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Omaha Police crack down on child sex trafficking as suspect makes first court appearance

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 5:27 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Local, state, and federal law enforcement officials are working together to fight against sex trafficking in the Omaha area.

A couple of months ago, police tracked down 42-year-old James Chatman, accused of soliciting a minor on the internet for sexual activity — yet another reminder that young children are often the victims of these crimes.

But on Wednesday, that suspect made his first appearance in a courtroom.

Police were led to Chatman after they reportedly discovered an ad posted on the internet advertising sex for sale from a known missing female juvenile. Police then used the site to set up a date with the victim at an Omaha hotel.

“Victim explained that she met the 42-year-old defendant who posted ads for her and forced her to perform sex acts with at least eight adult men over the last three days in exchange for money, the defendant then threatened violence if the victim did not participate or talk to the police,” a prosecutor read in court on Wednesday.

Chatman is accused of sex trafficking of a minor. Prosecutors say he threatened the minor victim with violence, telling her he had a gun, and that he kept all the money earned from the sex acts. Documents also state that the defendant forced the victim to have sex with him.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said, if found guilty, people accused of this crime face harsh penalties.

“Unfortunately we’re very active in trying to make sure we hold people accountable and responsible and stop people from doing these kinds of things,” Kleine said. “It’s horrific, I mean the penalty for this is, as you’re probably aware, in court today is 20 years to life.”

Kleine went on to tell 6 News that not only will they go after those accused of sex trafficking minors but that they will also go after those who pay for the illegal service.

“Because they’re performing statutory rape at least when they do these kinds of sex acts with a juvenile,” he said.

42-year-old Chatman is also facing another charge — he’s accused of tampering with physical evidence.

After his arrest, police say the suspect was taken to a local hospital where he complained of pain in his back and shoulder. Upon arrival, Chatman reportedly shoved a bag of white powder in his mouth and refused to spit it out.

The “defendant then bit down and swallowed the powder, medics were able to retrieve the empty bag and defendant exclaimed it’s crack,” one prosecutor said.

He reportedly then asked medical officials to not let him die.

Chatman is set to be in court again on Jan. 5, 2022, for a preliminary hearing.

The defense claims that Chatman has some mental health needs.

The judge has issued a $500,000 bond on the sex trafficking charge and another $10,000 bond for tampering with physical evidence.

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