A 31-year-old Maryland man was convicted of five prostitution-related counts Thursday by a Montgomery County jury that concluded he was acting as a pimp for two women operating out of a business hotel room along Rockville Pike.
Nahshon Kornegay, of District Heights, faces a potentially long prison term, although it is unclear how much time prosecutors will seek or how much time the judge will impose at Kornegay’s sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for May.
The trial started earlier this week. One of Kornegay’s prostitutes was a key witness for prosecutors. She said she came down from Philadelphia and Kornegay moved her among several hotels over a two- or three-week period. She said that Kornegay posted online advertisements for her services, demanded that she text him when the customers arrived and left the room, and that he came by to collect money.
Between her customers, she would stay in the bathroom while another prostitute would be with a customer, according to her testimony. She said that she ate food from room service, indicating she had to have approval from Kornegay before ordering, and sometimes went to the hotel’s swimming pool. She had no car, and didn’t leave the hotels. “I don’t know where I’m at,” she said from the witness stand, explaining why she didn’t leave the hotel grounds.
Police closed in on her on March 22, 2012, and that led them to Kornegay. It is not unusual for prostitutes to work in business hotels, where many customers feel more comfortable than visiting downscale hotels. And because the prostitutes and their pimps advertise online, and only give their locations after making contact with customers over the phone, it’s often difficult for hotels to detect the activity.
The witness said Kornegay threatened to hit her if she stashed away money, but said he never hit her.
During deliberations, jurors settled on convictions for the prostitution-related charges within an hour, several said in interviews. They debated longer on the drug-related count, but eventually found Kornegay guilty of two counts of prostitution, three counts of human trafficking and one count of attempted distribution of Ecstasy. “Human trafficking” in the context of this case meant that Kornegay placed the prostitutes in hotel rooms and profited from the crimes.
Montgomery Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Mays told jurors about all the online advertisements and text-messaging management in the case, and how prostitution has changed from the days of street-walkers. “This case is about what it means to be a pimp in the year 2012,” he said in his closing argument to the jury.
Kornegay’s attorney, Timothy Clarke, said after the verdict that he will seek a new trial. He said the women in the case were acting on their own free will. “I don’t think they were forced to do anything,” he said.