Chrystul Kizer, a 19-year-old facing life in prison for the killing of her alleged sex trafficker, could be released from jail if she is able to post a $400,000 bond, a Wisconsin judge ruled Thursday, Feb. 6. Previously, Kizer's bond was set at $1 million.
Although Wisconsin requires a bond to be paid in full, activists supporting Kizer say they are hopeful they will be able to raise the money to free her, given the international attention her case has received in recent months.
At Thursday's hearing, prosecutors told the judge they had offered Kizer a deal in which she could plead guilty to felony murder with an underlying charge of armed robbery for the death of Randy Volar, 34. Under that deal, Kizer could spend up to 43 years in prison.
Kizer's public defenders rejected the offer and argued that she should be released to live with her mother while she appeals an earlier ruling by the judge and awaits a trial.
"Miss Kizer does not pose a flight risk," her attorney Larisa Benitez-Morgan told the judge. "She doesn't pose a danger to herself or the community. She is a victim of child trafficking."
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District Attorney Michael Graveley also acknowledged that Kizer was a victim of sex crimes by Volar. At the time of his death in June 2018, Volar had been under investigation for months. Police had arrested him in February on charges of child sexual assault, but released him the same day. A raid of his home revealed video evidence that Volar appeared to be sexually abusing about a dozen underage black girls, including Kizer when she was 16. He remained free while police and prosecutors continued their investigation.
Kizer has said Volar also sold her for sex to other men and that she was acting in self-defense when she shot him in the head twice, set his house on fire and fled in his car.
Graveley used the hearing Thursday to present new evidence that he said shows Kizer's crime was premeditated.
Minutes before Kizer fired her weapon, Graveley said, she downloaded a police scanner app. Soon after, she left a voice mail for her boyfriend, "saying something to the effect of 'Oh boy, I did it.' "
In the months leading up to the crime, Graveley said there is evidence that Volar was trying to distance himself from Kizer, whom he had been abusing for more than a year after responding to an advertisement she posted on Backpage.com. He said Kizer told detectives that after Volar's house was raided by the police, he offered to pay her $2,000 to "stay away from him." She continued to text him, Graveley said, angry that he wasn't texting her back or was blocking her number.
Kizer's lawyers objected multiple times as Graveley brought up evidence of previous car thefts and text messages about drug deals. Graveley argued that Kizer's account of what happened is unreliable because she has a history of lying about the crime to detectives and others.
Graveley told the judge he had reviewed jail recordings of Kizer's interviews with The Washington Post and found more than a dozen instances in which he believed Kizer was lying. He questioned her contention that Volar sold her to other men, saying he is unaware of any evidence that supports that claim.
"Mr. Volar would be a buyer within the sex-trafficking world. He would not be a trafficker of her," Graveley said.
But under Wisconsin law, anyone who purchases a child for the purposes of a sex act is guilty of child trafficking.
"She was a child, and I think we need to keep sight of that," Benitez-Morgan told the judge. "We have reviewed everything off of his computer and, quite frankly, it was disgusting to see some of the things this gentleman was doing to girls."
Kizer's attorneys believe she qualifies for Wisconsin's affirmative defense law, which would allow to her argue that her crime was a direct result of the trafficking she experienced. But in December, Judge David Wilk ruled that Kizer could not use that defense.
Her attorneys have appealed that decision — a process that will probably take months to resolve. On Thursday, Wilk removed Kizer's jury trial from the court's calendar. Instead, she will appear in court in March. Prosecutors have asked for Kizer to be questioned at that hearing on whether she understands the plea deal that was offered and answer whether she would like to take it.
This article was written by Jessica Contrera, a reporter for The Washington Post.