News & Insights

Dykema Secures Restitution Award for Human Trafficking Victim

August 21, 2014

A federal district court recently ruled in favor of a Dykema pro bono client who was a victim of human trafficking, awarding nearly $225,000 in restitution. Dykema’s Heidi Naasko and Bonnie Mayfield led team members John Rhoades, Kristin Kaluza, Kara Ferrara and Mick Giandiletti in securing the victory. The defendant has decided to appeal the court’s ruling.

The award compensates the victim, who was a minor at the time of the crime, for several years of physical and mental abuse. The trafficker, who is currently imprisoned for these and other crimes, initially began communicating with the victim as part of an immigration scam. 

To secure the victory, the Dykema team employed their knowledge of the federal crime victim laws, specifically the Crime Victims’ Rights Act and the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act, which was accompanied by expert testimony and extensive briefing. The Dykema team also relied upon the evidentiary hearing and trial experience of Dykema’s National Trial Team, a group of experienced trial lawyers who have taken over 650 cases, in all areas of legal practice, to verdict.

The Crime Victims’ Rights Act and the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act empower human trafficking and crime victims whose perpetrators violate federal law with various rights, including the right to counsel, the rights to be present and heard and the right to request financial restitution from their perpetrators. An individual may also present a formal victim impact statement, which can include a request regarding an appropriate sentence.

“Most victims whose perpetrators violate federal law are unfortunately unaware that they can exercise a very powerful set of rights to participate in their perpetrator’s prosecution in a greater capacity,” said Heidi Naasko, team lead and Dykema’s Pro Bono and Diversity Counsel. “These laws were created to make victims whole and to impress upon defendants the true impact of the crimes they’ve committed. We’re extremely happy for our client and we hope that this ruling will help raise awareness to other crime victims that these laws exist and can help them.”

Mayfield, a member of Dykema’s National Trial Team, said, “This particular case required us to successfully handle emergent trial-related issues concerning expert witnesses and production of evidence. We’re fortunate to have the deep experience of our National Trial Team and its resources to handle numerous types of trials and trial-related scenarios to benefit our client.”