Closing arguments in Tenn. sex trafficking trial

KRISTIN M. HALL Associated Press Published:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A federal prosecutor says evidence provided in a sexual trafficking trial in Nashville proves there was a pattern to recruit and use young girls as prostitutes, but defense attorneys say the government did not prove the wide-ranging conspiracy alleged in the indictment.

In closing arguments Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Van Vincent told jurors that Somali gang members recruited young girls, told them they were good at sex and that they could make money by having sex. Closing arguments are scheduled to continue Friday.

Nine defendants face federal child sex trafficking charges, but a total of 30 people were accused in an indictment that said gang members ran a large scale sex trafficking ring that operated in Minnesota, Ohio and Tennessee. The other defendants could face trial at a later date.

Vincent pointed to two key witnesses that testified about the sex trafficking during the trial, who were identified in court as Jane Doe No. 2 and Jane Doe No. 5.

Jane Doe No. 2 testified that she was only 12 years old when she was used by gang members to perform sex acts for money and to have sex with other gang members for free around suburban Minneapolis and St. Paul. She also said she was brought to Nashville in 2009 to have sex with men.

Jane Doe No. 5 that she was used as a prostitute in Minneapolis before she turned 18 and that she saw young girls being used as prostitutes at an apartment in Nashville.

He also pointed to jail calls of some of the defendants that he said prove that they were trying to cover up the conspiracy by hiding phones, destroying physical evidence and making up stories about why they were in Nashville.

Defense attorneys, in their closing arguments, criticized the two witnesses, saying they were unreliable and inconsistent in their testimonies.

Jennifer Thompson, defense attorney for defendant Idris Ibrahim Fahra, said Jane Doe No. 2 was a runaway who manipulated people around her and was fed information from a St. Paul police investigator.

Only when the witness got into trouble, "that's when she plays the victim card," Thompson argued.

She pointed out that the witness, who is also Somali, doesn't even know her exact age because her birth certificate was faked. She argued that her parents pretended she was younger than she really was because they wanted her to conform to the family's conservative Muslim culture.

"This is a clash of cultures," Thompson said. "This is a woman who wants to be an American, living an American lifestyle."

Thompson contended that Jane Doe No. 2 was "a grown up" who was as old or older than the men she was having sex with.

Luke Evans, a defense attorney for Fadumo Mohamed Farah, said Jane Doe No. 5 was mentally ill and not taking her medication when she testified. He said she suffers from paranoid delusions and can't tell fiction from fact.

"They are basing their case on a liar," he told the jurors.

Jerry Gonzalez, defense attorney for Dahir Nor Ibrahim, said the government was lumping all these Somalis together in the alleged conspiracy and claimed they were in gangs just because they knew each other and were seen together.