J'can described as 'master manipulator' in US sex-trafficking case
MIAMI, USA (CMC) — A Jamaican national faces sex-trafficking charges at a trial here for stealing an Ohio man's identity to run an international prostitution business.
Prosecutor Olivia Choe argued during opening statements of his sex-trafficking trial in Miami federal court Monday that Damion St Patrick Baston was "a master manipulator".
Baston, 37, is charged with using "psychological coercion and physical abuse" to manipulate seven young women from Australia, New Zealand, Lithuania and the United States, who earned hundreds of thousands of dollars as high-end prostitutes for him "until Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents arrested him outside his mother's New York City home in December.
Six of those women, including one that Baston married in 2010, are expected to testify at his trial.
Prosecutor Roy Altman said Baston, who had been ordered removed from the United States in the late 1990s, obtained a Florida driver's licence and US passport in the name of an Ohio resident during the past decade.
He charged that Baston travelled to Australia, Dubai and other exotic places to entice women into his escort service.
He would advertise the women on the Internet and keep their earnings for himself, depositing the money in numerous bank accounts under a false name.
But Baston's defence attorney, David Rowe, countered that the prosecutors distorted his client's profile, saying he was a peaceful businessman who ran a legitimate escort service in Australia.
Rowe said a Saudi royal prince even asked Baston to come to Dubai to open his escort business in the United Arab Emirates.
He said Baston only ran into trouble when he entered the United States, which viewed prostitution differently.
Rowe said his client plans to testify during the two-week trial before US District Judge Cecilia Altonaga.
If convicted on sex-trafficking charges, Baston could be jailed for the rest of his life.