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Forced prostitution sex trafficking program in Alabama

U.S. District Court Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. of the Middle Circuit of Alabama sentenced defendant Lonnie Mitchell, 36, of Montgomery, Alabama, to 60 years in prison for forcing multiple victims, including a minor, to commit suicide in the During the year prostitution to devote several years. The judge also ordered the defendant to pay the victims over $950,000 in damages.

In June 2022, a jury convicted the defendant after a five-day trial of sex trafficking five victims through violence, fraud and coercion. The jury also found the defendant guilty of child sex trafficking and the triple coercion and enticing of a person to travel in interstate commerce for the purpose of prostitution.

“The defendant used unspeakable force and manipulated the victims’ drug problems in order to control their every move and exploit them for his own financial gain,” said Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Human trafficking is a cruel crime that targets some of the most vulnerable members of our society, cruelly depriving them of their dignity and freedom. The Department of Justice remains committed to prioritizing the prosecution of human trafficking and defending the rights of victims of these heinous crimes.”

“Today’s verdict reflects the appalling treatment and abuse of his victims by the defendant,” said US Attorney Sandra J. Stewart for the Middle District of Alabama. “Although her physical injuries will heal, the emotional damage caused by her suffering will last a lifetime. I am grateful for all authorities who worked together on this case and for the brave victims who testified at his trial. I hope that this verdict will bring at least some comfort to the victims, knowing that the defendant has been held accountable for his crimes.”

“Mr. Mitchell’s crimes were particularly gruesome, which was reflected in the severity of his conviction,” said Katrina Berger, Acting Special Agent for DHS Homeland Security Investigations (DHS-HIS) in Atlanta. “We hope this finding will help the victims’ healing process , but also serves as a warning to others who would bully others for their own financial gain. HSI Special Agents and our law enforcement partners will continue to protect our communities from illicit trafficking and drug activity.”

According to evidence presented in court, defendant Lonnie Mitchell targeted vulnerable victims struggling with substance abuse problems and then manipulated their substance abuse problems in his favor. He increased victims’ heroin use and encouraged them to use it intravenously. He then withdrew heroin from victims, causing an extremely painful withdrawal sickness when they violated one of his many control rules or otherwise failed to provide sufficient services to commercial sex clients. Mitchell also used violence, threats of violence, and threats to send embarrassing information, photos, or videos to victims’ families to enforce compliance with his rules and ensure victims provided him with sufficient money from prostitution. In addition, Defendant Mitchell regulated how much and when victims were allowed to eat and confiscated their identification documents and credit cards as part of his coercive program to control them.

Two co-defendants, Nettisia Mitchell and Donna Emmons, previously pleaded guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy. Nettisia Mitchell is the sister of the defendant Lonnie Mitchell, and the court had previously sentenced her to 120 months in prison and ordered her to pay $2,000 in compensation for her role in her brother’s coercion program. Notably, Nettisia witnessed her brother’s violence against a victim, but sheltered the victim and received the proceeds of the victim’s involvement in commercial sex. The court previously sentenced Emmons to 151 months in prison and ordered her to pay $3,500 in damages.

This was announced by Deputy Attorney General Clarke, US Attorney Stewart and HSI Special Agent responsible, Berger.

DHS-HSI, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Montgomery Police Department were investigating the case.

Assistant US Attorneys J. Patrick Lamb and MaryLou Bowdre for the Middle District of Alabama and Trial Attorney Kate Alexander of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecutor’s Office prosecuted the case.

Anyone with information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information on human trafficking, visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org.

© 2022 The US Department of JusticeNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 336

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