Scranton, Pa

Update: Duo Pleads Guilty to Trafficking a 14-Year-Old Girl

Posted: October 10, 2022

On Tuesday, September 20, 2022 Davon Allen Fuqua pled guilty to four felony counts: trafficking in minors, statutory sexual assault, promoting prostitution of a minor, and conspiracy in Westmoreland County. Although he took his case to trial, he stopped the trial and pleaded guilty midway through the testimony of the now 19-year-old victim.

As we previously reported, Fuqua and Shannon Lynn Shannon, a Pittsburgh woman, were charged with the four felony offenses in August 2019. The two were charged after the 14-year-old victim had a seizure in a McDonald’s Restaurant on Harmer’s Freeport Road. Fuqua and Shannon abandoned the victim in the restaurant after paramedics arrived. The victim told investigators that the duo raped her, arranged for her to be trafficked to other sex buyers, and told her to lie about her age. Fuqua and Shannon did not have any further contact with the victim after abandoning her in the McDonald’s.

At trial, the victim testified that she initially met Fuqua and Shannon in New Kensington after she ran away from home. Fuqua and Shannon then transported the victim to a secluded home where they trafficked her and forced her to engage in sex acts. One of the sex buyers forced the victim to pose for child pornography. The couple then made arraignments for the victim to be trafficked to another sex buyer the next day.

Shannon pleaded guilty last year to the four felony offenses, as well as an additional prostitution charge. She was sentenced to five to ten years in prison. She was expected to testify against Fuqua on Tuesday, September 20, 2022. However, Fuqua pled guilty. Therefore, the trial ended before the prosecution closed its case.

Judge Scott Mears acknowledged the possibility that Fuqua may be sentenced to up to 100 years in prison for his role in trafficking the victim in this case. The sentencing hearing will take place in approximately three months.

It is essential to address the possible victim-offender overlap in Shannon’s case. According to news reports, investigators believe Fuqua was also acting as Shannon’s “pimp.” If Fuqua was trafficking Shannon as well, he may have coerced her into performing the actions against the victim in this case.

Often times pimps will create a “patriarchal structure,”  where they control those subordinate to them. In addition, they may have what is commonly referred to as a “bottom girl,” who is “second in command.” The use of the term “bottom girl” is common among those involved in a trafficking organization. We use this term to identify those whose experiences align with this specific role in a trafficking scheme. While we are mindful that using street terms in academic writing can further the harmful rhetoric common in human trafficking, this term is familiar and understood by those who occupy this role.

Traffickers will often manipulate “bottom girls” into managing and monitoring the trafficking operation. These women are also victims, as their traffickers will often force them to sell sex, will rape them, and use violence against them. Traffickers often force these women to commit criminal offenses while in the trafficking operation. If she refuses to comply with the trafficker’s demands, she faces further abuse. The decision to prosecute women in the “bottom girl” position needs to be viewed through the lens of the sex trafficking victim-offender overlap, which also addresses the trafficker’s coercive tactics. Prosecutors, law enforcement, judges, and the legislature must acknowledge that a “bottom girl’s” criminalization is inseparable from her victimization.

Furthermore, the media’s use of the term “prostitute” to refer to Shannon is problematic. Words have power, and that  power incurs a duty of accurate reporting by the media. By reducing Shannon and her story to a single stigmatizing label, the media ignores the complexity of a human trafficking scheme. By reducing Shannon to a “prostitute,” the media lessens her complex story and furthers the stigmatization around victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

The CSE Institute applauds the Attorney General for pursuing trafficking charges against Fuqua and appreciates the hard work of Deputy Attorney General Summer Carroll for bringing the case. We commend the survivor for coming forward and testifying at trial. It is without a doubt that survivor voices and testimony are crucial to changing the sex trafficking narrative.

The CSE Institute will continue to provide updates on the matter and Fuqua’s sentencing.

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. 

Category: News

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