In September of 2023, Sukhjit Singh, 26, and Kunal Bakhru, 43, of Upper Darby Township were convicted in a human trafficking scheme involving an 11-year-old girl. The two defendants conspired to sell the young girl for Singh’s sexual gratification.
Following a jury trial, Singh was convicted on a number of charges, including rape of a child, indecent assault, corruption of minors, trafficking a minor for sexual servitude, patronizing a victim of sexual servitude, attempted involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and conspiracy offenses. Bakhru was convicted on trafficking, simple assault, conspiracy to rape of a child, conspiracy to indecent assault of a minor, and conspiracy to trafficking.
During the weeklong trial, the victim testified that Singh would come to Bakhru’s apartment, where she was staying at the time, “almost every day,” and provide Bakhru with alcohol and money. Bakhru would then leave, and Singh would sexually assault her. The victim further testified that during one of these incidents, Bakhru walked into the apartment while Singh was assaulting her, looked at her, and walked out. When the victim later confronted Bakhru about leaving, he responded that he needed the money from Singh. The assaults continued until she was able to escape Bakhru’s apartment on September 6, 2021.
The Delaware County Special Victims Team, led by Deputy District Attorney Kristen Kemp, obtained lengthy prison sentences for both men. On January 12, 2024, Judge Margaret Amoroso sentenced Singh to up to 67 years in prison, while Bakhru received a sentence of up to 36 years.
District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer commented on these sentences by stating: “The evil demonstrated by these two defendants is almost incomprehensible. The damage to the victim can never be undone, but we hope and pray that today’s result provides her with a measure of peace.”
Separately, on January 12, 2024, William Walker Jr., 68, of Chester was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and 25 years of sex offender status under Megan’s Law. Walker was convicted of numerous crimes after soliciting sex from a 17-year-old girl and spreading sexually explicit videos to her friends and family. Walker previously entered open pleas to one count of trafficking, nine counts of creating child pornography, and one count each of possession and dissemination of child pornography on October 19, 2023.
Detectives were first alerted to Walker’s crimes on January 8, 2022. Walker contacted the Special Investigations Unit of the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office to file a complaint that the Chester Police Department had not investigated a previous complaint he made about alleged damage done to his vehicle by the victim. While filing the report, Walker to Detective Steven Bannar that he had sex with the victim and asked if he could get into trouble because she was a minor.
Based on the information provided by Walker, Officer Jennifer Jones of the Chester Police Department contacted the victim to discuss her relationship with Walker. The victim told Officer Jones that in October of 2021, Walker approached her and offered to buy her “whatever she wanted” in exchange for sexual favors. Walker would contact the victim several times a week to come over his apartment and perform various sex acts in exchange for money and material items.
The victim told investigators that from October to December of 2021, she and Walker had multiple sexual encounters. During this time, the defendant would video and photograph these acts using his cell phone. In return, Walker gave the victim wine and marijuana at his house and spent about $2,000 on various items for her. When the relationship ended in December, Walker allegedly retaliated by vandalizing her car and sending the pictures and videos to the victim’s friends and family.
During the sentencing hearing on January 9, 2024, defense counsel argued that there was no sexual abuse in the case because the legal age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16. Judge Kevin Kelly correctly noted that trafficking in individuals, one of several crimes to which Walker had pled guilty to, is a form of sexual abuse. Accordingly, the Assistant District Attorney on the case, Bryan Barth, argued for, and obtained, a sentence in the aggravated range for the convicted crimes.
Since January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Stollsteimer further commented by bringing attention to the particularly important timing of these sentences: “January is a month that is dedicated to raising awareness of the evils of human trafficking. Sadly, human trafficking and child exploitation takes many forms and can occur anywhere. They are some of the saddest, most heart-breaking cases we encounter as prosecutors.”
The CSE Institute applauds the work of the Delaware County Special Victims Unit for their diligent work and successful prosecution of these three cases. The CSE Institute is encouraged to see law enforcement and prosecutors dedicated to targeting the demand of sex buyers, which is the root cause of sexual exploitation.
The CSE Institute advocates for the Equality Model. The Equality Model consists of four key elements: (1) decriminalization of the prostituted person, (2) criminalization of sex buyers and facilitators with a commitment to treating buying sex as a serious crime, (3) a public education campaign about the inherent harms of prostitution, and (4) funded, robust, holistic exit services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The Equality Model calls for a law enforcement to directly target the demand for buying sex by criminalizing sex buyers and traffickers, while decriminalizing those who are bought and sold for commercial sex. The decriminalization of people in prostitution recognizes those who are bought and sold for sex as exploited, not as perpetrators of a crime.
Most importantly, the CSE Institute commends the bravery of the survivors in this case. Survivor testimony is essential for changing the narrative of sex trafficking and survivors’ voices must be amplified to help victims achieve justice and hold perpetrators accountable.
The CSE Institute will provide further updates on this matter.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or Villanova University.