A federal appeals court in Georgia has upheld the conviction of Damion St. Patrick Baston, a Jamaican pimp currently in prison for charges of sex trafficking, money laundering and aggravated identity theft.
Also known as “Drac” — short for “Dracula” — Baston was arrested in 2013 and was later found guilty of 21 counts stemming from a violent prostitution ring he ran from Australia to Florida.
Baston “sometimes dressed up as a vampire, complete with yellow contact lenses and gold-plated fangs,” and “forced numerous women to prostitute for him by beating them, humiliating them and threatening to kill them,” said Judge William Pryor for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
A jury convicted Baston on all 21 counts during trial, and he was subsequently sentenced to 27 years in prison to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Yet while Baston was quick to challenge the ruling, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Thursday that he had in fact been rightfully convicted and actually should be required to compensate one of his victims to a greater amount than previously determined.
“Baston challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for one conviction, a supplemental jury instruction and the award of restitution to his victims. Those challenges fail, but the cross-appeal by the government about a refusal to award one victim increased restitution has merit,” the appeals court ruled.
Among the arguments Baston made during his appeal was that the U.S. government was wrong to penalize him for arranging sex work in Australia, where prostitution is lawful.
He claimed that “money made in Australia from a legal brothel is legal” so “sending the money by … wire transfer is not money laundering because there is nothing illegal about that money.”
“We conclude that Congress has the constitutional authority to punish sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion that occurs overseas,” the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week. “We affirm Baston’s convictions and sentence, but we vacate his order of restitution and remand with an instruction for the district court to increase his restitution obligation.”