Brandon D. Barnes, a St. Paul man who entered an Alford plea in the sex trafficking of two girls, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison, a term partly influenced by a 14-year prison sentence his co-defendant received in January.
Co-defendant Giorgio J. Baymon, 25, was accidentally offered a lower sentence because prosecutors didn't realize there was a mistake in his paperwork until it was too late. Baymon, described by Barnes' attorney as the mastermind of the trafficking, pleaded guilty last October to aiding and abetting prostitution. He could have faced more time in prison, but the paperwork in his plea agreement listed 166 months as an agreed-upon term.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Richard Dusterhoft, who was at Barnes' sentencing Friday, called that number an error and said prosecutors moved forward with it because both sides had already agreed to it. Barnes' attorney, Rick Petry, seized on Baymon's sentence to file a motion for a downward departure for his client.
If Baymon received about 14 years for recruiting the victims (at the time ages 17 and 15), posting ads online and orchestrating the sex trafficking, "equity certainly demands" that Barnes receive far less time, Petry told Ramsey County District Judge Lezlie Ott Marek.
Baymon's sentencing range should have been 214 months, about 18 years, at the lowest and about 23 years at the highest.
County attorney spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein said that Baymon's sentence is comparable to an attempted-murder sentence. "Could it have been better? Absolutely," he said.
The error comes as the office ramps up its fight against sex trafficking through a partnership with St. Paul police and the Women's Foundation of Minnesota. Ambitious plans to identify and rectify investigative and prosecutorial gaps were revealed at a quarterly statewide meeting this week.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Grant Snyder, whose office investigated the crimes, said he's communicated with the victims and they are satisfied with the sentences.
Barnes entered an Alford plea in January to aiding and abetting prostitution, which does not admit guilt — only that there's a high probability the prosecution can prove its case.
According to charges against Baymon and Barnes, the men trafficked the girls at an Eagan hotel in 2012 and threatened them with a gun. The men posted ads on Backpage.com. Baymon picked up one of the girls from school, and the other was a runaway.
Petry told Marek that Baymon orchestrated everything and Barnes simply put the hotel room in his name.
Dusterhoft argued that Barnes was seen on video surveillance wandering the hotel while the girls had sex with men. Barnes and Baymon also watched the parking lot for the men to leave so they could return to the hotel room and arrange for more customers, Dusterhoft said.
Petry told the judge that Barnes had struggled with severe mental health issues his whole life, which ultimately factored into the judge's decision.
When it came time for Barnes to address the court, he apologized to the victims' families and asked for leniency, saying he needed treatment for his mental health and alcohol problems.
Barnes must serve a little over six years before being eligible for parole. He will have to register as a predatory offender for 10 years.