2018 Staffing
Support Staff4

The Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division is comprised of a highly-trained and specialized team of Deputy District Attorneys, District Attorney Investigators, paralegals and secretaries who are all dedicated to the fair and equal prosecution of perpetrators of sexual assault and human trafficking crimes. Guided by Division Chief Patrick Espinoza and Assistant Chief Kate Flaherty, the division strives to treat the victims of sexual assaults with compassion, dignity and respect.

Attorneys and staff in this division handled a number of significant cases including prosecutions for sexually-motivated homicide, sexual assaults by strangers, acquaintances or family members, lewd acts with children, non-domestic violence stalking, human trafficking, pimping, pandering, failing to properly register as sexual offenders, indecent exposure and civil commitments of sexually-violent predators.

Human trafficking prosecutions are filed primarily in conjunction with pimping and pandering charges. Felons, intent on profiting from this illicit business, seduce vulnerable young women and minors into prostitution throughout San Diego County. In addition to prosecuting offenders, the division works with law enforcement and community-based organizations, which try to rehabilitate victims and re-integrate them back into society. The division has one Deputy District Attorney and two District Attorney Investigators assigned full-time to the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, a multi-agency organization which seeks to disrupt and dismantle human trafficking in the county through a comprehensive, collaborative and regional response.

The division is committed to protecting the community from sexually-violent predators through the pursuing civil commitment petitions resulting in hospitalization and treatment of offenders found to be a substantial danger to the public. The division works to keep the public safe and informed as sexually-violent predators reach the community treatment phase through community notification and public meetings.

In 2018, there was major progress initiated by DA Summer Stephan in testing the rape kit backlog. With the law and individual agency policy evolving, the office sought to get ahead of any legislative mandate by joining in partnership with the San Diego County Crime Laboratory to inventory all local untested rape kits. About 1,500 untested kits were identified across the County between the crime lab and contract law enforcement agencies. At the time of publication, 905 rape kits have been sent to a private laboratory for testing, and results have been received on 559 kits. A total of 21 offender DNA profiles have been uploaded into the national database. The District Attorney’s Office has created a unique database to track the results of every kit sent for testing. Once the backlog is cleared, the goal is to encourage all agencies to test all kits in a timely manner to maximize their usefulness in solving criminal cases.

Significant cases in 2018 included:

People v. Jared Elkins
In this case, a 23-year-old victim was attacked in her own bedroom by a trusted relative, who happened to be a police officer. Frozen with fear, the victim endured a violent sexual assault. After Elkins left, she and her mother quietly fled the house to report immediately. Throughout the investigation and preparation for trial, every aspect of the victim’s life was closely examined and turned inside out. She required a great deal of support to stand up to her assailant. During the trial, the defendant testified smoothly that the victim consented to all aspects of the encounter and made up a rape scenario afterwards due to regret. The entire prosecution team worked tirelessly to corroborate the victim’s statement wherever possible, and the jury convicted the now former officer of four felony counts of forcible sexual assault. He faces up to fourteen years in state prison.

People v. Joshua Palmer
In this gruesome case, a 21-year-old woman developed a friendship with a 33-year-old co-worker at a San Diego restaurant. She moved in with him because she needed a place to live. He wanted a sexual relationship with her, but she was not interested. On the evening of April 4, 2016, they were both in the defendant’s home with other people when the defendant became enraged. He told his female friend to leave, and ordered the victim’s male friend to leave. Two days later, the victim’s nude, lifeless body was found stuffed into a suitcase and left out for the trash collectors. She had been strangled to death. A post-mortem SART exam revealed extensive genital and physical trauma. After numerous delays, the case made it to jury trial, where the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and a special circumstance. Palmer was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

People v. Jeremiah Williams

The case stemmed from two separate attacks over two days in August 2016. The first victim was attacked outside of her apartment. After being robbed at gunpoint, she was forced inside her apartment where she was sexually assaulted and beaten so severely that she was hospitalized for nearly a week. Hours later, the defendant arranged to meet the second victim through Backpage at a Motel 6. He viciously assaulted her, beating her with his fists and choking her into unconsciousness. She awoke to being sexually assaulted. When she screamed, he pistol-whipped her, causing a serious head injury. Afraid that she was about to die, she ran to the window, broke it, and crawled naked through the shattered glass to run for help. The defendant was apprehended naked and covered in blood holding his gun a short time later, but released because the victim, fearing prostitution-related consequences, did not report until two days later. Eventually, there was a CODIS hit back to the DNA profile obtained in the first case, and the case was painstakingly brought together with both victims by the entire law enforcement team. After a lengthy and hard-fought trial, the defendant was sentenced to 100 years to life, plus an additional 86 years.

People v. Mark Carson

Defendant Mark Carson’s criminal history was so extensive that he was prosecuted as a habitual sexual offender, as well as under the Three Strikes Law and the One-Strike Law. Carson befriended a young male neighbor who worked in IT and asked him for help with his computer over a period of several months. On the day of the assault, the defendant claimed to have been locked out of his apartment to gain entry into the victim’s apartment. Once inside, Carson forced oral copulation at knifepoint. After the assault, he tried to gain sympathy by pretending to commit suicide via drug overdose in front of the victim. The victim ran out of his apartment for help and police were called. The investigation quickly revealed that Carson had previously served 27 years in prison for forcible sex crimes against two female victims. Not long after being released he sexually assaulted another woman in Missouri. During the trial, he claimed he had been involved in a homosexual relationship with the victim that ended badly, and that the victim had threatened to falsely accuse him of sexual assault as revenge. The jury did not find this credible and convicted Carson of all counts and allegations. He was sentenced to 175 years in state prison.