If you were to call Alisha Burns right now, unless she was working she'd probably answer. If you were one of her friends or family members and asked her to have a game night or go to dinner, if she was available, she may very well say yes. If Alisha mistakenly goes 3 miles over the speed limit and is stopped by police, she could very well go to prison for decades. How? Because, although Alisha Burns is physically free, the threat that she may have to spend the rest of her life behind bars is constantly looming over her head.
Alisha is a victim of child sex trafficking. Instead of getting the help she deserved, she was sentenced to prison and is currently on lifetime parole for a crime her trafficker committed. When Alisha was a 15-year-old foster youth, she became a victim of sex trafficking. She was transported across state lines with an adult man she believed loved her and was her boyfriend. Her trafficker, 32-year-old Steven Kaczmarek, committed murder, and Alisha was brought on as a co-defendant for the case in 2002. As the court records show, Alisha was given a sentence of 10 years to life in prison in exchange for a guilty plea.
HERE IS WHAT HAPPENED:
On September 25th 2002 Steven told Alisha (a child) to coax an adult male into having sex with her in exchange for cash so that he could rob the "John". Alisha was forced to lure the man on Fremont Street in Las Vegas Valley, Nevada. The man, 58-year-old Pedro Villareal, agreed to have sex with the then 15-year-old Alisha. Pedro invited Steven and Tommy to his residence to have drinks. He then agreed to pay the Steven $200 to have sex with Alisha. When they arrived at Pedro's apartment, Steven held Pedro down while Tommy attacked him by physical means. Then, Steven told Alisha to cut electric cords that were used to tie Pedro’s wrists together. According to Alisha, when they left the apartment, Pedro was still alive.
After leaving the apartment, Alisha and her trafficker went to Stardust Casino. However, security quickly caught them on their way in because Alisha clearly looked underage with an older man. When the security guards asked Alisha about her situation, Alisha replied that Steven was her “boyfriend,” so the guards called the police. Steven was later charged with 15 counts of sexual assault of a minor, statutory sexual seduction, and kidnapping. Alisha was his victim.
The police tested Alisha with a rape-kit but she refused to testify against Steven, as she was convinced that he was her boyfriend. This is typical of many child victims of trafficking. She was sent back to Ohio where she was received by her foster care workers.
Soon after, they were contacted by the state of Nevada because they needed Alisha to testify that she was kidnapped. She thought that he loved her and refused to do so. She did not understand at that time that she was a victim. Due to the frustration of the District Attorney's office caused by her unwillingness to cooperate they dropped the charges of kidnaping against Steven, and made her a co-defendant to a crime that he admitted to doing to other incarcerated persons while in jail. Being in jail for rape and kidnapping a minor probably didn't make him the most popular which may be a reason he confessed to a crime NO ONE KNEW he committed.
Because Alisha refused to testify against Steven, Alisha was charged and convicted of second-degree murder along with him. Alisha was charged AS AN ADULT even though she was only 15. Tommy was never found and charged, but when the police entered Pedro's apartment, they found unidentified fingerprints on over 40 items.
As if Alisha did not suffer enough as a victim of human trafficking, the justice system failed her as well. While Alisha, and Steven were BOTH incarcerated, the judge allowed Steven to write to Alisha. He told her to take the plea deal that the DA's office was offering and... because she thought he loved her... she did what he told her to. She plead guilty even though she was not.
Alisha spent 20 years in prison and is now on lifetime parole. She lives in constant fear that an offense as small as a traffic ticket will send her back to prison.
As of now, Alisha is fighting to overturn her second-degree murder conviction and be free of parole. On September, 18th, 2020, Alisha went to the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas to give more details about the crime with the hope that her conviction could be overturned. She is currently petitioning the Nevada Supreme Court to overturn her case.
Alisha was separated from her two kids while in prison and was forced to relinquish her parental rights. Her kids have since been adopted. Alisha stated, "I have an open adoption agreement with my son’s family, but my daughter’s family opted for a closed adoption because of my criminal record.” As a trained cosmetologist, Alisha has been trying to open her own barbershop and work legally in a field that she is passionate about. Alisha is a human being who deserves to have a job, a family, and a life. Help Alisha Burns today by signing her petition below to clear her name and restore her life. Please share this blog with #Justice4Alisha.
Yours in the fight,
Amani Al-Karkhi and Emily Gay
Sign the Petition Here:
Interview with Alisha Burns