For several days in February 2016, a gang member held two teenaged girls captive at a Cobb County hotel, forcing them to perform sex acts with paying customers. Jaylan Lamond Bennett, then 19, had a gun and threatened the girls not to tell police, according to investigators.
One of the girls, a 16-year-old runaway managed to report what she had endured. Late last week, Bennett pleaded guilty to street gang and pimping crimes and was sentenced to 30 years, including 13 to serve behind bars, the Cobb District Attorney’s Office said.
“While we have understood the nexus between gang activity and sex trafficking for some time now, this is one of the first times we have been able to utilize the criminal street gang act and accompanying sexual exploitation statutes together to attack this problem,” Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring said. He prosecuted the case along with Assistant District Attorney Courtney Veal.
In 2018, Georgia ranked 14th in the United States for the number of active criminal human trafficking cases making their way through federal courts, according to The Human Trafficking Institute. Georgia had 15 cases prosecuted at the federal level and ranked 9th in the nation for human trafficking defendants.
With Bennett’s case, the crimes didn’t extend across state lines, or even outside of Cobb. Bennett ran his pimping operation from a hotel on Powers Ferry Road, investigators said. He was arrested in Missouri in May 2016.
Marietta police detectives found evidence, including advertisements and social media posts, indicating Bennett was trafficking young girls, the DA’s office said. At the time of the crimes, Bennett was already on probation for a robbery conviction.
According to his arrest warrant, Bennett gave one of his victims an alias name and destroyed her iPod, which she used for text messaging others. The trafficking victim who disclosed information, now 19, lives out of state and chose not to return to Cobb to testify, prosecutors said.
On Friday, Bennett pleaded guilty to three counts of Violation of Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act based upon sex trafficking and related offenses, two counts of pimping for person under 18, and possession of a firearm by first offender probationer. After serving 13 years, the balance of Bennett’s sentence will be served on probation, and he will be required to register as a sex offender.
“This plea and sentence should send the message that this behavior will not be tolerated in Cobb County,” Boring said. “The difficulties inherent in bringing justice to victims of these cases will not stop us from holding those who exploit these victims accountable.”
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