• 9 Investigates: Potential bill aims to increase penalties for sex-trafficking suspects

    By: Karla Ray


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - After 9 Investigates exposed lax punishment for two Volusia County parents convicted of crimes related to the drugging and selling their daughter for sex, state Sen. David Simmons began looking into potential legislation to create stiffer penalties.

    The final language of the potential Makell Ware Child Protection Act has a ways to go and Simmons also needs to find a member of the House of Representatives to sponsor similar legislation, or the effort will die.

    Makell Ware, who recently celebrated her 19th birthday,  was drugged and sold for sex by her parents when she was 15 years old. 

    Read: Victim who says she was sold for sex by her parents speaks out


    Michael Graves served just a year behind bars, and Cynthia Graves was sentenced to five years.  She will be released in 2019.

    “People who are in a position of power and influence over others, in this case, a parent over a child, is one in which they need to provide for stiff, strong penalties,” Simmons said.

    Makell Ware
    © 2018 Cox Media Group.

    Simmons was contacted by Volusia County father Don Mair, after Mair saw Channel 9’s stories highlighting the short sentences for Makell’s birth parents. 

    Mair successfully led the push for legislation in honor of his own daughter, known as Gabby’s Law, which was aimed at making school bus stops safer.

    Simmons is working with bill drafters in Tallahassee for potential 2018 legislation in Makell’s honor.

    “I thank you, and your station, and also Mr. Mair, for helping to shine a spotlight on this,” Simmons said.

    Simmons said he is talking to a few representatives he thinks may want to sponsor similar legislation, but House members are only able to introduce a few bills a piece. 

    The deadline to sponsor a bill is this week and the deadline to introduce a bill is the first day of the Legislative session.

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