- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A former state prison inmate must now spend 10 years in federal prison for forcing two teens into prostitution with the help of his girlfriend, who he met when she was a guard at the western Pennsylvania prison.

Rasul Abernathy, 33, who last lived in Coatesville, near Philadelphia, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak in Pittsburgh, who also ordered Abernathy to spend five years on probation after his prison term.

Abernathy pleaded guilty in September to sex trafficking charges involving a 16-year-old girl who ran away from a juvenile detention center in Pittsburgh and a 17-year-old boy the couple met through an online ad.

Abernathy and 34-year-old Poshauntamarin Walker were living near Pittsburgh when the crimes occurred. She pleaded guilty in October and, like Abernathy, faces an agreed-upon 10-year prison term when she returns for sentencing Feb. 11.

Defense attorney Douglas Sughrue said Abernathy didn’t address the court before he was sentenced, but said, “I would say he took responsibility for his actions.”

The 10-year sentence was the mandatory minimum Abernathy faced, and the maximum was life. Considering that, “it was a sufficient sentence,” Sughrue said.

The couple acknowledged forcing the 17-year-old boy into prostitution between December 2012 and March 2013 while they lived in North Versailles, a Pittsburgh suburb.

Abernathy and Walker placed personal ads for sex services, some of which pictured one or the other of the teens, and which had phone numbers investigators later linked to the couple. They paid cash for hotel rooms or sometimes used Walker’s debit card, and she would drive the boy to his “dates” with Abernathy as a passenger in the car, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Lieber Smolar said.

Abernathy met Walker when he was incarcerated from February 2007 to September 2008 at the state prison in Greensburg, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.

When Abernathy met the runaway girl in June 2012, he told the girl she could live with Walker, but he didn’t tell her that he lived there, too, and they’d all have to share one bed, authorities said.

The FBI said Walker schooled the girl in how to dress and apply makeup, and Abernathy told her what to charge for sexual services. The couple gave her marijuana and pain pills to relax her before trysts - and alcohol afterward - and physically abused her if she refused to provide sexual services or tried to run away, authorities said.

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