Damon Michael DiMartino tried Friday to withdraw his guilty plea for prostituting a Forest Lake girl, but the judge refused and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
“You are a predator and you are a pimp. You are someone who preys on the most vulnerable of our community,” Judge John McBride said after DiMartino, of St. Paul, finished making a rambling plea for leniency in the Washington County courtroom in Stillwater.
The girl’s mother shook her head and wept as DiMartino denied he was a career predator and said he wasn’t guilty of the crime.
“I am a boy in a man’s body, learning how to live,” DiMartino, 41, told the judge. “I’m not a sex offender, I am a human being with problems.”
DiMartino’s 20-year sentence means he will spend at least 13 years in prison before he is considered for probationary release. McBride gave him credit for 344 days he has spent in jail since his arrest.
In the summer of 2015, DiMartino was on 15 years’ probation for his most recent of two criminal sexual conduct convictions involving children when he began forcing the girl, then 17, to strip for men.
On Oct. 14, 2015, he drove her from Forest Lake to a hotel in St. Paul to meet a man for sex. That became the crime for which he was convicted.
Murad Mohammad, DiMartino’s attorney, said his client decided to plead guilty in June, minutes before his trial, because he was “scared and frustrated” and wasn’t thinking clearly because he was off his medication.
Mohammad said he wasn’t “minimizing what happened” but put blame on the girl, telling the judge he should take into account “reciprocal feelings” between her and DiMartino and that she was “engaged in a partying lifestyle.”
After Mohammad attempted to withdraw the plea, prosecutor Imran Ali countered that DiMartino had pleaded guilty because he realized the victim would testify.
Ali said DiMartino had demonstrated “violent criminal conduct” and, despite two earlier sex abuse cases involving girls ages 10 and 14, willfully groomed the Forest Lake girl for a life of prostitution.
“There are many defendants who face prosecution for crimes they’re simply reluctant to admit,” Ali said. “The defendant hasn’t taken one ounce of remorse for the victim in this case.”
According to the criminal complaint, the girl told police that in June 2015, after a dispute with her mother, she began living with friends.
She met DiMartino at a party and began seeing herself as his “property” after he supplied her with drugs and alcohol. She began stripping on party buses and later performed “tricks” on DiMartino’s orders.
The girl was afraid to identify DiMartino, but she pointed to him as her pimp, nicknamed “D,” after Forest Lake police showed her a photo, the charges said.
Near the end of Friday’s hearing, Ali read a victim statement on behalf of the girl’s mother, who said DiMartino had inflicted emotional and physical damage on her daughter. “As a mother, I hate him for this,” she wrote.
Before deputies led him from the courtroom, DiMartino told McBride: “My past is my past. I’ve made many mistakes in my past. I regret all of them.”