A jury in Florida has begun to deliberate whether accused sex trafficker Damion St Patrick Baston used “psychological coercion and physical abuse” to force young, attractive women from Australia, New Zealand, Lithuania and the United States into becoming high-end prostitutes.
A federal court in Miami heard how Jamaican-born Baston, 37, a black belt in karate and former nightclub dancer, exploited women on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Dubai and in Florida.
Two Australian women, a New Zealander and three Americans have testified at the two-week trial.
Baston also elected to testify, spending 16 hours over two days in the witness box.
The jury of seven women, five men began deliberations late on Friday afternoon and will return on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST).
Baston’s lawyer, David Rowe, told the jury in his closing address one of Baston’s alleged Australian victims, known in court as KL, was the “business genius” behind a Gold Coast escort agency known as Bachelors Club.
Baston had a junior role and “was basically the security guard to make sure that the girls did not get assaulted”, Rowe said.
Prosecutors, however, told the jury Baston was a “a master manipulator” who lured women into prostitution, beat them and kept hundreds of thousands of dollars they earned for himself.
Baston was arrested in New York in December after KL flew from the US to Australia to renew her visa and her relatives alerted the US State Department.
If Baston is found guilty he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
By Peter Mitchell, AAP in Los Angeles