LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Ala. – A high-profile human trafficking trial is officially underway in Lauderdale County. Former attorney Chip Dillard and Shoals businessman Timothy Staggs are accused of forcing women into sexual servitude.
A total of 122 potential jurors reported to the Lauderdale County Courthouse Monday morning after being summoned. Prosecutors and attorneys are now trying to reduce that number to 14. Lawrence County Circuit Judge Mark Craig is overseeing the trial of Dillard and Staggs. The men were indicted on numerous felony charges in May of 2016.
Dillard’s charges include human trafficking, sexual abuse and intimidating a witness. Staggs was also indicted by a grand jury led by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office on 12 counts related to human trafficking.
According to investigators, Dillard would go through inmate rosters at the Lauderdale County Detention Center to find women who would agree to trade their freedom for sex and then Staggs would provide the money to bail the women out. Investigators working the case said the victims had to work off the money which was spent to get them out of jail.
Dillard has been incarcerated since his arrest following the indictment. Staggs was freed on bond, but later rearrested after being accused of attempting to solicit another female.
A motion to separate the trials of Dillard and Staggs was denied during a previous hearing.
Courthouse officials say they expect the trial to last at least two weeks. However, they also say they would not be surprised if it lasts three. Jury selection will continue on Tuesday.
Lauderdale County judges and prosecutors recused themselves from the case of Dillard and Staggs. Since Chip Dillard was a practicing attorney in Lauderdale County, they felt it would be inappropriate to try him on his alleged crimes.