‘Guilty’ plea  in child sex case

A Baton Rouge man admitted Monday that he sold a 15-year-old girl into prostitution two years ago.

Erick Jermaine Banks, 31, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to traffic a child in the commercial sex trade, a charge that U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said carries a possible penalty of life imprisonment.

U.S. District Judge James J. Brady did not immediately schedule a sentencing date for Banks.

Baton Rouge police arrested Banks before dawn Jan. 30, 2011, as he was checking out of the Extended Stay America hotel, 6250 Corporate Blvd. Officers then rescued the girl from a hotel room.

By that time, Banks had been marketing the girl as a prostitute for several days, police spokesmen said at the time. The girl’s father said then that she had run away from a Baton Rouge group home before encountering Banks.

The Advocate does not identify victims in sexual abuse cases. Identifying the father would identify the girl.

The father told The Advocate two years ago that his daughter called one of her aunts after Banks left their hotel room briefly. The aunt then called police.

Banks initially was booked under a state law that carries a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison, but was later transferred to federal authorities. He remains in federal custody.

Cazayoux said Monday the case was investigated by both the Baton Rouge Police Department and FBI.

“Banks placed several ads on an online service often utilized by those in the commercial sex trade,” Cazayoux said in a written statement. Banks described the girl to potential sex-trade customers as “Sinsational” and “Blonde Bunny,” Cazayoux added.

Banks admitted to those actions in a court document he signed with Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick A. Menner Jr. The document also was witnessed by Banks’ attorney, J. David Bourland.

That document shows the girl met a woman at a grocery store about 15 minutes after running away from the group home. The woman took the runaway to the home of a man who contacted Banks for help in pushing the 15-year-old into the sex trade.

“The victim moved in with Banks and began to think of him as her boyfriend,” according to the court document. When he asked her to become his prostitute, she agreed and told him she was 17.

On Jan. 27, 2011, the girl traded sex for money on five occasions at the hotel, the court document shows. “The victim was paid, in total, approximately $1,200 to $1,800, all of which she gave to the defendant.”

Cazayoux said the case remains under investigation.