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Case against pair charged with forced prostitution will stay in Roseville for now

By: Scott Thomas Anderson, The Press Tribune
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U.S. attorneys in Sacramento may be considering a federal case against Stephen Putnam and Debra Thongsy for allegedly controlling a 15-year-old girl, sexually assaulting her, drugging her and pimping her to clients. However, on Wednesday, it was confirmed the prosecution will also remain firmly in the hands of Placer County authorities. Superior Court Judge Angus Saint-Evens ruled that Putnam and Thongsy will face trial in October at the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. Earlier this year, Placer County Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Macumber said U.S. attorneys were weighing the option of elevating the case against the couple to federal court. According to a federal law passed in 2000, the sexual exploitation of women and children through violence, threats, imprisonment, coercion or psychological abuse constitutes "human trafficking." A number of the crimes Putnam and Thongsy are charged with involve using intimidation to compel a 15-year-old runway into prostituting herself for their gain. They are also charged with pimping a 16-year-old victim. Lauren Horwood of the U.S. Attorney's Office said her department could not publicly discuss what level of involvement, or interest, it had in the case. From Macumber's perspective, it's time for Putnam and Thongsy to face trial on the local level, regardless of what federal authorities decide. "They still have the option to prosecute at any time," Macumber said of the U.S. Attorney's Office. "The federal jurisdiction is separate and apart from ours, so defendants like these can actually be prosecuted by two different agencies independently of one another." She added, "I'm not sure what they'll decide, but we're not going to wait — we're going to trial." When Macumber appeared in court Wednesday, she confirmed that no plea agreement had been reached with defense attorneys Dan Nicholson and John Spurling. The judge set a conference date for August and a full trial for early October. Roseville police launched an investigation into Putnam and Thongsy in 2010, after the 15-year-old victim reportedly escaped from their control and returned home to her family in Sacramento. At the time, detectives said Putnam was a known pimp who was on probation for a related conviction in 2008. In the current case, it?s alleged that Putnam and Thongsy provided both victims with drugs and alcohol, and that Putnam sexually assaulted the 15-year-old. Putnam and Thongsy are believed to have lined up some of the prostitution clients for the teenagers using the website Redbook.com. Scott Thomas Anderson can be reached at scotta@goldcountrymedia.com.