If these allegations are proven to be true, Sen. Menendez is in violation of the PROTECT Act of 2003. The Protect Act made it illegal for U.S. citizens to go to other countries and engage in illicit sexual conduct, which the bill defines as a sexual act “with a person under 18 years of age that would be in violation of chapter 109A if the sexual act occurred in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States; or (2) any commercial sex act (as defined in section 1591) with a person under 18 years of age.” The punishment under the Protect Act can be up to 30 years in prison.
Now, according to 18 U.S.C. 2423 (United States Code) which is the section for the Protect Act, a defendant may utilize the defense that they did not know the prostitute they hired was under the age of 18. The PROTECT Act of 2003 also makes it clear that even if a sexual act is legal in another country, a U.S. citizen participating in it may still be prosecuted under this Act (prostitution is legal in the Dominican Republic.)
Then-Rep. Menendez voted for the PROTECT Act of 2003.
The PROTECT Act of 2003 references 18 U.S.C. 1591, which is part of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). This section of the Code is titled, “Sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion.” One of the purposes of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent reauthorizations in 2003, 2005, and 2008 is to end the demand for commercial sex; in fact, end-demand efforts are one of the criteria the United States Department of State (DOS) uses to rate countries in the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.
Then-Rep. Menendez voted for the TVPA of 2000;
Then-Rep. Menendez voted for the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2003;
Then-Rep. Menendez was a co-sponsor of the TVPRA of 2005;
Sen. Menendez began his term in the Senate in 2007, and the TVPRA of 2008 passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent; and
Sen. Menendez was a co-sponsor of the TVPRA of 2011, which died in the last session.