Man gets 9 years for selling teen into prostitution

A Baton Rouge man who sold a 15-year-old runaway into prostitution three years ago was ordered Thursday to spend nine years in federal prison, a sentence prosecutors hope will resonate throughout the area.

The victim — now 18, married and pregnant — told U.S. District Judge James Brady she encountered Erick Jermaine Banks in January 2011 after fleeing a Baton Rouge group home for teenage girls.

She said she told Banks she was 17, not 15.

“It’s not completely his fault because I did lie and tell him false information,” the woman said. “But prostitution is not something for women to go through.”

Banks, 32, apologized to the victim and to his family.

“I really didn’t think I was harming anybody at the time,” he said. “I hope the victim forgives me. Even though she lied to me, I was wrong.”

Banks pleaded guilty in January 2013 to a federal charge of conspiracy to traffic a child in the commercial sex trade.

He still faces charges in state District Court stemming from the same conduct, but his attorney, David Bourland, said he hopes to resolve those charges Friday.

Baton Rouge police arrested Banks before dawn on Jan. 30, 2011, as he was checking out of the Extended Stay America hotel on Corporate Boulevard.

Officers then rescued the girl from a hotel room.

By that time, Banks had been marketing the girl as a prostitute for several days.

Federal prosecutors said Banks placed several advertisements on an online service often utilized by those in the commercial sex trade. Banks described the girl to potential sex-trade customers as “Sinsational” and “Blonde Bunny.”

On Jan. 27, 2011, the girl traded sex for money on five occasions at the hotel, according to a court document called a factual basis. She was paid, in total, about $1,200, all of which she gave to Banks. Brady ordered Banks to pay the victim $1,200 in restitution.

The factual basis indicates 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,” the document says.

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

The case marked the first case Baton Rouge police had worked since a Louisiana law — trafficking of children for sexual purposes — went into effect in August 2009.