fund Board, the body that established Colorado’s Child Abuse Hotline. Along with longtime law-school friend and fellow attorney Carrie Frank, Beth Klein established the Frank Klein Foundation, which works in three areas: law, community empowerment and leadership development.
It was the Klein Frank Foundation that sponsored the recent anti-human-trafficking summit at CMC in Rifle, offering it for free to anyone who wanted to attend. A group of physicians from Valley View Hospital came; they wanted to learn the signs of victimization so that they could help patients. Five officers from the Rifle Police attended. A group of co-workers from Alpine Bank’s risk management division showed up; they wanted to be able to recognize how human traffickers arrange their financing.
Klein, who wrote the 2010 Colorado law that defined human trafficking as a RICO (crime, says that “anti-trafficking is really about creating a cohesive community where everyone cares for each other and no one is left out.” The law she wrote helps with that effort because it “allows us not just to go after the pimp, but the whole gang, the delivery driver, the hotels…”
Klein’s husband, the Honorable James Klein, a retired District Court Judge who also works with the Klein Frank Foundation, prosecuted one of Colorado’s first human trafficking cases back in the 1980s. In that case, the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park had been importing laborers into the U.S. and then refusing to pay them.
Back then, Colorado had little way to prosecute; James had to use tax law to go after the hotel. Now, thanks to laws written by Beth, trafficking is defined not only as a criminal offense, but also a civil offense, one in which victims can sue for three times the amount of damages plus attorneys’ fees.
Over the years, Beth has represented “many, many clients”. She says, “Every single one, no matter how bad it was, they have gone through major transformations and have gone on to do amazing things.”
One former client has been elected to a city council. The last victim she represented, a 65-year-old woman who was kept chained as a work slave, won a $4.5 million legal judgment against the “Romeo pimp” who tortured and electrocuted her.
Klein explains that human trafficking here in Colorado generally takes two forms: traffic for the sex trade and migrant workers abused by agricultural firms. Local residents may not be aware of it, but law enforcement authorities across multiple states recognize I-70 as a human trafficking corridor. Because I-70 and I-25 cross in Colorado, Denver is a hotspot.
Klein says that many local cases involve “men brought here to care for livestock and then dumped,” but Glenwood Attorney Angela Roff, the attorney who asked for the recent trafficking summit, is working on a local child prostitution case. A couple, 30-year-old Dasjuan Goode and 25-year-old Damara Hester, were arrested for bringing children from Aurora to a motel on Sixth Street in Glenwood and making them available for sex.
“I want people here in Carbondale to know that kids here are at risk,” says Klein. As we learned at the summit, trafficking typically happens when there are income disparities, when families are struggling to make ends meet. Their kids have problems and they wind up making dangerous choices to survive.”
“When a 14-year-old girl is getting picked up from school early, if she’s suddenly carrying around a Chanel bag in Carbondale, if she’s suddenly wearing clothing that’s not representative of her social status, that’s when you need to pay attention,” Klein explains.
“What you look for is kids in the wrong place at the wrong time; they’re not in school when they should be. Or if they’re in school, there’s been a dramatic change in behavior. They’re not the same as they were a year ago.”
Another anti-trafficking conference is being organized and will be held in Grand Junction soon. Those interested in participating may call the Klein Frank Foundation at (303) 448-8884 and ask for Beth Klein.
For video of the conference, see vimeo.com/312631792