- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - She wasn’t the mastermind behind forcing women into prostitution in Boise, prosecutors said, but 28-year-old Gypsie Lee Akers could still be spending the next 15 years behind bars for her role in a ring that snared almost 10 women.

Akers will have a chance at parole after four years, Judge Lynn Norton ruled at a sentencing Thursday. Akers pleaded guilty to procurement of prostitution and accepting the earnings of a prostitute in February. Both felonies carried a punishment of up to 20 years behind bars.

Prosecutors described how she and co-defendant Derrick Hicklen lured the women to a string of motels near the Boise airport, then posted ads on Backpage.com offering sex.

Sometimes the women were paid in methamphetamines, Deputy Prosecutor Cathy Guzman said. Other times, they were paid nothing at all and barred from leaving. One woman, who was developmentally disabled, told investigators that she didn’t even realize money was changing hands for the sex acts.

Even after being jailed on a drug charge in July, Akers continued to recruit women from behind bars, including an 18-year-old fellow inmate, authorities said.

“She was willing to lure other women into the pit she’d fallen into,” Guzman said.

Akers, who brought women to Boise from Utah and other states, was originally charged with human trafficking and a slew of other charges. Hicklen was charged with human trafficking, rape and other crimes.

Most of those charges were dismissed.

Although there were “close to 10” victims in the prostitution ring, only four of those cases resulted in charges. The women working as prostitutes were not charged with any crimes, but several of them left town quickly, hobbling the prosecution.

Hicklen, who suspected he had caught the eye of law enforcement, cleared out his house before his November arrest, dumping evidence investigators hoped to find. He pleaded guilty to procurement of prostitution and accepting the earnings of a prostitute Thursday, shortly before Akers‘ sentencing. His sentencing is scheduled for May 29.

Although Akers tried to shoulder all the blame, Guzman said it was Hicklen - a smooth-talking manipulator- pulling the strings.

“I consider her a victim of Mr. Hicklen,” she said. “He sucked her in.”

Defense attorney Rob Chastain agreed, describing the toxic mix of mental illness, childhood sexual abuse and drug use that created “a living hell” for Akers.

Chastain said prison programs could help his client get on medication for her bipolar disorder and take part in substance abuse counseling.

“The Department of Corrections has a chance to help this woman,” he said.

Still, Chastain said the sentence suggested by prosecutors - 15 years, with a chance at parole after three - was too harsh, he said.

Chastain asked for leniency: A five-year sentence, with two years fixed.

He said going to prison might help Akers turn her life around.

“Honestly, I think being in jail has helped save her life,” he said. “I think Gypsie has got a chance here, if she’ll take it.”

Norton said she was impressed at the woman’s attempts to carve out a better life, despite a difficult past: Getting a GED, going to cosmetology school, and holding a job before drugs dragged her down.

But Akers wasn’t fit to be out in the community without significant changes Norton said, ordering her to take part in treatment for sex offenders, mental health and substance abuse. With nearly a year’s credit for time served behind bars, the four years before parole eligibility gives Akers time to complete those programs, she said.

“This is not a case befitting of simply returning you to the community,” she told Akers.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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