Seminole County, Florida, May 19, 2017
A former substitute teacher, Jeremy Webster, was found guilty of human trafficking a 17-year-old girl in Seminole County on Friday.
He sexually exploited the young woman at a hotel in Altamonte Springs for two days before he was discovered by authorities.
When she was rescued, the young woman was skeptical when prosecutors told her she would not be charged with a crime. It took some time to convince her that they wanted to help her. However, thanks to victim advocates caring for her, she began to trust them. With her cooperation, her testimony built a strong case against Webster.
Assistant State Attorney, Lisa Haba, said that the teen was smart enough to hide some of the money from Webster. This is a fact that the defense tried to use in Webster’s favor, chuckling, saying if he was a pimp, Webster must be “the worst pimp in the United States of America.”
To this statement, Haba replied, “We haven’t charged him with being good at his job. We have charged him with being a pimp.”
The jury agreed with the prosecution. Keeping money from Webster doesn’t make the minor any less of a victim. Haba said, “He’s still exploiting a child and that’s what he’s guilty of.”
Webster worked as a substitute at Lake Mary HS among other schools in Seminole County but the schools never had any complaints. His victim was not one of his students.
Due to the difficulty in victim testimonies, we see far fewer traffickers arrested than victims rescued. Haba said, “most of them are actively working with multiple victims at a time. and will certainly have future victims so every conviction we get is that many more girls that will be saved off the streets.”
Webster’s guilty verdict carries a min sentence of just under 6 years and the maximum sentence is life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for June 26.
by Blair Pippin
Creative & Prevention Director • Florida Abolitionist