Sex trafficking trial begins for Somalis

SHEILA BURKE Associated Press Published:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A trial has begun in Nashville for nine Somali defendants charged with running a multi-state child sex trafficking ring.

During opening statements Monday, a federal prosecutor told jurors they would hear testimony showing that a suburban Minneapolis sixth-grader of Somali descent was led into a life of prostitution through force and fraud. The prosecutor said the girl, identified only as Jane Doe No. 2, was used to perform sex acts in Minnesota and Nashville.

Defense attorneys said the girl was a runaway who freely engaged in sex and lied about it to her culturally conservative Somali family.

The trial start had been delayed several times as the court sorted through cultural issues within the Somali refugee communities and questions about the age and identity of defendants and witnesses.