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The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office is being questioned about failing to prosecute a man accused of human trafficking a young girl from a Texas stadium in April 2022.

The girl was taken from a Dallas Mavericks game and trafficked for sex, and now her mother and Attorney General Ken Paxton have weighed in on the case in which Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot was unable to prosecute a suspect captured on video taking the victim from the American Airlines Center.

The victim, who was 15 at the time, went to the NBA game with her father and had left her seat to use the bathroom when she met Emanuel Jose Cartagena and was seen on CCTV leaving the arena with him, police said previously.

Cartagena then took the teen to an "unknown house" in Dallas, where he sexually assaulted her, police said.

Emanuel Jose Cartagena mugshot

Emanuel Jose Cartagena was arrested on Jan. 26, 2023, on a felony warrant for allegedly sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. (FOX 4 Dallas/Getty Images)


The family’s attorney, Zeke Fortenberry, said in a November statement that Cartagena was a "known pimp" who "forced her into prostitution before trading her to another man who transported her to Oklahoma City, where she was trafficked and forced into prostitution and repeatedly sold for sex at a hotel." Cartagena was convicted in a 2016 case of promoting the prostitution of a person under age 18.

The victim was tracked 10 days later, on April 18, to an Oklahoma City Extended Stay America hotel after a private investigator found her by searching online ads, according to the news outlet Texas Scorecard.

In May of that year, the Oklahoma City Police Department arrested eight people who were hit with various charges in relation to the case, ranging from rape to offering to engage in prostitution, human trafficking, and distribution of child pornography.

But Cartagena was never successfully prosecuted despite being arrested in connection with the scheme in January 2023.

In October, a Dallas County grand jury decided not to indict him as jurors did not see sufficient evidence to prosecute him for the crime of sexual assault of a child.

"I was astounded," the girl’s mother told Texas Scorecard. She said Dallas police and prosecutors made several missteps throughout the case.

The mother said police initially refused to let her husband file a missing-persons report since police classify older missing teens as "runaways," even though they are under the age of consent.

Headshots of 8 individuals connected to sex trafficking a 15-year-old girl.

The Oklahoma City Police Department arrested Saniya Alexander, Melissa Wheeler, Chevaun Gibson, Kenneth Nelson, Sarah Hayes, Karen Gonzales, Thalia Gibson and Steven Hill in connection to the trafficking case. (Oklahoma City Detention Center)


They also told the family to file a report with their local police in North Richland Hills, around 30 miles from where their daughter disappeared.

"That’s an enormous problem," she told Texas Scorecard, noting that the family had to hire a private investigator to track their daughter down.

She also said that once her daughter was found, Dallas officials declined an invitation from authorities in Oklahoma to come and gather information that could help their investigation.

She further told the outlet that her daughter was too young to consent to sex and picked Cartagena out of a lineup, yet the grand jury still sided with Cartagena. The grand jury ended up "no billing" Cartagena, meaning jurors did not see sufficient evidence to prosecute him.

After the grand jury let Cartagena go free, Fortenberry highlighted several flaws that Creuzot and his team made in the case. 

The attorney said in a statement that it took the DA’s office more than seven months to interview the victim after Cartagena’s arrest and that its prosecutors did not discuss the facts of the case.

Fortenberry said he offered to provide Assistant District Attorney Summer Elmazi with medical records and therapy notes that could supplement the case, but she declined.


The lawyer also said the girl had never been forensically interviewed about the incidents that took place in Dallas, even though she was willing to participate, and he asked Elmazi to consider human trafficking charges against Cartagena, but she declined. 

On Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton shared the Texas Scorecard story on X and wrote, "This is unacceptable and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Ken Paxton at the podium

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Fortenberry said the girl’s parents met with Creuzot after the no-billing decision and provided him with therapy notes, but he declined to pursue the case further.

"Despite a lack of a complete investigation and new evidence supporting charges of human trafficking… the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office informed the parents that they consider the case to be closed," the November statement reads.


Creuzot told Fox News Digital in a statement that his office met the family after the decision to hear their concerns.

"Since that meeting, this office reviewed all of the evidence that was presented to the grand jury and we are confident that any possible criminal offenses were presented," Creuzot wrote.

"By law, the grand jury deliberates in secret. Per office policy, we did not make a recommendation to the grand jury and we will respect their decision."

Fox News Digital also sought comment from Dallas police.

Meanwhile, the girl's mother is trying to raise awareness about the case and the thousands of human trafficking victims. A 2016 University of Texas study found that 79,000 minors were victims of sex trafficking in Texas.

"Aside from the goodness of God, we wouldn’t have my daughter. We are lucky. My daughter is safe," the girl’s mother told Texas Scorecard. "But we are not the norm. What about all the other victims?"

Fox News’ Stephanie Pagones contributed to this report.