U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger returned to the courtroom to prosecute a pimp and won Friday.
A federal jury in Minneapolis spent fewer than two hours deliberating before returning three guilty verdicts against Lee Paul, 32, of Bloomington, for forcibly prostituting three young women, including 12- and 16-year-old girls from Rochester.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melinda Williams was the lead prosecutor on the case. Luger gave the opening statement and cross-examined Paul.
In her closing argument Friday morning, Williams began by reminding the jury the youngest girl was in sixth grade. “The defendant is a predator. … He goes to the herd, he finds the weak, the vulnerable … and he picks them off,” Williams said.
She said that the lives of the three victims were “a mess,” as evidenced by the shattering testimony each of them gave during the trial.
Paul recruited the two younger girls by having an older woman pose as a friend and invite them to meet at a Rochester fast-food restaurant to go to a party.
He gave the girls alcohol and marijuana, then drove them to a Columbia Heights motel within hours of meeting them. He raped them and sent the 12-year-old to Alexandria, Minn., with the third victim, 19, to find men who would pay for sex with her. Two of those men testified at the trial.
From the outset, defense attorney Michael Colich warned jurors that they wouldn’t like his client and that Paul was an admitted pimp. In his closing argument, Colich said much of the case against Paul relied on jurors’ emotions rather than evidence. But the jury apparently believed the prosecution’s case, which included dozens of text messages from Paul and tight timelines of his movements.
A former assistant U.S. attorney and trial lawyer, Luger said that when he took the job, he wanted to try a case to keep his courtroom skills sharp.