Three Boone County sex crime cases were recently kicked up to federal courts.
Two involve alleged sex trafficking in Whitestown after a pimp took a runaway girl to work there in August, according to court records
The third case concerns a Lebanon man accused of having child pornography that included videos of children engaged in sex with animals.
Cases that involve suspects in multiple states, or for which a stiffer sentence may be obtained by doing so, are often moved to federal courts, as are cases that require technologically intensive investigations.
“In the past few years we have been working more and more closely with the U.S. Attorney’s office, and after consultation with them, agreed they were the proper jurisdiction to take these cases,” Boone County Prosecutor Kent Eastwood said. “In this situation, there is the possibility of a stiffer sentence through the federal sentencing guidelines and, given the nature of this case, that would be advantageous.”
William R. Muzzall, 27, of Indianapolis, is accused of being the pimp to a 16-year-old Marion County girl whose services he advertised online and whom he drove to Whitestown to meet a client, according to court records.
Neighbors in the 4000 block of Poplar Drive told police there was a suspicious truck parked in the area and a girl “walking the neighborhood,” according to a probable cause affidavit.
Whitestown Police Officer Elizabeth Campbell found the girl, who led her to Muzzall’s truck, also occupied by passengers Michael D. Barnes, 25, of Westfield, and Ashani L. Burnett-Cisse, 19, of Indianapolis, Campbell reported.
Burnett-Cisse told police the teen had sex with someone in a house near where Campbell found them, and she was paid $100, which she gave to Muzzall, as usual, according to court records.
Police learned the teen was hired out for sex several times over the previous week alone, according to court records.
Barnes sometimes stood in as pimp for Muzzall, the detective reported.
The teen said she “would not tell on the boys because they would retaliate violently,” Campbell reported. She was placed in the care of Indiana Child Protective Services.
“I think this type of human trafficking happens more than people have any idea,” Eastwood said.
“Generally, people who commit these types of crimes are part of a broader network of other individuals not necessarily working hand-in-hand all the time, but they interact,” he said. “When you have human trafficking, their tentacles reach into many different counties, not just the one where they reside.”
Police found 54 grams of marijuana and a loaded 9 mm semi-automatic handgun in the truck, according to reports.
Muzzall is charged with promotion of sexual trafficking, possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, and possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. Muzzall was convicted of burglary in Marion County in 2012.
Burnett-Cisse was charged with promotion of child sexual trafficking, possession of child pornography, carrying a handgun without a license and possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.
Barnes pleaded guilty to possession of paraphernalia in late February, and was sentenced to 52 days in the Boone County Jail.
A Lebanon man already listed on the sex offense registry was charged in December with having child pornography that included videos of children engaged in sex with animals.
Joesph Steiner, 28, moved from Lafayette to his mother’s home on Superior Street in Lebanon in August, and police raided the house Dec. 19.
He was registered through the Boone County Sex Offender Registry because the U.S. military convicted him in 2015 in North Carolina for receiving child pornography, according to court records.
Lebanon Police Detective Amy Dickerson started an investigation when Tippecanoe County investigators contacted her in November.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported in May that someone downloaded a video of a nude girl who appeared to be younger than 10 years old engaged in sex with an adult man, according to court records.
Police found more videos, including some of younger girls engaged in sexual activities with dogs, connected to Steiner’s digital devices, phone number and email accounts, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Steiner said he likes role playing online as if he is a 9- to 12-year-old girl and provided names that matched the names associated with his digital accounts linked to child pornography, Dickerson reported.
During the raid, police found numerous pornographic videos of young girls on Steiner’s electronic devices, Dickerson reported.
Steiner was charged with three charges of possession of pornography with an aggravating factor and two counts of possession of pornography.
“Federal prosecutors have the ability to prosecute cases outside of Boone County, outside of the state,” Eastwood said.
That means they can track down producers and distributors of child pornography and those who receive it, no matter where they reside. But that takes intensive technological resources.
“Federal authorities have the means to go after those people better than we do,” Eastwood said.
Eastwood also expects Steiner to face a harsher penalty at a federal level than he would have if convicted in Boone County.