Renada Myers, 25, of Coatesville, was found guilty by a Chester County jury of burglary, robbery, criminal conspiracy, prostitution, and related charges. The charges stem from a 2018 incident where a 44-year old Pennsbury Township man solicited sex from Myers and was later allegedly burglarized, robbed, and assaulted by two men.
On August 8, 2018, Avondale Pennsylvania State Police received a call about a home invasion and robbery at a house in the 500-block of Baltimore Pike, Pennsbury Township. A 44-year old man admitted to soliciting oral sex from Myers on Craigslist, inviting her to his home, receiving oral sex from her, and paying her for the sex act. After completing the sex act, Meyers went into the bathroom. As Myers left the house, Kareem Abdul Harper-El and an unknown accomplice allegedly forced themselves into the home where they burglarized, robbed, and assaulted the 44-year old man.
Assistant District Attorney Alexis Shaw, who prosecuted this case with Assistant District Attorney Anastasia Baranowski, claims that Myers directly engineered this set-up and robbery, stating “[s]he was the one behind this entire robbery.” But, Myers’ defense attorney told the jury that that Myers was a scapegoat, who believed there would be retribution from her so-called accomplices if she refused involvement.
The 44-year old man was granted immunity from prosecution for the crime of buying by the District Attorney’s Office.
It is unknown whether Myers is a trafficking victim. However, her participation in the crime was coerced by her fear of retribution from her accomplices. Coerced conduct is not free choice. This fear and coercion is something that the CSE Institute often sees with trafficking victims.
While the CSE Institute does not condone criminal conduct, the likelihood that Myers was the mastermind behind this conspiracy is unlikely. Traffickers often coerce their victims to commit crimes other than prostitution. The CSE Institute has worked with women who have convictions for retail theft, robbery, simple assault, and even murder, each committed as a direct result of their victimization. Coercive tactics used by traffickers on their victims are not limited to having victims sell sex.
In some states, victims can raise trafficking as a defense to any crime. However, in Pennsylvania, defendants can only raise having been a victim of trafficking as a defense to 5902 (Prostitution and Related Offenses) charges. Pennsylvania’s defense is wholly inadequate to support victims of trafficking. It fails to recognize the reality that traffickers do not limit coercion to forcing victims to sell their bodies for sex.
The CSE Institute further encourages law enforcement to recognize signs of victimization before charging and prosecuting potential victims of sex trafficking. Those who have endured sexual violence and exploitation must be treated as victims of a crime, rather than as perpetrators of crimes.