Woman in prison for sex trafficking seeks release due to COVID-19 fears

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A woman who is serving a sentence of over 19 years for sex trafficking has asked the court to grant her compassionate release, fearing that she might contract COVID-19 while in prison.

Former karaoke bar operator Chang Ru Meng Backman, who is serving a sentence of 19 years and nine months for sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, has asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to grant her compassionate release and reduction of sentence because of COVID-19.

Backman said if her motion is granted, she will reside with her family in Tianjin, China, and will quarantine as required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and by the U.S. attorney general’s directives.

Backman said her family can support her financially during her home confinement, adding that she will obtain private health insurance as soon as she is released.

Backman claims that if no action is taken on her request, the outcome could be devastating.

“Coronavirus is known to cause serious health complications for individuals with, and worse for, pre-existing conditions. A coronavirus exposure is the equivalent of a death sentence that this court did not impose,” she said.

If not released from custody before the virus runs rampant in her prison, Backman claims she will be at risk of contracting the disease and suffering serious health complications.

“The coronavirus is a particular threat to prison populations because of the circumstances of confinement and the inmates’ proximity to each other. It is estimated that more than 70% of all federal prisoners tested positive for COVID-19,” she said.

In her first attempt to request compassionate release back in March 2021, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona Manglona denied Backman’s request to appoint her a federal public defender to assist her in formally filing for compassionate release.

Manglona said that, although the court has discretion to appoint counsel, there is no constitutional right to appoint counsel in post-conviction proceedings.

According to court documents, Backman was convicted after a jury trial in June 2013 for sex trafficking.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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