Updated: May 2, 2022
By: Isabella LaFreniere & Amanda Jones
Ajahnae Smaugh is a name that everyone should know. Ajahnae became a victim of sex trafficking at the age of 14 years old when texting online with an unknown man. Growing up, Ajahnae loved the tv show Dance Moms.
According to The Washington Post, 59-year-old Al Chernoff promised to provide Ajahnae with iPhone and money in exchange for oral sex. Al, “Alley Cat '' Chernoff was well known in the Philadelphia community as a cat rescuer. But, personal friends have come out and said he was also known to buy sex.
On November 5th, 2019, Chernoff drove Ajahnae to his house, where he convinced her to tie him up and demanded she gives him oral sex. This is an act of trafficking a minor, and no matter the circumstances a 14-year-old child cannot consent to sex with an adult. That night, Chernoff was killed during their interaction and Ajahnae later turned herself in to the police.
Ajahnae was charged with 5 felonies and has been in Philadelphia Juvenile Detention Center since 2019. She was denied her bail motion and is being charged as an adult. If charged, Ajahnae faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years despite being only 14-years-old. Both the police and the attorneys have been delaying the trial as they continue their investigations into Chernoff’s behavior.
Facebook pages and Change.org pages in support of Chernoff have campaigned against Ajahnae and dehumanized her online. The community of cat lovers around him has portrayed Ajahnae as a stone-cold killer, leaving vile and racist comments about her online. They refer to Ajahnae as a child prostitute, even though children cannot even be prostitutes. Since they cannot consent to sex, they are rape and trafficking victims. One comment wrote, “The defendant must pay for this senseless murder. Until prosecutors make these thugs accountable, this will continue.” Another, “She should be treated as an adult, she's an evil murdering, selfish little devil.” This has been a very controversial case in the local community, as supporters of Ajahnae question what business a 59-year-old white man could have with a 14-year-old black girl.
The online rescue community should be ashamed of its harassment of both Ajahnae and her family. They have not only attacked the family online, but they have also gotten go-fund-me for better legal support taken down entirely. They are valuing the lives of cats and a pedophile rescues a young black girl. There is a reason those heavily involved in the case continue to investigate, as there remain too many unanswered questions about Chernoff’s behavior and intentions. Being a veteran and cat rescuer doesn't erase or negate the trafficking of a young, black girl.
Ajahnae is now 16-years-old and was recently awarded `Student of the Week’ at the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center School. Ajahnae Smaugh is a victim of trafficking who deserves justice and for her story to be heard to protect more young girls out there.
We need your help in the fight for Ajahnae’s liberation. Like the Facebook page & sign the petition or send a copy of the letter to the Governor & Philadelphia DA’s office to show your support for Ajahnae and trafficking victims.
Sign the petition HERE
Send a letter to the Governor & DA HERE
Like the Justice for Ajahnae Facebook Page HERE
Justice for Ajahnae Facebook Page