Scranton, Pa

No Human Trafficking Charges for Pittsburgh “Slumlord”

Posted: August 30, 2016

In October 2015, Davin Gartley, a landlord in Pittsburgh, PA, got our attention after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Gartley was running a prostitution ring from one of his apartment buildings. The prostitution ring was exposed after a man abducted a woman at gunpoint from inside the apartment on October 1, 2015. The woman was released unharmed, but the man engaged in a shootout with police and ultimately turned the gun on himself. At this time, Gartley and his girlfriend, Samantha James, were already under investigation for posting ads of women on After the shooting, Gartley and James were interviewed, and detectives determined the abduction was unrelated to the investigation. Although they were not charged for the abduction, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office charged Gartley and James with other crimes.

Missing Charge and the Need for Human Trafficking Education

Gartley and James were charged with various counts of promoting prostitution, criminal use of communication facility, and conspiracy promoting prostitution, but the Commonwealth failed to charge the pair with human trafficking. According to the criminal complaint, after the shooting Gartley allegedly admitted he posted ads on to sell women for sex, and said he would then pay the women in heroin. Likewise, Ms. James allegedly admitted she drove the women to their “appointments.”

Accordingly, Gartley and James both should have been charged under the Pennsylvania human trafficking statute. Specifically, Gartley should have been charged with 18 Pa C.S. § 3012(b)(12) Involuntary Servitude, facilitating or controlling the individual’s access to a controlled substance. Ms. James should have been charged with 18 Pa. C.S. § 3011(a)(1) Trafficking in individuals, transporting an individual if the person knows the individual will be subject to involuntary servitude.

The decision to not charge these individuals with human trafficking based on the known facts illustrates how the law remains underutilized. Pennsylvania human trafficking laws were amended in 2014, yet prosecutors continuously fail to identify trafficking cases and charge under the statute. Human trafficking is a serious and heinous crime, and a felony offense of the second degree (first degree for minors), carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years incarceration. Although prosecutorial discretion may come into play with other incidents, based on the facts we know, this case exemplifies an instance where human trafficking could and should be charged.

Both Gartley and James admitted to violating human trafficking laws, though neither were charged with such offenses. We bring attention to this issue in hopes that more prosecutors will consider charging human trafficking where applicable. Through education and awareness of the existing statute more defendants who are guilty of the horrific and degrading crime of human trafficking as defined in the Commonwealth will be held responsible.

Preliminary Hearing and Ongoing Case

The preliminary hearing for Gartley and James on counts of prostitution and other crimes was originally scheduled for October 15, 2015. The preliminary hearing, however, never happened. It was continued and rescheduled five times from October 2015 to June 2016 until all charges were withdrawn on June 7, 2016. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Mike Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office said, “we determined that we did not have enough evidence to sustain the charge even at the preliminary hearing level.” Since an investigation was already underway and Gartley and James both confessed to illegal acts, it is difficult to understand how all charges could be withdrawn. Not to mention, at a preliminary hearing prosecutors have a low burden of proof to show whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. Although these charges were withdrawn, Mr. Manko also said an investigation was ongoing and charges would be refiled. At this time, however, approximately three months after all charges were dismissed, new charges have not been refilled.

While discussing Davin Gartley, it is difficult to overlook his reputation in the criminal justice system of Allegheny County. Gartley has developed the nickname “slumlord,” and after one of his condemned buildings burst into flames on March 20, 2016, a councilwoman who represents the area declared, “Mr. Gartley is a walking disaster.” Over the past three years alone, he has been charged with a slew of crimes including receiving stolen property, several DUIs, several cases of possession with intent to deliver, bad checks, and theft. He has also pled guilty to multiple summary offenses regarding problems with unsafe structures, water, sanitation, smoke alarms, and many other city code violations and owes about $15,000 in fines to the city. Yet somehow Gartley remains a free man, and most of the felony and misdemeanor counts against him have been completely withdrawn or amended to lesser offenses.

We are hopeful Gartley will someday receive the justice he deserves.

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