Is defiant suspect a victim as well?

March 29, 2012|By Peter Hermann

Writing about suspects in cases is never easy. Any portrait that emerges can appear sympathetic, angering the victims, or too harsh, angering relatives. A look at Shelby Nichole Smith proved no different.

Smith, her boyfriend and others are charged in connection with a prostitution ring that authorities say lured women who believed they were embarking on a singing tour and instead ended up in strip clubs from Baltimore to El Paso.

Several women escaped and authorities moved in. Smith's boyfriend is the alleged ringleader, and her family believes that the former Baltimore alter girl and stellar student is just as much a victim as the women who escaped. Police call her an enforcer.

Smith's family bravely spoke to me, and they aren't happy with the results of today's story. It's a complicated story to tell. But even advocates for the victims say that girls like Smith were at one time victims too, and there's a debate whether they should be criminally charged or protected.

But Smith's family is clearly frustrated that the young woman has thus far refused to cooperate with authorities, and that could mean she goes to trial. They are desperately trying to get her to talk and help herself out, and maybe return back to Baltimore and start her life again.

Read today's story on Shelby Nichole Smith.

Read about how the victims escaped.

Read about the arrests in Baltimore.



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