On June 17, 2022, Rodney Kent, 50, was convicted of sex trafficking a minor by a jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In September of 2018, Kent was charged by a grand jury for trafficking a minor via force, fraud, and coercion. Kent began communicating with his victim, a teenager, on a social media and dating site in June 2016. He later met the victim in person and transported her to his house where he manipulated the victim to pose for photographs by telling her that he needed money and that she did not have anyone else to look out for her.
Kent later used those same photographs of her to advertise the victim for sex on the now shuttered Backpage.com. When individuals responded to the advertisements, Kent had the minor victim search the sex buyers for weapons and collect payment before she agreed to any sexual activity. Kent did not give any money to the victim and explained to the victim that her compensation “consisted of the food, shelter and clothes.” During this time, Kent verbally and physically abused the victim, including burning her with cigarettes, and beating her with a belt buckle.
In mid-June of 2016, Kent transported the victim to Motel 6 in Philadelphia to engage in a sexual encounter with a sex buyer. The victim eventually escaped by calling her father who subsequently called the police. Police recovered the victim, and she then detailed her experience to those officers.
In 2018, the Department of Justice seized Backpage.com, which was then the leading online forum for prostitution advertisements, including advertisements depicting the prostitution of children.
Kent’s case was brought in conjunction with Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Project Safe Childhood was formally launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Through Project Safe Childhood, the Department of Justice aims to coordinate and cooperate with federal, tribal, state, local, and international organizations, and agencies to work to end the sexual exploitation of children.
In a Department of Justice press release, Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline Maguire stated, “While this defendant will face years in prison for his vile actions, his victim will carry the effects of those actions for the rest of their life. The FBI works tirelessly to find and capture the monsters who prey on our children. To those who participate in this brand of evil as a means to make a living – we are looking for you, we will find you, and you will find yourself paying the price inside the walls of penitentiary.”
The CSE Institute commends the work of the FBI, the Tinicum Township Police Department, and the Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for their diligent work on this case and ensuring a conviction. The CSE Institute also commends the bravery of the survivor who escaped from her abuser to alert law enforcement. It is irrefutable that survivor voices will be the ones to promulgate change in the sex trafficking narrative.
Kent is scheduled to be sentenced on September 28, 2022, at 10:30 a.m. The CSE Institute will continued to provide updates on this matter.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.