Baruti Hopson, the first person in King County convicted under new legislation that made promoting the commercial sex abuse of a minor a Class A felony, was sentenced to 26 1/2 years in prison Tuesday. Hopson, 32, who was out on bail during his trial, fled Seattle in January, two days before a King County Superior Court jury found him guilty on numerous charges involving a 15-year-old girl..
Hayden then handed down the harshest punishment he could, sentencing the 32-year-old Seattle man to 26 1/2 years in prison. The judge noted that evidence presented at trial made it clear that the now-16-year-old girl Hopson pimped out "was not the only person the defendant was prostituting."
"You entrap young girls and you enslave them and you can't minimize it," Hayden told Hopson, who was convicted of two counts of promoting the commercial sex abuse of a minor, three counts of third-degree child rape and one count of second-degree assault, all involving the same girl.
Hopson is the first pimp convicted in King County to face enhanced penalties for pimping out a juvenile since new legislation went into effect in June, making the crime a Class A felony, said King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sean O'Donnell, who tried the case against Hopson. Previously, the crime of promoting the commercial sex abuse of a minor carried a roughly two-year prison term.
Hopson, who was out on bail during his trial, fled to California two days before the jury found him guilty Jan. 26. He was captured in San Diego 12 days later.
Hopson also attempted to persuade the girl not to testify against him in messages he sent to the MySpace.com account he'd set up for her, the judge was told Tuesday.
The girl's mother read aloud some of the messages in court: "Jesus Christ our King has ordered your silence" and "Don't show up — that's an order from God," Hopson allegedly wrote.
Though Hopson has not been charged with bail jumping or witness tampering, Hayden said he took both alleged crimes into consideration in sentencing Hopson, whose defense attorney, Jesse Dubow, had requested a 20-year sentence.
Responding to comments from Hopson's parents that Hopson should get a light sentence because he didn't kill or hurt anyone, Hayden said: "All I heard ... is it's not as bad as murder. ... Perhaps it's worse than murder."
The victim was 15 when she met Hopson within 36 hours of running away from her Auburn home in June, according to court records. In a few days, she was working for him as a prostitute, they say.
In July, she was arrested in a sting by Bellevue police, claimed to be 18, and was ultimately released, court records say.
Bellevue Police Officer Tor Kraft, who was convinced the girl had misled police during her brief stint in custody, had taken photos of the girl and for months searched for her in Internet sex ads, the court documents say.
In September, Kraft discovered a photo of the girl posted on backpage.com and contacted the Seattle Police Department's Vice & High Risk Victims Unit for help. The classified-advertising website is owned by Village Voice Media, the parent company of Seattle Weekly.
Hayden characterized the site as "free speech to prostitute young girls."
According to evidence presented at trial, Hopson used a credit card to pay for ads on backpage.com, which included photos of the girl in provocative poses. He was arrested Sept. 24 in a hotel parking lot in Seattle after driving the girl to a "date" with an undercover detective.
On Tuesday, the girl refused to address Hopson in court, telling the judge, "I'm not going to give the defendant any more time from my life."
She thanked her parents "for looking for me so hard and helping me get my life back," and later hugged Kraft and the two Seattle detectives who worked her case.
"I'm just glad she's home. That's ultimately what I was hoping for," Kraft said.
Sara Jean Local News | Convicted Seattle pimp who fled during trial sentenced to 26 years | Seattle Times Newspaper http://t.co/AzHjoFz viGreen: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org