Hollywood actress Jamie Lee Curtis has shared an open letter where she urges a Texas DA to drop murder charges against a teenager who claims to be a victim of sex trafficking.
Zephaniah Trevino, 17, is facing charges of capital murder and is due to face a jury in January, over the death of a man who she said was her purchaser.
The teenager is one of three people accused of killing 24-year-old Carlos Arajeni-Arriaza Morillo last year. Despite not pulling the trigger, she is accused of being part of a robbery that went wrong.
Zephaniah Trevino is accused of murder in connection with the fatal shooting of a man when she was 16
Jamie Lee Curtis has written an open letter asking ‘How is it possible that a 16-year-old girl ,a victim of sex trafficking… could be held accountable for the crime?’
On Sunday, Curtis, 62, shared the letter on her Instagram page championing the cause of Zephaniah and pleading with Dallas County’s district attorney, John Creuzot, to drop the charges
Her defense team claims she is the innocent witness to her seller murdering her purchaser.
But lawyers for Philip Aguilera Baldenegro, the man accused of pulling the trigger, say the charges of sex trafficking are false accusations designed to generate sympathy for Trevino.
Trevino, 17, is one of three people charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Carlos Arajeni-Arriaza Morillo
On Sunday, Curtis, 62, shared the letter on her Instagram page championing the cause of Zephaniah and pleading with Dallas County’s district attorney, John Creuzot, to drop the charges.
‘I’m an actress, author and advocate for children, but most important of all, I’m a mother,’ she wrote.
‘How is it possible that a 16-year-old girl, a victim of sex trafficking and sexual violence who was an innocent bystander in a crime, could possibly be held accountable for that crime? That is the brutal truth happening to Zephi Trevino today. The Dallas district attorney plans to try this teen sex trafficking victim as an adult when she is still just a child.’
‘Hearing her story pierced my mother’s heart and I am writing this as a way to help Zephi’s own mother, Crystal, fight to free her daughter.’
‘As a mother of two children, I am outraged. Our criminal justice system must be better than this. All the DA has to do is drop the charges against this innocent girl. She didn’t hold a gun. She didn’t create the scenario. She was being sold for sex. And now, after being abused and victimized by her trafficker, she’s being victimized again — this time by the legal system that should be protecting her.’
Curtis said injustice ‘is so confounding that you need to put your name and your exposure where your mouth is but much more importantly, where your heart is.’
Trevino alleges she was being sex trafficked by Baldenegro, who was 18 at the time of the killing
‘As a mother of two children, I am outraged. Our criminal justice system must be better than this. All the DA has to do is drop the charges against this innocent girl. She didn’t hold a gun. She didn’t create the scenario. She was being sold for sex,’ wrote Curtis
She ended: ‘Please join us to help put pressure on the DA. No family should have to endure this.’
Zephaniah, or ‘Zephi’ as she’s known to friends and family, was a typical teenager in her Grand Prairie, Texas community.
Said to be kind and outgoing, the youngest of four siblings was raised in a loving home where she was involved in activities from her church worship team to pitching for her high school softball team.
But the young girl’s life took a dangerous turn when she became involved in unhealthy relationships that led to drug use.
Zephi’s family say that the girl started running away from home, eventually meeting an adult man who they allege began grooming her for sex trafficking using drugs, coercion, emotional manipulation and abuse, physical threats, as well as threats against her family.
Her family claims that over time, Zephi was forced numerous times by her trafficker to participate in sexual acts with other adults.
Finally, the cycle of abuse ended with the trafficker killing a man who Zephi is alleged to have been forced to perform sexual acts on.
For the past year, Zephi was held in the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice facility.
Now out on bond, she is awaiting trial on charges of capital murder and aggravated robbery.
Zephi maintains her innocence on all charges.
Trevino’s trial is scheduled for January and she could face 10 years in jail if found guilty
Victim Carlos Arajeni-Arriaza Morillo, 24, was allegedly killed by Jesse Martinez, 18, and Philip Baldenegro, 19, together with Zephi Trevino in a struggle with the gun
Jesse Martinez, 18, left, and Philip Baldenegro, 19, right are also accused of being involved in the robbery and killing of Morillo
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, above, has said he cannot comment on the case, saying any public comment would violate the Texas Family Code as well as the code of ethics of lawyers and prosecutors
After the public defender assigned to her case pushed her to take a plea deal with a long sentence, Zephi’s family retained national civil rights and criminal defense attorney Justin A. Moore and Dallas-based criminal defense attorney Ashkan Mehryari.
Her lawyers insist Zephi fell in with the wrong crowd and was groomed for prostitution.
During the fatal incident she was being pimped ‘under duress’, and the man who was allegedly intending to pay to have sex with her knew she was underage.
Lawyers for Baldenegro, the man who is accused of shooting Morillo, say the idea Zephi was involved in trafficking is ‘absolute fiction’, according to the Dallas News.
A petition to drop the charges has garnered almost 350,000 signatures while a fund set up for her legal defense has almost raised $100,000 after Kim Kardashian West tweeted about the case in July
They claim that Zephi was not a victim whatsoever and allegedly helped to set up the robbery before fleeing when it went wrong.
Lawyer David Finn claims the sex trafficking narrative is nothing more than a ‘smokescreen’ or ‘diversion’.
‘I’ve been a state prosecutor. I’ve been a federal prosecutor. I’ve been a criminal trial judge. I prosecuted real sex trafficking cases, both state and federal,’ Finn said.
‘As a judge, we had domestic violence cases that had elements of coercion and trafficking. And this allegation by Zephi Trevino, or her mother … and her attorneys — who are very good attorneys, I know them well — it’s complete b*******.’
‘There is not one single shred of evidence that’s backed up in allegations of sex trafficking — not only as it relates to my client, but to anyone.’
The prosecution in the case want to try Zephi as an adult and have offered her a plea deal of 10 years in prison.
The defense have countered with 10 years probation, and want to see the capital murder charges dropped which could see her jailed for life if tried as an adult and found guilty.