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The Kalamazoo prosecutor's office reduces charges for a human trafficking survivor

Stacy Chambless stands outside the courtroom in a black suit jacket and a pale pink blouse.  Her blonde hair is in a bun at the top of her head and she looks confidently at the camera.  A man in a suit holding a briefcase can be seen walking away down the hall in the new Judge Charles A. Pratt Justice Center in Kalamazoo.
Leona Larson
Stacy Chambliss after a hearing at the Charles A. Pratt Justice Center on Jan. 29, 2024.

Stacy Chambliss previously faced a felony charge for a car theft she says she committed under duress.

Human trafficking survivor Stacy Chambliss now faces a misdemeanor, rather than a felony charge for stealing a car in September 2019. Chambliss says she took the car while she was being trafficked in Kalamazoo.

“Stacy's public defender was able to negotiate with the prosecutor to allow Stacy to plead to a misdemeanor rather than a felony, which is a less serious crime," said Lynelle Morgan of Survivor Law Clinic in Okemos, who was with Chambliss in court on Monday.

Morgan added that her organization would have rather seen the prosecutor dismiss the charges.

“They felt that because they had a victim, they couldn't do that. You know, this, to me is a good outcome, given that the prosecutor, who has absolute discretion over this was not willing to dismiss the charges outright.”

As part of a deal with the prosecutor’s office, Chambliss agreed to pay restitution to the car owner. A judge is expected to determine the amount in February.

Chambliss has said in the past that her traffickers should also be charged with the car theft. To date, they have not been charged with that crime, or any other crime associated with trafficking Chambliss.  Still, after the hearing Monday she expressed happiness with the outcome.

“I'm feeling good because we've come to an agreement that we, both sides, have decided on. And they agreed to let me plead to a lesser charge. That was pretty big. It shows that the prosecutor was, you know, willing to bend some.”

Chambliss is the subject of a WMUK documentary, “Nowhere to Go: How the system failed a trafficking survivor," which aired January 25, 2024. The documentary updates and expands a series, “It Happens Here,” which aired in the fall.

Leona has worked as a journalist for most of her life - in radio, print, television and as journalism instructor. She has a background in consumer news, special projects and investigative reporting.