A Fresno man who was convicted of pimping a 13-year-old girl was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court to 50 years in federal prison.
In imposing the sentence, Judge Lawrence O'Neill noted the "horrendous abuse" defendant Maurice Dwayne Hunt, 35, had inflicted on the victim, saying Hunt had "threatened the safety of the weakest among us."
Hunt also "took the dignity of a young girl. (He) humiliated her," O'Neill said.
In giving Hunt 50 years behind bars, O'Neill cited Hunt's extensive criminal history, saying, "Your entire life has been defined by criminal conduct."
The sentencing was the final chapter to a bizarre case in which Hunt represented himself and showed up in wheelchair and wearing only underwear when he was convicted by a jury in less than an hour.
Hunt has the distinction of being the first defendant to be tried in Fresno on federal charges of sex trafficking of a minor. If he had been tried in state court, he would have faced only six years in prison. Because the FBI assisted the Fresno Police Department, Hunt faced a much stiffer prison sentence.
In August, jurors found him guilty of six felony charges of sex trafficking of a minor, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
During his trial, prosecutors Elana Landau and Michael Frye contended Hunt forced the 13-year-old runaway to have sex with men in October 2011 and then kept her earnings. When the girl wanted to leave Hunt and return home, he beat and kicked her and hit her with a stick, causing her to suffer bruises, the prosecutors said.
The girl's uncle rescued her from the streets in late October 2011. She later told a social worker and police about Hunt.
Hunt, who was arrested in May, made several telephone calls from jail that were recorded and used against him in his trial. In the calls, he asked people to contact the victim and two other witnesses in order to intimidate them and prevent them from testifying against Hunt, Landau told the jury.
But Hunt told jurors that he didn't know the girl was a minor. He portrayed himself as "a ladies' man" who never touched the girl or forced her to be a prostitute.
"I'm not an angel," Hunt said, telling the jury of his criminal record that includes drug possession, auto theft and false imprisonment. "But I didn't do this."
"Sex trafficking -- that's not me," he said.
In a news release, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and FBI Special Agent in Charge Monica Miller said Hunt's sentence fit his crimes.
"These crimes can be particularly brutal," Wagner said. "The victim suffered sexual abuse, physical assaults, and humiliation at the hand of this defendant."
Miller said Hunt exemplifies "the culture of violence and relentless intimidation that is prevalent among child sex traffickers." Hopefully, she said, his sentence "sends a message to others who prioritize commercial gain ahead of the welfare of children."
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