Pimps with underage prostitutes in Hawaii be warned: the FBI has it out for you.
On Monday, a federal judge sentenced a pimp to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking of a minor by force.
Quadralis Watson, 28, had five women between the ages of 14 and 20 under his employ in 2007 and 2008. He admitted to having sex with the 14-year-old and beating her multiple times, once locking her in the trunk of a car for five hours.
Watson had a long history of crime in Honolulu and was arrested on drug charges in Georgia when federal agents caught up with him. He’d been arrested 73 times for theft, harassment and prostitution, among other charges.
The case is significant for its violence, and in part because successful prosecutions against pimps are rare.
Honolulu police routinely arrest prostitutes and their customers, but rarely arrest pimps.
Federal authorities step in when there’s a minor involved. They’re using Watson’s conviction to send a message.
“If you’re forcing underage girls into prostitution, you’re going away for 10 to 30 years,” said FBI Special Agent Gerry Johnson, who specializes in crimes against children.
Indeed, in September 2010, pimp Rodney D. King was sentenced to 25 years in prison for trafficking a minor.
At Monday’s hearing, Watson’s lawyer asked the judge to consider that the victim and other witnesses in the case were prostitutes before they met Watson.
They “were involved in this lifestyle well before meeting Mr. Watson and had indeed worked with other pimps before,” said Rustam Barbee. “It’s not a situation where he went to a mall and developed them into this lifestyle.”
Watson was what federal agents refer to as a “gorilla pimp,” one who used violence to keep his prostitutes in line. Each woman earned Watson $500 to $1,500 per night. He took all of their money and didn’t even leave them money to buy food, Johnson said. The 14-year-old told federal agents that she hid small change in her wig just so she could buy food at McDonalds.
For his part, Watson told the court on Monday that he regretted his actions. He addressed most of his words to the crowd of about a dozen friends and a sister who attended the hearing.
“I realize this one decision affected more people than just me. It affected my family and friends … I wish I was a better example,” he said.
Federal Judge J. Michael Seabright didn’t mince words when summing up Watson’s case.
“You don’t have any respect for women,” Seabright told Watson. “You view women as chattel. You beat them and imprisoned them.”
He accepted the argument that the women were prostitutes before they met Watson, but nonetheless chided him for his “total lack of respect” for them.
“Like you, they needed the ability to turn themselves around. … But you were holding them down. You were enslaving them,” Seabright said.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Watson faced a minimum of 10 years in prison. His sentence also included eight years of supervised release in Georgia, where his mother and stepfather now reside.
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