Violent man who forced women into prostitution convicted
A Florida jury has swiftly convicted a violent pimp who preyed on beautiful Australian, New Zealand and US women and forced them to work as high-end prostitutes.
The jury of seven women and five men in the US District Court in Miami took just six hours after a two-week trial to find Jamaican-born Damion St Patrick Baston guilty of all 21 charges, including sex trafficking and money laundering.
The 37-year-old former nightclub dancer, music producer and self-described entrepreneur faces life in prison at his sentencing on September 5, with a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years.
"It did not turn out the way Mr Baston wanted," said Baston's lawyer, David Rowe.
"He took it in a manly way."
US prosecutors flew in two Australian women and one New Zealander to testify alongside three Americans who were turned into sex slaves by Baston.
Baston beat, threatened and raped his victims, bragged about being a member of violent LA street gang the Bloods, and then kept for himself the hundreds of thousands of dollars the women made.
Baston's pimping began on Queensland's Gold Coast, but led to the Middle East and the US.
In 2011 Baston, posing as a music producer looking for talent in Australia, met an Australian woman, known as KL, in a Gold Coast restaurant.
They began a romantic relationship and the woman believed they would open a restaurant together, but he began using violence and the threats of violence to coerce her into prostitution.
Baston drove KL to prostitution dates, posted her photographs and contact information on local escorting websites and newspapers and collected all of her earnings. She had to refer to him as "Daddy".
KL would return home with "thousands of dollars", Baston would keep it and flaunt it, including posting Instagram photos of his US$250,000 (NZ$285,000) bank balance and US$75,000 diamond-studded watch.
In 2011 Baston took KL to Dubai where she made large sums of cash as a prostitute and then they travelled to Miami, Florida, where he continued to pimp her.
The other Australian victim, TJM, met Baston at a party in Queensland in 2009 when she was 18 and they married in an Islamic ceremony in 2010.
In 2011 he was prostituting TJM and KL together out of several rental properties on the Gold Coast.
Mr Rowe told the jury KL was not the victim, but the "business genius" behind a Gold Coast escort agency known as Bachelors Club and Baston "was basically the security guard to make sure that the girls did not get assaulted".
Baston was arrested in New York in December after KL flew from the US to Australia to renew her visa and her relatives alerted the US State Department.
In 2010, a 21-year-old Lithuanian woman, known as GP, told NSW police Baston had hung her by her feet over a fire escape, forced her to remain in a scalding shower for several hours and beat her relentlessly.
"According to the sexual battery detective who interviewed GP that night, GP was the most terrified victim she had ever encountered in her 25 years at the police department," prosecutors said.
Baston remains in custody.