Lawrence man facing charges of human trafficking for allegedly allowing children to be assaulted in exchange for rent
photo by: Mackenzie Clark
A Lawrence man is facing high-level felony charges for allegedly allowing children in his care to be sexually assaulted by a former landlord in exchange for rent.
A Douglas County judge recently ordered Cormick G. Ferrell, 42, to stand trial on two counts of aggravated human trafficking, which are off-grid felonies, for the alleged scheme. If convicted, Ferrell would face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 25 years for both charges.
According to a charging document provided to the Journal-World, Ferrell is accused of providing two children under the age of 14 to be used in forced labor, involuntary servitude or sexual gratification of another person between April 2014 and August 2017. The children were 7 and 6 years old when the crimes allegedly began, the document states.
Ferrell was also originally charged with a third count of human trafficking for providing a third, 12-year-old child for the same purposes between January and May 2018. However, that charge was changed to aggravated child endangerment, a lower-level felony, during the preliminary hearing.
An amended charging document has not yet been filed to reflect the change. Ferrell is scheduled to be arraigned on the amended charge during a hearing on Dec. 7.
photo by: Contributed
After hearing testimony during the preliminary hearing, Senior Assistant District Attorney Seth Brackman argued to the court that Ferrell allowed two children to be assaulted in exchange for rent. One of the children testified that she informed Ferrell the man was assaulting her when she was 8 years old, but Ferrell responded by telling the child to “suck it up” because they needed a place to stay.
Brackman said Ferrell would also do odd jobs for the landlord and at times would leave the children with the landlord alone. Brackman said the incidents with the landlord continued to occur until the children left Ferrell’s care.
Ferrell’s attorney, Branden Smith, argued that the alleged scheme of Ferrell using the children for rent was speculative, because there was no documentation that Ferrell had received rent assistance for letting the landlord assault the children.
But Judge Kay Huff denied Smith’s argument and continued with binding Ferrell over for trial. She pointed to the testimony provided by the children and also noted it was unusual that the children would have been allowed to interact with the landlord.
Huff also denied a request from Smith to have Ferrell’s bond amount changed. She said the high-level felony charges he faced could make him a flight risk.
After Huff’s ruling, Ferrell appeared to be distraught and was seen crying in the courtroom. He also was seen looking back at the children, who were in the courtroom to hear Huff’s ruling.
Ferrell was originally arrested for the alleged incidents in 2020. He was originally charged in March 2020 with three counts of aggravated endangering a child, all of which are low-level felonies, according to the charging document in that case. Ferrell was arrested in June 2020 and was released from custody after he posted a $3,000 bond.
photo by: Contributed
However, those charges were later dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office in August 2021, according to court records. A week later, the DA’s office filed the new, more serious charges against Ferrell. He was then arrested again on the new charges on Aug. 27, according to the booking log.
Ferrell is currently being held in the Douglas County Jail on a $100,000 cash or surety bond.
According to his social media accounts, Ferrell is the manager of Ferrell & Son’s Residential Property Maintenance.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office declined to release Ferrell’s booking photo to the Journal-World.
The landlord accused of the assaults is named Mark Strand, said Jill Jess, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office. Charges have been filed against Strand in Douglas County, but he is currently in federal custody for a conviction in an unrelated case, she said.
According to federal court documents, Strand accepted a plea deal in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in December 2019, where he was convicted of knowingly attempting to coerce and entice a minor to engage in sexual activity.
He was sentenced on Feb. 26, 2020, to 12 years in prison for the conviction and ordered to be held in a facility near Lawrence, according to a ruling from U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga.
In a sentencing memorandum, Strand’s attorney, Celeste S. Higgins, said Strand was 68 years old at the time of sentencing and that he was facing allegations from “his former tenants” in Lawrence.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons registry, Strand, now 69, is being held at a federal prison in Texarkana, Texas.
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