Child Sex-Trafficking Survivor Recently Freed From Prison Vows To Help Other At-Risk Youth

“I want to change lives,” Alexis Ke’Erica Martin says after Ohio’s governor pardoned her for her involvement in her pimp’s murder.

July 28, 2021
Alexis Martin [via Ohio Department of Rehabiliation and Correction]

Alexis Martin [via Ohio Department of Rehabiliation and Correction]

Alexis Martin [via Ohio Department of Rehabiliation and Correction]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A sex trafficking survivor who served nearly seven years behind bars for the part she played in the death of her abuser is now focused on her goal to someday help other at-risk youth.

Alexis Ke’Erica Martin, 23, spent years in and out of foster care and on the streets while trying to care for her siblings. “I was exposed to a lot of illegal activity” by age 11, she recently recalled, according to Spectrum News 1. “At that point in my life, I've already experienced sexual abuse.”

At 14 years old, Martin got pulled into sex trafficking. The following year, her world imploded after her kidnapper and trafficker, Angelo Kerney, told the 10th-grader she could no longer attend school.

Martin said she decided she had to escape Kerney’s grip since getting an education “was my only hope that I ever would leave behind the ghettos — that abuse.”

In November 2013, Martin and several friends decided to stage a robbery involving 36-year-old Kerney so she could get away from him. During the robbery, her abuser got killed and Martin, who reportedly was getting raped in another room at the time, was taken into custody and eventually tried as an adult. A judge sentenced the then-17-year-old biracial teenager to 21 years to life in prison even though she didn’t pull the trigger, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“I didn't plan on going to prison. I didn't plan on a life being took. I planned on just getting my brothers and siblings, going far away after the robbery," she said.

According to legal experts, Martin’s rookie attorney failed to pursue protections available to the teenage sex-trafficking victim under the “Safe Harbor” law. According to the law, “judges can sentence minors to diversion programs to receive needed protection and treatment through the juvenile justice system.” Martin potentially could have been freed after several years if she successfully completed the program.

Martin, however, recently received a second chance. The nonprofit Ohio Justice & Policy Center helped her share her side of the story to a parole board, which went on to recommend she be granted clemency.

In April 2020, Republican governor Mike DeWine agreed to commute Martin’s sentence. “She was 15 years of age when she committed the crime,” he explained, noting, “She is a child sex trafficking survivor.”

“This is a brilliant young person who gets to live her life,” Sasha Naiman, a lawyer for OJPC, said after the decision.

Martin reportedly now supports herself as a gas station attendant and hostess while working on plans to get her education and help others.

“My cause is deeper,” she said, according to Spectrum News 1. “Eventually, I hope to be able to change lives of at-risk youth.”

“I want to be able to change lives so that you're not on drugs,” she continued. “I want to change lives so you don't become a pimp, so you don't become a drug dealer.”

Martin, who earned her GED while behind bars and hopes to begin attending college soon, added, “And at 23, I am finally given the chance to start putting those things in motion.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, we encourage you contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline online through their 24/7 confidential live chat or call 1-888-373-7888 ( TTY: 711)

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