CRIME

Man and his mother sent to prison for sex trafficking

A man and his mother were sentenced to prison Wednesday for running a sex-trafficking business, the first people to be convicted of such charges in South Carolina.

Samuel Pratt, 35, was sentenced to life after being convicted of eight counts of sex trafficking, child pornography, and firearm charges in December. Pratt offered both juveniles and adults for sexual encounters against their will in South Carolina, North Carolina and New York, prosecutors said. The youngest victim was 14, and another was 17, U.S. Attorney Beth Drake said.

Pratt's mother, Daphne Pratt, 53, kept the business running after her son was arrested in April 2016, according to her guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to sex traffic minors. Prosecutors credited her for helping to convict her son and agreed to a sentence of 10 years behind bars, instead of life.

But Daphne Pratt expressed little sympathy for the victims in a letter she wrote asking the judge to give her son less than the life sentence recommended by federal guidelines.

"Not minimizing the criminal activity that has happened, those girls were doing what they wanted before my son and are still doing it only with someone else now. I feel that if they had guidance in their lives from their parents maybe things would be different," she wrote, adding that her son had "a heart of gold."

The mother also blamed herself for some of her son's problems, saying she had to leave him without a baby sitter on the Bronx streets growing up. She said her son took classes for gifted students in school and she still had albums with all his awards.

Samuel Pratt's lawyer Victor Li asked for a lighter sentence for his client because he said Pratt grew up in an environment where "he saw hookers and pimps on his street the same way a member of the royal family would see maids and butlers in their home."

Pratt, of Gastonia, North Carolina, is the first person convicted of sex trafficking in South Carolina, and prosecutors wanted to make an example of him, Drake said in a statement.

"The first step ... addressing the cancer of human trafficking is to hold the traffickers accountable and that is what this case and this sentence does," she said.

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