Earlier versions of this story gave an incorrect age for the prostitute in one of the cases involving Jaron R. Brice. The woman was 19, not 9. This version has been corrected.
Area Juvenile Sex Rings Targeted Using Anti-Trafficking Laws
Monday, March 6, 2006
The teenagers testified for hour after agonizing hour about their months of prostitution, quietly describing the tricks they turned on some of the District's and Maryland's seediest strips.
They performed sex acts with men in cheap motel rooms, alleys and the back seats of cars, they said. Clients had 10 minutes or it cost extra. One girl, 14 when she was recruited, said her quota was $500 a night, with various sex acts ranging in price from $50 to $150. Every dollar she and her "stable sisters" earned, she said, was turned over to the sometimes loving, often brutal man they were told to call "Daddy."
That man, Jaron R. Brice, 27, of Northeast Washington, was convicted last week of sex trafficking of a minor, transporting prostitutes across state lines, pandering and child sexual abuse -- a litany of federal charges that probably will land him in prison for decades.
The five-day trial, at the federal courthouse in Washington, included lengthy testimony from three young women who described in sober, graphic detail the life they were introduced to through Brice. They met Brice at parties or through friends, and with his instruction and encouragement soon were trolling for "dates" outside motels in the District, Silver Spring and Capitol Heights; through an X-rated phone chat line; and, for repeat customers, via cell phones.
The activities came to light after investigations by the District's Human Trafficking Task Force and the U.S. Justice Department's Innocence Lost initiative, separate efforts that target pimps accused of using violence and preying on girls. Innocence Lost, which is concentrated in 14 U.S. cities, has launched 140 investigations resulting in convictions of at least 68 pimps. The D.C. task force has initiated more than 30 investigations and has won 17 convictions.
Both efforts make use of federal anti-trafficking laws -- passed by Congress in 2000 and reauthorized this year -- that offer tools for prosecuting pimps and stiffer penalties for those convicted than local statues would have allowed. The first pimp tried in the District under the federal statute, Carlos Curtis, will be sentenced March 17. He could face life in prison for prostituting a 12-year-old runaway he recruited from New York and a 17-year-old he brought to the District from Maryland.
Starting this year, the laws will also offer money for programs to steer young women and girls away from prostitution in the United States and abroad.
The legislation, supported by a coalition of liberal and conservative groups, addresses foreign and domestic sex trafficking. In the District, the victims of those charged with trafficking have been U.S.-born -- girls and young women from urban, suburban and rural areas, many of them runaways, all of them searching for security, stability and love.
"We talked about having sex for money. Paying him. Being happy," testified one girl, who was 14 and living in Prince George's County when she met Brice in March 2004.
"You'll have everything you want, and I'll take care of you," the girl recalled Brice telling her. Then he drove her to a Silver Spring Travelodge with a veteran prostitute and another underage recruit. Brice had sex with the three of them, testified the girl, whose name is being withheld by The Washington Post because she is a minor and a victim of a sex crime.
Over the next day or so, the new girls were outfitted with short shorts and revealing tops and taught to apply heavy make-up. They sat in the back seat of Brice's purple Chevrolet Caprice to watch a video that laid out the rules and jargon of what she and the others learned to call "The Game":
Call your pimp "Daddy." Walk behind him, keeping your gaze down.