Jamaican-born Damion St Patrick Baston, 37, was found guilty of sex trafficking and money laundering after he preyed on Australian, New Zealand and US women and turned them into high-end prostitutes
- Jamaican-born Damion St Patrick Baston, 37, found guilty of sex trafficking
- He preyed on attractive women and turned them into high-end prostitutes
- Baston’s victims were from Australia, New Zealand and the US
- He beat, threatened and raped his victims and kept the money they made
Published: 15:42 EST, 1 July 2014 | Updated: 19:39 EST, 1 July 2014
A Florida jury has swiftly convicted a violent pimp who preyed on beautiful Australian, New Zealand and US women and turned them into high-end prostitutes.
The jury of seven women and five men in the US District Court in Miami took just six hours after a two-week trial to find Jamaican-born Damion St Patrick Baston guilty of all 21 charges, including sex trafficking and money laundering.
The 37-year-old former nightclub dancer, music producer and self-described entrepreneur faces life in prison at his sentencing on September 5, with a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years.
“It did not turn out the way Mr Baston wanted,” Baston’s lawyer, David Rowe, told AAP.
“He took it in a manly way.”
US prosecutors flew in two Australian women and one New Zealander to testify alongside three Americans who were turned into sex slaves by Baston.
Baston beat, threatened and raped his victims, bragged about being a member of violent LA street gang the Bloods, and then kept for himself the hundreds of thousands of dollars the women made.
Baston’s pimping began on Queensland’s Gold Coast, but led to the Middle East and the US.
In 2011 Baston, posing as a music producer looking for talent in Australia, met an Australian woman, known as KL, in a Gold Coast restaurant.
They began a romantic relationship and the woman believed they would open a restaurant together, but he began using violence and the threats of violence to coerce her into prostitution.
Baston drove KL to prostitution dates, posted her photographs and contact information on local escorting websites and newspapers and collected all of her earnings.
She had to refer to him as “Daddy”.
KL would return home with “thousands of dollars”, Baston would keep it and flaunt it, including posting Instagram photos of his $250,000 bank balance and $75,000 diamond-studded watch.
In 2011 Baston took KL to Dubai where she made large sums of cash as a prostitute and then they travelled to Miami, Florida, where he continued to pimp her.
The other Australian victim, TJM, met Baston at a party in Queensland in 2009 when she was 18 and they married in an Islamic ceremony in 2010.
In 2011 he was prostituting TJM and KL together out of several rental properties on the Gold Coast.
Mr Rowe told the jury KL was not the victim, but the “business genius” behind a Gold Coast escort agency known as Bachelors Club and Baston “was basically the security guard to make sure that the girls did not get assaulted”.
Baston was arrested in New York in December after KL flew from the US to Australia to renew her visa and her relatives alerted the US State Department.
In 2010, a 21-year-old Lithuanian woman, known as GP, told NSW police Baston had hung her by her feet over a fire escape, forced her to remain in a scalding shower for several hours and beat her relentlessly.
“According to the sexual battery detective who interviewed GP that night, GP was the most terrified victim she had ever encountered in her 25 years at the police department,” prosecutors said.
Baston remains in custody.
Miami Jury finds Jamaican Guilty of Sex Trafficking
A federal jury found that an escort-service operator forced a stable of women into a far-ranging prostitution racket.
By Jay Weaver
He bowed his head as a federal judge read all 21 guilty verdicts.
Then he shook it from side to side, as if in disbelief.
Damion St. Patrick Baston finally lifted his head as each of the Miami federal jurors was polled Tuesday, confirming verdicts that convicted him of sex trafficking and related crimes. They had deliberated for less than six hours.
The 12-person jury heard a half-dozen women testify about how the Jamaican man beat and raped them as he forced them into his prostitution racket, an operation that ranged from Australia to Dubai to Miami. The defendant took the witness stand for three days and denied everything.
“I am not a pimp,” Baston, 37, declared last week.
But the jurors did not believe him, saying afterward that he shouldn’t have taken the witness stand. “He didn’t do himself any favors,” the foreman, who did not want to be identified, told the Miami Herald.
Another juror said the prosecution’s evidence was overwhelming. “All of their i’s were dotted and t’s crossed,” he said.
The jury’s verdicts, after a two-week trial, could result in a maximum life sentence for the Jamaican national, who was charged last year with sex trafficking, money laundering and other crimes. At the very least, Baston faces a minimum-mandatory sentence of 15 years when he appears before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga on Sept. 5.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said the investigation, a collaboration of American, Australian and United Arab Emirates law enforcement agencies, led to the first U.S. prosecution under a 2008 law intended to combat international sex trafficking.
“It is the first time we have used the extraterritorial jurisdiction provision of our anti-trafficking laws to charge someone for sex trafficking that occurred in another country,” Ferrer said after Baston’s conviction.
Raised for part of his childhood in New York City, Baston was deported from the United States in the late 1990s for having a prior criminal conviction. Two years ago, he arrived in Miami with an Australian woman and an American woman, and used “psychological coercion and physical abuse” against them to pick up men at South Florida strip clubs and turn tricks, according to prosecutors.
At trial, prosecutors unveiled documents showing that Baston stole the identity of an American man that allowed him to travel to Australia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States to orchestrate his prostitution ring and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“He converted them into little more than sex slaves,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Roy Altman told jurors during closing arguments on Friday, calling Baston a “kind of monster” who bragged about being a member of the L.A. street gang, the Bloods, to frighten the women.
“He was very much a pimp in every sense of the word,” Altman argued, accusing Baston of lying repeatedly on the witness stand.
But Baston’s defense attorney, David Rowe, argued that he did nothing wrong in Australia, where prostitution is legal, before coming to Miami in 2012 with an Aussie woman and an American women who had worked in his Bachelors Club escort business overseas. Rowe said his client told the truth, and never coerced or abused any of the women for personal profit.