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An East Bay Pimp Trafficked Her Daughter. And the Man that She Turned to For Help Exploited Her For Sex.

Oakland police, the Alameda County DA and his employer, BAWAR, ignored her complaint.

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An OPD crime-scene technician also took pictures of the text messages between Pendergrass and Mims, and these confirm Pendergrass' allegations that the two had been flirting, and that Mims scheduled times to come to her house for sex.

At her first appointment at Highland Hospital, a few days later, Pendergrass told a counselor about her history with BAWAR, her family's situation, and her interactions with Mims. The counselor, according to Pendergrass, characterized Mims' actions as a form of sexual assault, because he was a helping professional.

Pendergrass also wrote a letter to the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, an umbrella organization of rape-crisis centers like BAWAR. She copied BAWAR's executive director Blackstock on the letter.

"Mr. Mims used the power and authority associated with his position to take advantage of me during this time in my life when I'm vulnerable and dependent on his help," the letter read. "I would like for your organization to reconsider allowing him to work in the capacity of the [Sexually Exploited Minors] program coordinator or in any other capacity with vulnerable populations and individuals."

But it appears that nothing ever came of her letter, or the police report. The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault told the Express they never received a copy of the letter, which Pendergrass said she sent via regular mail. BAWAR did not respond to the letter.

According to Pendergrass, Oakland police officer Joseph Rasler, who was assigned to her case, told her over the phone several weeks after she filed the report there was no rape case to forward to the district attorney. Rasler classified his investigation as a "forcible rape," but because she had consented at the time to sex, no laws were broken. "Based on my preliminary investigation I believe [Pendergrass] and [Mims] engaged in consensual sex," Rasler wrote in his final report. Sergeant William Bacon closed her case against Mims in September 2014.

Reached by phone last week, Mims declined to be interviewed.

BAWAR never replied to her letter, either. In fact, the organization appears to never have acknowledged what happened.


Seeking Answers

More than two years later, Pendergrass wonders if Mims was ever investigated and disciplined by BAWAR for the alleged exploitation. And she questions whether Oakland police officials and the Alameda County district attorney — who both fund and work closely with BAWAR — ever took steps to deal with the incident, or if East Bay law enforcement swept it under the rug.

Her daughter's pimp, Brown, was sentenced in 2015 to five years for multiple felonies and will have to register as a sex offender upon his release from Ironwood State Prison. But was there accountability for those who exploited Pendergrass?

The Express requested an in-person interview with Blackstock at BAWAR's Oakland office, but she declined multiple offers. This paper met briefly with a staff member and board member of the organization, but both said they did not work at BAWAR in 2014, when Mims was an employee. Both said they had no knowledge of the allegations, and one board member, Sarai Crane-Pope, said BAWAR's board of directors had not discussed the allegations during the time she has been on the board.

We also emailed Blackstock a list of questions, including whether she informed her board of directors about the allegations made against Mims, if she disclosed to OPD Mims' criminal history before she hired him, and to discuss BAWAR's policies with respect to sex between staff and clients. Her reply, via email, was "I am not available for any further interviews."

A former staff member of BAWAR, who the Express has agreed not to identify, said that Mims was not fired over the incident. In fact, this staffer says he was never punished.

Instead, Mims was allowed to leave BAWAR in July 2014, just seven months after his prestigious FBI award. Today, he works for the Contra Costa County Probation Department as the field operations coordinator for its re-entry network, which helps recently released prisoners integrate back in to society.

Pendergrass's daughter, who is now nineteen and pregnant, lives with her mother, and says she's out of the sex-work industry. Pendergrass is going back to school and trying to move on with her life, but says she is bothered by her case's lack of closure.

Several law-enforcement experts with experience in sex-crime investigations, who asked that the Express not identify them because they work with some of the nonprofits and agencies named in this story, said it would be difficult to prosecute someone for sexual assault when they did not physically attack someone, or literally trade services for sex. Without evidence that a helping professional literally demanded sex for services, a prosecution is unlikely.

Pendergrass said her main concern is if what she experienced ever happened to anyone else. She also wonders if the problem is systemic.

"BAWAR should have at least acknowledged what happened," she said.

Clarification: The original version of this story stated that Leneka Pendergrass sent a letter to the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, or CALCASA, regarding her being sexually exploited by an employee of Bay Area Women Against Rape. Pendergrass said that CALCASA did not respond to the letter. The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, however, said they never received a copy of the letter, which Pendergrass said she sent via the U.S. Postal Service. Shaina Brown of CALCASA told the Express that had her organization received a copy, they would have responded. This online version of this story has been updated to reflect this clarification.


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