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LR girl accused in kidnapping, sex-trafficking case is arraigned

A Little Rock woman was charged in federal court Wednesday on kidnapping, sex trafficking, extortion and transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity in an incident in September in which a teenage girl from Pope County was reported to authorities announced that she was arrested in Memphis by three women on the pretext of a girls’ road trip, but was beaten and threatened and numerous attempts were made to force them into prostitution.

21-year-old Alexus Harris appeared before US Judge Joe Volpe, who briefed her on her rights and explained the possible punishment she could face, the heaviest of which could bring her to jail for life.

According to a 35-page criminal complaint filed by the FBI in federal court, the “MV1” victim told police that she went to Memphis with Harris and two other women on September 2 for a girls’ trip. After arriving at a Memphis hotel, MV1 told police that Harris had told her and the two women they were there to prostitute them and forced them to walk on the street for two consecutive days.

After she refused to prostitute, Harris and the others attempted to extort money from their family and friends, which prompted a family member to call the police.

During the time she was being held, MV1’s friends and family were exposed to phone and video calls from her abductors demanding money while they suffocated her with pillows, whipped her with a gun, or pointed guns at her head.

The complaint said that she was finally released when her abductors left her alone long enough to go down to the hotel parking lot, where she asked a man to take her to a West Memphis hotel. There, according to the complaint, the police were called and MV1 was taken to a hospital in Memphis, where family members picked her up on September 4th.

Harris’ first appearance on October 14 before US judge Beth Deere, Harris – who objected – was subjected to a psychiatric examination and placed in the care of the US Marshal Service.

On November 23, Deere signed an order to take Harris to the Carswell Federal Medical Facility in Fort Worth to see if she had legal standing. The report was forwarded to US District Judge Lee P. Rudofsky, who ordered the report to be adopted on March 15.

At her trial Wednesday before Volpe, Harris appeared via videoconference link from the West Tennessee Detention Facility in Mason, Tennessee, where she is being held pending a bond hearing.

“Is there a competence issue that we shouldn’t be addressing today?” Volpe asked Annie Depper, Harris’ court appointed defense attorney. Depper stated that there were no problems, refrained from reading the indictment, entered into an innocent plea and requested a hearing for the jury, which Volpe set for May 3 in front of Rudofsky.