Alleged GF pimp to fight human trafficking chargeA Grand Forks man charged with pimping a 17-year-old girl turned down a plea deal Thursday in court, deciding, instead, to risk going to trial on a rare human trafficking charge that carries a top sentence of life in prison.
By: By Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
A Grand Forks man charged with pimping a 17-year-old girl turned down a plea deal Thursday in court, deciding, instead, to risk going to trial on a rare human trafficking charge that carries a top sentence of life in prison.
Travis Levar Johnson, 30, is one of three charged this summer with trafficking the girl as a prostitute to several men in Grand Forks in early 2011, including to a University of North Dakota professor and a high school counselor.
They are the first human trafficking charges brought in Grand Forks County, prosecutors said.
Johnson also is charged with felony corruption of a minor for allegedly having sex with the girl to initiate her into prostitution.
He didn’t explain why he turned down the deal when he appeared Thursday in state district court in Grand Forks.
His alleged accomplices, Joshua Harry, 27, and Amanda Stewart, 22, faced a similar trafficking charge, but have taken deals with prosecutors, pleading guilty to lesser felonies.
Prosecutor Meredith Larson said she offered deals to the three largely to protect the victim from having to testify at trial.
Even with the deal, Stewart and Harry will serve substantial time behind bars, she said. Their deals also require them to testify against Johnson at his trial, she said.
Two plea deals
Stewart also appeared in court Thursday and pleaded guilty to criminal facilitation, a felony with a maximum prison sentence of five years. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutor Meredith Larson recommended a sentence of five years, with four years suspended, plus three years of supervised probation.
Larson also said she would not oppose Stewart serving her year in jail on work release.
Stewart is scheduled to be sentenced April 15.
Last week, Harry accepted a similar deal: pleading guilty to promoting prostitution, a felony with a maximum prison sentence of five years, in return for a five-year sentence with two years suspended, plus five years of supervised probation and registration as a sex offender.
Harry ran the prostitution operation and has a criminal history; Stewart has no history of serious crime, Larson said.
He is scheduled to be sentenced April 8.
State District Judge Sonja Clapp set Johnson’s trial for March 12. Johnson has a criminal record that includes several felonies in North Dakota and in Minnesota’s Polk and Red Lake counties, involving burglary, assault and domestic violence incidents.
Investigators said Johnson met the girl in late 2010 and asked her if she wanted to work as a prostitute. After telling Johnson she was 17, she declined the offer, but contacted him in early 2011 and said she would do it. He introduced her to Harry and Stewart, who took her to clients in Grand Forks.
Harry advertised the girl, through explicit online photos, investigators said.