Saturday, September 30, 2023
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Tour Company Must Face Girl Sex-Trafficking Suit

(CN) - Claims that a Georgia man recruited Brazilian girls as young as 12 to provide sexual services to U.S. tourists in the Amazon will move forward, the 11th Circuit ruled, declining to reinstate a stay.

Four Brazilian women say Richard Wayne Schair, of Georgia, recruited them as minors "to engage in 'sex tourism' in Brazil" as part of Schair's Wet-A-Line fishing tours.

"Defendants arranged transportation for their customers from the United States to Brazil and recruited girls, including plaintiffs and other girls, many of whom, like plaintiffs, were under eighteen years of age, to engage in commercial sex acts with defendants' customers and with defendant Schair himself aboard defendants' fishing boat, the Amazon Santana," the complaint states.

The girls were between ages 12 to 17 when they were allegedly recruited from the local Autazes community. Sometimes, they were paid modest amount for their services, the women claim.

A Justice Department criminal investigation into Wet-A-Line initially led the Northern District of Georgia to stay the civil case, but it lifted that hold when the government decided not to prosecute Schair.

Schair, whose investigation in Brazil is ongoing, failed Friday to have the 11th Circuit reinstate the stay because the federal appeals court said the lifting of the stay was not a final judgment giving it jurisdiction.

"As the TVPA's [Trafficking and Violence Protection Act] legislative history indicates, the mandatory stay provision was added to § 1595 to alleviate the U.S. Department of Justice's concern that civil suits could hinder a domestic prosecutor's ability to try criminal cases 'unfettered by the complications of civil discovery,'" Judge Frank Hull wrote for a three-judge panel. "There is no reason to believe that § 1595(b)'s stay provision was intended to protect an alleged sex-trafficking defendant's rights or interests in any way, much less in an important way." (Emphasis in original.)

Letting accused sex traffickers appeal every time a stay is lifted "would unduly delay the resolution of District Court civil litigation for sex trafficking and needlessly burden the appellate courts," the 16-page opinion states.

Hull said this "conclusion is consistent with our charge to keep a tight rein on the types of orders appealable under the collateral order doctrine."

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