Monday, February 4, 2008

Alaska: Jury Handed Sex Trafficking Case

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA - For the man known as Jerry Starr, the sex trafficking case against him comes down largely to this: Did he force Anchorage women into prostitution or did they pick that life for themselves?

Prosecutors argued to jurors Friday that he controlled the women in every way. Don Arthur Webster Jr., alias Starr, recruited them into his escort businesses with the lure of cocaine, then kept them there with more drugs, beatings, threats and intimidation, assistant U.S. attorney Audrey Renschen told the jury.

Webster is a "predator of young girls and young women," Renschen said. He was like a spider, spinning his web in the dark corners where most of us don't look, she said. Women stepped into the web not knowing what they were getting into, then found it very hard to get out, she said.

But the defense shot back that the women chose to be prostitutes. They were always free to leave the homes that Webster provided, assistant federal defender Michael Dieni told jurors. He repeated what many of the witnesses told jurors during the two-week trial, that they had a better life with Webster than on the streets as hookers or strippers.

They sure weren't sex slaves, he said.

"This was an eyes-wide-open scenario when they got involved," Dieni said...


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