- Associated Press - Thursday, December 22, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A man accused of operating an escort service out of Los Angeles has been found guilty in federal court.

A jury on Wednesday found Taquarius Ford guilty of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, two counts of sex trafficking through force, fraud or coercion, and obstruction of justice, reported The Oregonian/OregonLive (https://is.gd/76NoJM ).

Ford’s attorneys argued that he did profit from prostitution, but that none of the women he worked with were coerced into having sex for profit.

“He is not guilty because these women had choices. They were all capable of making adult decisions,” one of his lawyers, Bryan R. Boender, said in closing arguments. “You may find Taquarius Ford is a pimp, panderer, bragger. You may not like it. It doesn’t mean he’s a sex trafficker.”

Prosecutors said Ford threatened to blackmail women if they didn’t follow his rules, used violence against some and coerced others into getting tattoos of his name as a sign of loyalty. They argued Ford was trying to “hustle” the jury the same way he compelled at least six women into prostitution.

Ford came under investigation after Port of Portland officers were called to a hotel near the Portland International Airport in February 2012. Ford was arrested for attempting to compel prostitution, though he quickly was bailed out of jail. Police seized his laptop and phone as part of a larger investigation and found a manuscript written by Ford, titled, “Denial of a Pimp,” and later retitled “The Best Worst Feeling.”

Parts of the manuscript were read at trial.

“If the girl is open to making money, then I am open to being her man, daddy and manager,’ read one passage that was quoted during the prosecution’s closing statements.

Ford argues the book is a work of fiction.

Sentencing is set for April 3.

___

Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, https://www.oregonlive.com


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