Montgomery Man Sentenced in Sex Trafficking Scheme Involving Forced Prostitution
A Montgomery man has been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay more than $950,000 in restitution for sex trafficking scheme involving forced prostitution, according to the U.S. Attorney.
U.S. District Court Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. of the Middle District of Alabama sentenced 36-year-old Lonnie Mitchell to 60 years in prison for coercing several victims, including a minor, to engage in prostitution over several years. There is no parole in the federal system. The judge also ordered the defendant to pay more than $950,000.00 in restitution to the victims.
In June, a jury convicted Mitchell of sex trafficking five victims by force, fraud and coercion. The jury also found him guilty of sex trafficking a minor, and three counts of coercing and enticing an individual to travel in interstate commerce for prostitution purposes.
“Today’s sentence reflects the defendant’s horrific treatment and abuse of his victims,” said U.S. Attorney Sandra J. Stewart for the Middle District of Alabama. “Although their physical injuries will heal, the emotional damage caused by their suffering will last a lifetime. I am thankful for all of the agencies that worked together on this case, and for the courageous victims that testified at his trial. I hope this sentence will provide at least some consolation to the victims knowing that the defendant has been held accountable for his crimes.”
According to the evidence presented in court, defendant Lonnie Mitchell targeted vulnerable victims who struggled with substance abuse issues, and then manipulated their substance abuse problems for his benefit. He increased the victims’ use of heroin and encouraged them to use it intravenously. He then withheld heroin from the victims, causing extremely painful withdrawal sickness, if they violated one of his many controlling rules or otherwise did not provide services to enough commercial sex clients, according to the U.S. Attorney.
Mitchell also used violence, threats of violence, and threats to send embarrassing information, photos, or videos to the victims’ loved ones in order to coerce compliance with his rules and to ensure that the victims provided him with sufficient money from prostitution. In addition, defendant Mitchell regulated the how much and when the victims could eat and confiscated their identity documents and credit cards as part of his coercive scheme to control them, the U.S. Attorney said.
Two co-defendants, Nettisia Mitchell and Donna Emmons, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. Nettisia Mitchell is the sister of defendant Lonnie Mitchell, and the court previously sentenced her to 120 months confinement and ordered her to pay $2,000 in restitution for her role in her brother’s coercive scheme. Specifically, Nettisia witnessed her brother’s violence against a victim, yet harbored the victim and received the proceeds from the victim’s involvement in commercial sex, according to prosecutors.
The court previously sentenced Emmons to 151 months confinement and ordered her to pay $3,500 in restitution.
— Information from the U.S. Dept. of Justice/U.S. Attorney’s Office Middle District of Alabama