There used to be no talk of the future for Sara Kruzan. In fact, she arguably had no future at all.
That all changed when it was revealed in a Riverside Superior Court hearing Jan. 18 that Kruzan, a child sex trafficking victim who was once sentenced to life in prison, is eligible for parole this year.
“I can finally exhale. We can all finally exhale,” said Anne Rogan, Kruzan’s aunt, referring to Kruzan’s family and the innumerable human rights activists around the world lobbying for Sara’s freedom.
Kruzan, who has been incarcerated for 19 consecutive years, will likely be released from jail within a few months. Members of Kruzan’s family, including Rogan, her legal team and even Sara herself (via teleconference) were present at the hearing where it was revealed that Kruzan’s sentence has been reduced to 15 years plus four years with parole eligibility.
Kruzan was convicted of first-degree murder in 1995 for killing her pimp in Riverside, Calif., the prior year at age 16. Her pimp, George Gilbert “G.G.” Howard, had groomed Kruzan for prostitution since age 11, then raped, beat and sold her for sex starting when she was 13.
In 1995, Riverside Superior Court Judge J. Thompson Hanks sentenced Kruzan to life in prison. In 2011, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted Kruzan’s sentence to 25 years with the chance of parole. Kruzan requested a retrial last summer, which has seen several extensions and no official decision.
Kruzan’s legal team and the Riverside Court revealed that a tentative proposed settlement had been reached, which was to be disclosed in a hearing Jan. 11. The hearing was postponed to Jan. 18 where it was announced that Kruzan’s conviction has been reduced to second-degree murder, with a commuted sentence of 19 years with the chance of parole.
Since Kruzan is already serving her nineteenth year behind bars, her attorney plans to expedite her parole, which could mean Kruzan will be free in as little as a few months.
G.G.’s brother was also present at the hearing Jan. 18. Rogan said he contacted the D.A.’s office the day before the hearing, requesting to be present. Though he voiced at the hearing that he suffered a loss with the murder of his brother, he admitted that he was not opposed to Kruzan’s settlement agreement when asked by the judge.
Kruzan’s future seems to be bright not only because of her own looming liberation, but because she plans to help set the souls of sex trafficking victims free on their rehabilitative road to becoming survivors.
“With all that Sara’s been through, she feels it’s only right to use her experience to help free other girls who have been exploited and abused under the enslavement of a pimp,” Rogan said.
Indeed, even from behind bars, Kruzan seems to live by the words of the great Nelson Mandela, who, not unlike Sara, was also sentenced to life in prison for committing infallible acts of justice: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Additional Sara Kruzan coverage by the Abolish Slavery Coalition:
- Sara Kruzan sentence reduced; eligible for parole this year
- Breaking News: Sara Kruzan hearing postponed
- Settlement reached for child sex trafficking victim Sara Kruzan
- Exclusive Interview: Sex trafficking victim Sara Kruzan’s family speaks out
About the Author
Melissa Grace Hoon is the Managing Editor for the Abolish Slavery Coalition. She is a victim advocate and a human rights journalist with a Master’s degree in American studies where she focused on slavery, gendered violence and victimization. She is a freelance reporter for the Orange County Register and volunteers with the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force.