A Los Angeles man pleaded guilty to several human trafficking charges Wednesday and is facing up to 57 years in state prison.
David Johnson, 34, pleaded guilty to human trafficking, pimping and pandering and announced his plea after a jury had been impaneled and Prosecuter Jennifer Karapedian presented her opening statement. Mr. Johnson also admitted to a special allegation of inflicting great bodily injury upon a woman during the time he was trafficking her. The defendant pleaded guilty to all charges and allegations, even though Ms. Karapedian did not offer any plea bargain, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.
In court Wednesday, Mr. Johnson also admitted to a prior strike conviction for robbery, as well as serving two separate prison terms. He is a known Piru Blood gang member from Los Angeles, according to District Attorney Joyce Dudley.
In April 2016, Mr. Johnson met an 18-year-old woman, identified as Jane Doe, in Miami, Florida. He told her she could make money dancing in Los Angeles, convinced her that he loved her and the two moved to California.
“After moving to Los Angeles,the defendant became violent with her,” Ms. Dudley said. “Ultimately, he took her to Utah where he insisted she begin working for him as a prostitute. Over the next 16 months, the defendant sex trafficked Jane Doe to various states including Washington, Nevada and all over California.”
Mr. Johnson also beat the woman so severely she required medical attention on multiple occasions. The woman suffered a broken nose, lacerated brow and an injury to her genitalia.
“He also often threatened to kill her as well as her family,” Ms. Dudley said. “As a result, Jane Doe was in constant fear for both herself and those she loved; therefore, she continued to work for him as a prostitute.”
On June 29, 2017, detectives with the Santa Barbara Police Department conducted a human trafficking sting operation and located an escort advertisement featuring Jane Doe. Sgt. Ryan DeJohn posed as a client and set up a meeting with the woman and the ensuing investigation revealed the woman was a victim of human trafficking, Ms. Dudley said.
“Throughout the next several months Sergeant DeJohn, and other extraordinary dedicated professionals with the Santa Barbara Police Department, worked closely with Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office’s Human Trafficking Task Force on this case,” Ms. Dudley said in a statement. “Our team of DA experts included: Prosecuting Attorney Senior DDA Jenn Karapetian, supervising victim advocate Rita McGaw and a team of DA Investigators lead by Commander Robert Lowry. All of these criminal justice professionals worked tirelessly to gather as much evidence and legal research as they could to educate the jury and support the human trafficking victim/survivor. This same team also had to garner the trust and support of the terrified victim, her family and other witnesses who understandably feared retaliation.”
Mr. Johnson will be sentenced March 19 by Superior Court Judge Von Deroian.