A jury convicted Otis D. Washington on sex-trafficking charges after he delivered a rambling, off-topic closing argument in which he accused police and the court of framing him.
Washington, 30, represented himself at trial in Ramsey County District Court and was forcibly removed from the courtroom Wednesday morning when he kept introducing outside information and ignored a judge’s orders to stop.
Jurors convicted him of all five felonies levied against him: 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.
Washington is the fourth of five suspects convicted in a far-reaching sex-trafficking ring that authorities say was run by a St. Paul family. The suspects targeted young, vulnerable girls and women, many with cognitive disabilities.
“This verdict was possible because of the courage of the victims who took the stand and told their stories,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement.
In his closing argument, Washington said a police officer planted a gun in his car during a traffic stop. (Guns were not part of the prosecution’s case against Washington.) He also said that cops coerced him and a female witness into making statements.
“You guys want to know the truth?” Washington said. “The truth is I’ve been framed.”
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney David Pinto objected to much of what Washington said. District Judge Rosanne Nathanson tried to bring Washington in line, but he repeatedly spoke over her.
“This courtroom, they don’t want me to tell the truth,” Washington said. “Back in the old days, they had a Bible on your left hand. That’s an oath. They want God out of court.”
Nathanson ordered two deputies to remove Washington from the courtroom and detain him in a holding area that is not visible to jurors.
Pinto and Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Karen Kugler argued at trial that Washington preyed on vulnerable victims, leading them to believe he cared about them before forcing them into prostitution.
Pinto said in his closing arguments that Washington used verbal threats to intimidate the victims and raped one woman when she refused to prostitute herself. He worked in concert with his brother, Antonio Washington-Davis, Pinto said. Washington-Davis was convicted at trial earlier this month.
“This is all about the money,” Pinto said. “All the money comes back to the defendant.”
The jury also found that there were aggravating factors in the case, which can be used to increase his prison sentence. Washington’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 9.
Washington’s two uncles pleaded guilty in the case. Washington-Davis’ ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth Alexander, also is charged. She has a pretrial hearing scheduled for December.