EVERETT — He’s a people person who wears his heart on his sleeve.
That’s how convicted Everett pimp Jerome Todd described himself Monday in a federal courtroom. He went on to say he’s been a victim and scapegoat, trapped by the lies of Everett police and prostitutes.
“I shouldn’t have to go to prison for my life for another person’s action in order to free them from guilt,” Todd said. “I am innocent.”
The judge held a different opinion of Todd when he sentenced the Everett man to 26 years in prison.
“You have become dependent on a lifestyle — to be a player or womanizer, or whatever — that requires you to manipulate and exploit women,” U.S. District Court Judge James L. Robart said. “I have little or no doubt in my mind if I sentenced you to time served you’d go back to the conduct that got you here shortly.”
Todd will be on probation for five years and be required to register as a sex offender when he is released. He also must pay nearly $70,000 to three women who worked for him as prostitutes.
A jury in May convicted Todd, 29, of numerous federal sex-for-sale crimes, including sex trafficking. Jurors were convinced Todd forced women to sell their bodies as part of an Internet-based prostitution ring. Todd coerced the women to engage in prostitution for his own benefit, according to court documents.
Todd used the money the women made to support a lavish lifestyle, full of high-end jewelry and expensive clothes, the jury found. He told one witness he pimped women as a way to avoid paying child support for at least 13 children he acknowledges fathering, according to court records.
Everett police detectives began investigating Todd in March 2007 after a woman reported seeing her daughter’s picture on Craigslist, advertising that she was selling sex. The FBI, Seattle police and the IRS joined the investigation.
Todd is a predator, who preyed on three women, ages 18 to 20, assistant U.S. attorneys Karyn Johnson and Ye-Ting Woo wrote in court documents.
“These were young women at a crossroads in their lives,” Woo said Monday.
Todd took advantage of their lack of experience and groomed them to become dependent on him. He then isolated them from their families and friends, the attorneys said. He and a co-defendant posted ads on Craigslist, set the women up in motels and provided them with cell phones, lingerie and condoms. He gave them strict rules to follow and if they disobeyed his orders, he assaulted them, the attorneys wrote.
He went beyond promoting prostitution, Woo said.
Federal sex trafficking statutes are fairly new and are aimed at those people who use violence and threats to engage in prostitution, she said.
“Human trafficking is termed as a modern form of slavery, ” Woo said. “The power and control Jerome Todd exerted over these women who worked for him must be punished severely.”
She asked Todd to be sentenced to 45 years in prison — 15 years for each victim. She also argued that the federal statute requires Todd to pay the women back for the money he took away from them, even though the work was illegal.
The judge allowed for the restitution but questioned why the statute would allow for people to be repaid for criminal activity.
Todd’s attorney, Suzanne Lee Elliott, requested the minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years. She argued that the case against Todd was more of a “run-of-the-mill” promoting prostitution case than what the U.S. Congress intended to address by enacting the sex trafficking statute. A 45-year sentence would be “obscene,” Elliott said.
She also argued that any money Todd makes in the future should to help support his 13 children, according to court documents. The women should not be paid for their illegal activities, Elliott said.
Todd spoke slowly and seemed to struggle to make his points. He questioned the application of the federal statute in his case. He complained about being accused of a crime that lumps his conduct in with people who molest children. He challenged the veracity of the witnesses who testified against him.
Todd also told the judge he is scared and nervous. He’s been to jail in the past but not for a long stretch, he said.
“I still have a life. I still have a chance to grow, to become a better man, a father,” Todd said. “I just ask that you give me that chance.”
Hobart dismissed Todd’s claim that he is a victim. The judge said he believed Todd came from a stable upbringing, but the Everett man has since decided to march into a life of crime.
“I simply can find nothing in your background … to suggest you have learned anything from this experience,” Hobart said.
Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or email@example.com.