A San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge ruled that Nikko Anaya will be tried as an adult on suspicion of felony human trafficking.
Anaya is 18, but was 16 at the time that he allegedly lured a 15-year-old girl from Manteca into coerced sex work in Santa Cruz, Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. The girl told police that Anaya and his co-defendants Brianna Morales, 22, Fabio Silveira, 22, and Elijah Wolfson, 20, forced her to have sex with 15 to 20 men in exchange for money.
Though Anaya will stand trial as an adult, Judge Michael Duffy ordered news media removed from his Friday morning hearing because it still was considered a juvenile matter at the time.
Duffy’s decision to remove members of the news media came at the request of Anaya’s attorney, Michael Sanger, who argued that Anaya’s alleged offenses did not meet the statutory requirement to allow for the hearing to be open to the public.
Deputy District Attorney Julie Antos did not contest Sanger’s motions.
According to state law, the public is not permitted to attend juvenile court proceedings unless the offense falls into a pre-defined category of crimes that includes murder, armed robbery, rape and kidnapping.
California Penal Code 236, which covers felony human trafficking, is a relatively new statute approved by voters in 2012, and the crime is not among the categories.
Though Duffy ordered the hearing closed to the media, he denied a motion by Sanger to bar attorney Harold Mesick, who represents Morales — Anaya’s co-defendant.
Duffy also allowed Anaya’s parents to remain in the courtroom.
Though Friday morning’s oral arguments were closed to the public, a motion filed by Sanger on Thursday was not.
In his brief, Sanger argued that Anaya was manipulated by Morales, who “used sex to get Nikko to do things for her,” and that Anaya “was guided by the older, more experienced co-defendants.”
Sanger also listed several apparently contradictory statements made by the girl whom Anaya allegedly trafficked, including differing accounts of how the two met, how the girl ended up traveling with the defendants and who was responsible for the placement of an ad advertising the girl’s sexual services on an online classifieds site.