Two arrested in Charlotte, indicted on federal sex trafficking charges involving 15-year-old

Kristi Heather King and Tawaan Batten are charged with two counts of sex trafficking of a minor.
Kristi Heather King and Tawaan Batten are facing charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and sex trafficking of a minor.
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 6:32 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Newly-unsealed court documents show a 15-year-old girl was sold for sex between July and December of 2021.

A new indictment became unsealed Friday, listing two people charged with working together to traffic the teen.

The documents indicate she was sold for sex in hotels “in Mecklenburg County, within the Western District of North Carolina and elsewhere.”

31-year-old Kristi Heather King and 32-year-old Tawaan Batten face two counts of sex trafficking.

In a motion filed by King’s legal team, her attorney said King got into a relationship with Batten, and Batten coerced her into prostitution.

Court documents say the teenage victim ran away from a group home in 2021 and then met King and Batten.

King’s attorney says King and the teen were both trafficked by Batten against their will.

Meanwhile, prosecutors say King “ensured that the minor victim had clothes and supplies, took pictures of the minor victim to be used in commercial sex advertisements, posted commercial sex advertisements of her, and actively arranged “plays” for the minor victim to see commercial sex customers.”

Investigators found ads for commercial sex on an account registered to King’s Facebook page.

In petitioning for her release, King’s defense attorney says King offered to help the victim get another job, but the teen refused, “preferring the sex work.”

That’s a statement the CEO of Safe House Project, Kristi Wells, disagrees with.

Part of Wells’ job is to work to help house trafficking victims.

“My opinion from the survivors that we’ve served is that none of them actively choose this,” Wells said. “None of them wake up one day and say ‘I want to be raped 20 times a day.’ Especially for runaway youth, that is very common to see they’re forced into survival sex.”

She does say cases where a victim could also become a trafficker, are not uncommon.

Wells wants to remind the public that any case where a child is performing sex for money, is considered trafficking and not prostitution.

“If a child is being sold for commercial sex, that child is inherently vulnerable, so there’s no need to prove that force fraud or coercion,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a child prostitute is really what it comes down to.”

A judge denied that petition for King’s release.

Batten faced a federal judge for a first appearance on Friday and King is due in court Monday.

Related: ‘It happens everywhere’: 3 jailed under $750K bond in sex trafficking case of 15-year-old girl in Concord