TAMPICO, Mexico — A music producer accused of sexually abusing a young singer in Mexico — whom he represented and mentored for several years — has been found guilty of rape and human trafficking.
Mario Enrique Miranda Palacios, 47, heard the verdict against him on Monday after a six-week trial in Tampico, a coastal city in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. He had pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors had accused Miranda of taking advantage of his position and power to push singer Luis Armando Campos — then a minor — into sexual acts against his will. When they started working together, the producer was 37 years old and the singer had just turned 14.
Miranda was initially charged with rape, corruption of minors and forced prostitution. But the Tamaulipas State’s Attorney’s Office elevated the charges to include the more serious crime of human trafficking. In a statement after the verdict, it said that the prosecution had “irrefutably demonstrated the responsibility of the now-convicted suspect.”
Campos, the victim, was in the courtroom when the verdict was read, and said he was “satisfied” with the outcome.
“I feel satisfied. I always thought that we had the necessary proof to demonstrate everything that happened,” he told CNN. “At the moment the verdict was announced, I felt a mix of emotions: I was nervous, but I was also desperate to find out what the verdict would be. I was also at peace, because I knew that just by speaking publicly, I had achieved something and had demonstrated that everything I said was true,” added Campos, who is now 23.
Miranda will appeal the ruling, according to his attorney Juan Jorge Olvera Reyes, who had argued that the relationship was consensual.
“What we were able to demonstrate during the trial is that during the years in question there was a romantic relationship. This relationship involved trips, explicit letters and other proof that we showed during the trial,” Olvera said in a statement.
Olvera also questioned whether the verdict was based solely on facts presented in the trial. “Sometimes you wonder how deeply this kind of decision is influenced by public opinion and pressure from higher authorities. Verdicts sometimes do not respond to facts presented during the trial, but to public opinion,” he said.
Miranda now faces a sentence of between 30 and 63 years in prison.
“He destroyed my adolescence”
The case first made headlines in Mexico after Miranda’s arrest in March 2018.
Campos had gained some fame after reaching the semifinals in the “The Voice Mexico” in 2014. It was during that singing contest that Campos met Yuridia Valenzuela Canseco, the widely known singer in Latin America known simply as “Yuri.”
Campos said that Yuri who convinced him that he should report the abuse to authorities. Up until then, he had kept his ordeal a secret.
“He destroyed my adolescence,” Campos recently told CNN, referring to Miranda.
Rita Hernández, a board member of United vs Human Trafficking, a nonprofit devoted to protecting victims of human trafficking, says her organization provided legal assistance and counseling to Campos was a vulnerable and young victim, she says, that came from “a broken family.”
Campos, then in junior high school, had little money and was no longer living with his parents when he first met Mario Enrique Miranda Palacios, a music producer and talent promoter who offered financial support and help promoting his career.
“This man came out of nowhere, promising an incredible singing career. He does have a beautiful voice. He [Miranda] started involving him in his own productions,” Hernández said.
‘Vulnerable to abuse’
Campos also says his situation was desperate.
“By the time my mother made the decision to leave (to find work in a different state in order to support the family), he offered to help me and told her that he was going to take care of me because he saw me as a son,” Campos told CNN.
At first, Miranda kept his promises, cultivating the 14-year-old’s talent and polishing his singing voice.
“Even when the mother moved out of state, Armando stayed behind because the mother was so trusting of this man that was promising him this incredible career and for them, being so poor, his talent was his ticket out of poverty,” Hernández said.
Campos says things quickly started to change. When he was still 14, Miranda once asked him to show up early for a rehearsal, Campos says.
“He took me into his office, and it was there where, for the first time, he asked me to take off my shoes and my socks and kissed my feet. He said it was something normal and that he was giving a scholarship at this academy and that I could thank him this way, that it wasn’t something bad, that he was not going to tell anybody and that this was normal,” Campos said.
‘Forced into prostitution’
What started with verbal and sexual abuse soon worsened to forced prostitution, the singer said. The fact that he didn’t have his parents around him or any other adult that would’ve protected him only made him more vulnerable to abuse.
“I didn’t have anybody I could tell these things to. I didn’t have anybody to turn to,” Campos said.
At the time, Miranda was one of the most influential music producers and promoters in Mexico and had gained a reputation as a star maker. From this position of authority, it was easy to attract young, vulnerable victims like Campos, Hernández said.
“He was a teenager. He was a child. A child doesn’t have the mechanisms to protect themselves from violence or protect themselves from abuse,” Hernández said.
Campos says Miranda coerced him to work as a sex slave for four years starting at the age of 14. He says Miranda would get phone calls from strangers, most of whom were interested in young males. Miranda kept all the money and Campos only had his room and board expenses covered.
Threats of harm to his family, deception by Miranda and psychological abuse, he says, kept him quiet and submissive. Campos says he finally found the courage to ignore the threats and flee after turning 18.
“I think it was anger held inside of me. It was the need to feel peace and calm. I was fed up of the screaming and the threats and that was what gradually built up that anger inside of me,” Campos said.
Miranda has long denied the accusations and argued that the relationship was consensual.
In addition to his singing career, nowadays Campos is also an activist who talks openly about what he says he went through.
“As I tell my story to people, I feel like I’m getting free again. It’s like a therapy that helps me a lot,” Campos said. “And, well, telling my story to people who have recently gone through this, so they can see I’m moving forward also makes me feel good,”
The singer recently spoke at an event in front of members of the Mexican congress. “I feel wonderful. I had never been in this building before,” he said after leaving one of the chambers.
Campos said he cried when he learned the man he claims abused him and destroyed his adolescence had been finally put behind bars. The guilty verdict, he said, makes him feel like he has recovered part of the freedom he lost during the four years he was in captivity.
“There were many people who accused of reporting Miranda because I was corrupt and just wanted money. Only I who live through it know exactly what happened. More than earthly justice, I believe in divine justice and God knows how much I suffered,” Campos said.
Miranda’s sentence is expected to be announced on September 3rd.