Lawyers for two of the three defendants in a robbery that resulted in the death of a man say the evidence they are now allowed to reveal sheds new light on the third defendant, whose followers say she should not be prosecuted at all .
Zephi Trevino’s attorney Justin Moore said the new allegations from the other side were part of a smear campaign to discredit the young woman who says she is a victim of the sex trafficking. Moore said she should be cleared of criminal charges.
“Without the fact that she was trafficked, she would not have been involved in this murder,” said Moore.
Trevino’s parents and supporters have made this claim on social media and online posts for more than a year. They asked for contributions to support them. The entries feature a young scholar and athlete who was forced into sex trafficking and attracted the national attention of celebrities.
Trevino turned 18 in February and was declared an adult in court. She was a 16-year-old minor when she and the two young men were accused of a robbery that turned bad at an apartment complex in Grand Prairie.
Carlos Arajeni-Arriaza Morillo, 24, was killed. Another victim of a robbery was injured but survived.
Now that she is no longer protected from disclosure of information as a minor, the other attorneys have won a court order allowing them to produce evidence that they say they deny sex trafficking claims.
Lee Bright is representing 20-year-old Jesse Martinez, who was 18 at the time of the crime. According to Bright, Martinez is staying in jail for being unable to raise funds to bail for pre-trial release, as the other two did.
“There is no evidence of sex trafficking anywhere in the evidence for this case. That was the wrong story, ”said Bright.
Bright showed photos and videos taken from Trevino’s cell phone depicting drug use and gun handling. Trevino curses the police and behaves very differently in these recordings than in the pictures from her online posts.
Bright showed copies of letters Trevino wrote while in juvenile detention. Ask a friend to remove information from her Instagram page that suggests drug use and violence. In another, Trevino says she thought she was “inviolable” but learned something else.
“It shows that she was closely involved in the planning. She admitted it to more than one person who will openly testify at her trial that she had previously done so, and admitted to people that she had previously committed robberies to get men to steal drugs from them ” said Bright.
Bright said there was no evidence that Trevino was involved in the crime against her will.
The other defendant, 20-year-old Philip Baldenegro, was also 18 years old at the time of the crime. Baldenegro is charged with firing the bullet that killed the man.
Baldenegro is represented by attorney David Finn, a former district judge. At a press conference with Finn in August, Baldenegro himself spoke about Trevino.
“I have not sexually molested her or done anything to harm her. I treated them with respect, ”said Baldenegro.
His mother Claudia said the Baldenegro family regretted the tragedy.
“We told my son to stay away from this little girl, but he never listened. He didn’t listen. He was in love with her,” said his mother.
Moore said the other lawyers are collecting evidence and ignoring facts in support of Trevino’s claims.
“It’s nothing more than putting up a smoke screen to detract from the idea or fact that their customers are sex traffickers and that they murdered someone while they were there,” said Moore.
Sex trafficking activist Rebekah Charleston, who worked with Trevino’s defense, said she was once a victim herself and that it doesn’t matter if sex actually took place in the crime.
“The way the law is written, even if it was just an attempt at commercial sex, is considered sex trafficking,” Charleston said.
The photos and backgrounds of Trevino’s cell phone are another support for the sex trade, according to Charleston.
“That’s what we consider a high-risk victim, a young child, who exhibits these behaviors,” Charleston said.
Trevino’s heightened robbery and murder charges are due to be presented to a large jury for possible indictment in April, according to court records.
The records show that District Attorney John Creuzot’s law firm requested Trevino’s side to provide evidence on their behalf to the grand jury ahead of the trial and that the offer continues.
“Although our office has received no response, we are working for justice,” said a letter from Assistant District Attorney LaQuita Long.
Moore said the prosecutor’s office heard additional evidence before pushing for Trevino to be declared an adult.
“The prosecutor’s office has shown that they are overly aggressive when it comes to prosecuting and convicting them,” Moore said.
Moore said his side did not have the court order that would allow any additional evidence to be revealed, but that the evidence would go to court if the grand jury decides to pursue the case.
Baldenegro and Martinez have already been charged with aggravated robbery and capital murder, but not with sex trafficking. You could face life sentences. The debate among co-defendants can help determine who receives the harsher sentence for convictions.
The US Supreme Court ruled that defendants who were minors at the time of the crime cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment. If Trevino had remained a minor in the criminal case, the prison sentence for a conviction would have been lower.