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Originally published Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 12:13 AM

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Teenage pimp convicted of human trafficking

DeShawn "Cash Money" Clark, a 19-year-old pimp, is the first person in the state to be convicted at trial on a human-trafficking charge after a King County jury on Tuesday found him guilty of six of nine charges.

Seattle Times staff reporter

DeShawn "Cash Money" Clark, a 19-year-old pimp, has the dubious distinction of being the first person in the state to be convicted at trial of human trafficking. A King County jury of four women and eight men Tuesday found Clark guilty of six charges, but acquitted him of three others.

Clark was found guilty of second-degree human trafficking, first-degree promoting prostitution, two counts of commercial sex abuse of a minor, unlawful imprisonment and conspiracy to promote prostitution.

He was found not guilty of a second count of second-degree human trafficking, as well as charges of second-degree assault and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

Though the jury had been asked to consider so-called "gang aggravators" for seven of the nine charges, jurors responded "no" to the question of whether Clark acted for the benefit of West Side Street Mobb on all but the conspiracy charge.

According to testimony, West Side Street Mobb is a West Seattle gang whose moniker includes an acronym for "Money Over Broke Bitches."

King County Deputy Prosecutor Sean O'Donnell said Clark may also be the first person in the state to receive a jury verdict including a gang aggravator, which carries an increased penalty. Clark now faces a standard sentence of 13 ½ to 18 years in prison, with up to an additional five years because of the gang aggravator, O'Donnell said. How much additional time Clark will face because of the gang aggravator will be up to the judge, he said.

Had he been convicted of all charges, Clark would have faced a sentence of 20 to 26 years in prison.

A sentencing date has not been set.

Clark did not appear to react as the verdict was read but hung his head as King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North polled the jurors, who each responded they agreed with the verdict.

As Clark was led out of the courtroom, he appeared to tear up as he looked at his mother, aunt and distraught girlfriend, who is pregnant with his child.

Clark's defense attorney, Alfoster Garrett Jr., maintained throughout the seven-week trial that prosecutors were "overreaching" in charging Clark with human trafficking, a law the Legislature passed in 2003.

It was the most serious charge Clark faced and alone carries a sentence of almost eight to just over 10 years in prison.

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"This is the first time it's been applied in the state," Garrett said. "The Legislature didn't intend human trafficking to be used this way."

Clark's aunt, Sherrea Stephenson, said her nephew will appeal his convictions.

She said the jury was likely swayed by testimony about five other defendants who all pleaded guilty to numerous charges of promoting prostitution and commercial sex abuse of a minor. Four of the five are members of West Side Street Mobb.

Stephenson said of her nephew: "He's an individual, he's not a gang member, and what those individual others decided to do has nothing to do with him."

One juror, a 32-year-old single mother who asked not to be named, said the lengthy trial, followed by 2 ½ days of jury deliberations, was "emotional and intense."

One of the young prostitutes, who was called as a state witness but testified Clark was her boyfriend, not her pimp, "did not come across as credible — she came across as a woman in love," the juror said.

That woman, now 19, sat on a wooden bench outside the courtroom and wept after Clark was led away in handcuffs. His pregnant girlfriend also cried outside the court and was comforted by his family members.

The juror said the panel did believe Mycah Johnson, a member of West Side Street Mobb who, to avoid facing more serious charges, testified Clark taught him how to recruit and pimp out girls.

Johnson is serving a 21-month sentence at an undisclosed facility outside of King County.

The juror described one of the prostituted women as "brave" and another as "confident," but said others clearly "weren't telling the whole story."

Clark, who testified in his own defense, "was a little too casual," the juror said. "He just didn't seem to care."

Though the jury wasn't convinced Clark is a member of West Side Street Mobb, he was certainly a gang associate, the juror said.

The human-trafficking charges, the gang aggravators and the young ages of Clark and the girls he pimped out were all things the jury struggled with, she said.

"DeShawn, he didn't seem like a big, mean villain ... but the evidence clearly showed otherwise," the juror said. "... It's hard to take someone's future and know you're holding it in your hands. It weighed on a number of the jurors."

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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