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Family Court marshal trainee appears in court on sex trafficking charges

Updated March 7, 2024 - 6:50 pm

A Family Court marshal trainee intends to plead not guilty to a charge of sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl, his lawyer said.

Bryce Tokunaga, 31, appeared for a brief court hearing on Thursday morning. He has been charged with sex trafficking a child under 18 and first-degree kidnapping of a minor, court records show.

Tokunaga’s defense attorney, Jess Marchese, has said his client intends to plead not guilty to the charges.

He told Justice of the Peace Pro Tempore Andrew Wong that Tokunaga was aware a criminal complaint has been filed, and that he “would waive reading of it and enter a not guilty plea.”

Tokunaga was hired Feb. 5, 2024, and was still in a training program when police began investigating him on Feb. 19 during a traffic stop near Tropicana and Polaris avenues, according to his arrest report and a statement from District Court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price.

Police have accused Tokunaga of encouraging and facilitating a 17-year-old girl to work as a sex worker.

Tokunaga “denied having any knowledge of (the girl) working as a prostitute or ever paying her money for sexual intercourse,” according to his arrest report.

But the report stated that police reviewed text messages between the girl and Tokunaka, which showed him arranging for her to travel out of state for the purposes of sex work. The arrest report also accused him of soliciting the girl to have sex with him.

He has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, Price said.

“Mr. Tokunaga was in the process of new-hire field training at the Family Court,” Price said in an emailed statement. “He had not been assigned a judge or given an assignment.”

On Tuesday, Justice of the Peace Rebecca Saxe ordered Tokunaga to be released on house-arrest with high-level electronic monitoring, court records show. He was not ordered to post bail.

Tokunaga remained in custody on Thursday, but Marchese said he should soon be released to house arrest.

He waived his right to a speedy preliminary hearing, and is set to appear in court again on June 11.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240.

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