A St. Paul man charged in an alleged family-run sex-trafficking ring was sentenced Thursday morning to 12½ years of probation for driving victims to meet johns.

Ramsey County District Judge Rosanne Nathanson sentenced Robert J. Washington, 56, to three years in prison but stayed that for probation. Washington won’t have to serve prison time unless he violates the terms of his probation.

Washington’s attorney, Carolina Lamas, argued for community service and no chance of incarceration. Lamas said that Washington was “shocked” to learn of allegations that a sex-trafficking ring was being run out of his St. Paul house. Washington had a minimal role in the alleged ring, Lamas said, adding that his case was “overcharged.”

Nathanson strongly disagreed.

“I think it’s very serious,” Nathanson said. “I don’t agree that it was minor.”

Washington also has to perform 300 hours of community service and observe no-contact orders with the victims, among other conditions.

“I just want to say that from the start, everybody blew it out of proportion,” Washington said outside of the courtroom. “[The media] characterized me and my family as bad people, and we’re not.”

Brothers Otis D. Washington and Antonio D. Washington-Davis, their uncles Robert J. Washington and Calvin R. Washington, and Washington-Davis’ ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth A. Alexander, were charged in the alleged ring. Authorities say that the family preyed on vulnerable young girls and women for years, trafficking them as far away as Ely.

Assistant Ramsey County Attorney David Pinto said that Robert J. Washington’s house was the “epicenter” of the alleged ring and that his cellphone was used to take a photo for a sex ad on the website Backpage.com. He pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.

Calvin R. Washington pleaded in July to aiding and abetting sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. The other defendants are headed toward trial.