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Landmark sentence in Minn. sex trafficking case

  • Associated Press
  • January 9, 2014 - 5:00 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The last of four family members charged in a sex trafficking operation that spanned nearly two years in Minnesota was sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison.

Otis Washington's sentence is the longest one imposed for a sex trafficking defendant in state history, the Ramsey County Attorney's office said.

Washington, 30, of St. Paul, his brother and two of their uncles were charged in the sex trafficking operation that involved numerous victims and multiple communities in Minnesota from September 2010 to July 2012.

In a statement, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Otis Washington's sentence bolsters the county's efforts to "end the enslavement of young women and girls in the commercial sex trade in our community."

A jury in November found Otis Washington guilty on two counts of promotion of prostitution, two counts of solicitation to practice prostitution — one involving a minor — and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.

The guilty verdicts came in a retrial of Otis Washington after an earlier trial resulted in a hung jury. Washington represented himself at both trials and continued to represent himself at his sentencing Thursday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Citing the multiple victims, Judge Rosanne Nathanson agreed with prosecutors and gave Washington consecutive sentences that amount to 40 years and one month, with credit for 281 days already served. He also will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and pay $836 in fees, fines and assessments.

"If you say so," Washington responded.

According to the criminal complaints, authorities began investigating after a woman emailed police, saying her 15-year-old granddaughter was taken to a home where women were being sold for sex. Prosecutors say the brothers used eight email addresses and 30 phone numbers to place hundreds of ads on adult-oriented websites.

Another victim told investigators the brothers preyed on vulnerable or mentally disabled women. Two women were approached at a homeless shelter.

Last month, Washington's brother, Antonio Washington-Davis, 27, was sentenced to 36 years in prison for his role in the sex trafficking ring. Robert James Washington, 56, an uncle to the two brothers, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit second-degree sex trafficking in July 2013 and was placed on 12.5 years of probation. Another uncle, Calvin Roy Washington, 50, pleaded guilty to one count each of second-degree sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit second-degree sex trafficking in July 2013 and was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison.

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