A federal jury found defendant Lonnie Mitchell, 36, guilty of numerous offenses relating to the defendant’s involvement in coercing several victims, including a minor, to engage in prostitution over the course of several years. Following a five-day trial, the jury convicted the defendant of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion of five victims. The jury also found the defendant guilty of sex trafficking a minor, and three counts of coercing and enticing an individual to travel in interstate commerce for prostitution purposes. Two other defendants previously pleaded guilty.
According to the evidence presented in court, defendant Lonnie Mitchell targeted vulnerable victims who struggled with drug addictions, and then manipulated their drug addictions for his benefit. He increased the victims’ use of heroin and encouraged them to use it intravenously. He then did not provide heroin to the victims if they violated one of his many controlling rules or otherwise did not see enough commercial sex clients. Other consequences of violating defendant Mitchell’s rules or failing to provide him with sufficient money from prostitution included violence, threats of violence, and threats to send embarrassing information, photos, or videos to the victims’ loved ones. In addition, defendant Mitchell regulated the amount of food the victims could eat, when they could eat, and also confiscated their identity documents and credit cards all as part of his coercive scheme to control the victims.
Defendant Mitchell’s co-defendant and sister, Nettisia Mitchell, was aware of her brother’s scheme and facilitated it. Nettisia Mitchell had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion. According to court documents, Nettisia witnessed Lonnie’s violence against a victim yet harbored the victim and received the proceeds from the victim’s involvement in commercial sex. A third co-defendant, Donna Emmons, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor. Both Nettisia Mitchell and Emmons await sentencing. They face a maximum sentence of life in prison and mandatory restitution.
“Motivated by control, power and greed, this defendant targeted and recruited vulnerable victims who were struggling in life, and used their vulnerabilities and unspeakable violence to sell them over and over again for his own profit,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Sex trafficking and forced prostitution are heinous crimes that have no place in our society today. The Department of Justice remains committed to using our human trafficking laws to protect those who are the most vulnerable members of society and vindicate their rights.”
“Mitchell beat, threatened, manipulated and exploited his victims,” said U.S. Attorney Sandra J. Stewart for the Middle District of Alabama. “He took advantage of their suffering and addictions to force them into prostitution and drug dealing, all for his own personal gain. The damage caused was not only physical, but also emotional. Undoubtedly, the victims will long be haunted by Mitchell’s actions. My office is committed to helping our law enforcement partners identify and prosecute those who prey on the young and vulnerable. I am grateful for today’s verdict and for the victims who told their stories during the trial. Because of their bravery, Mitchell will be held accountable for his crimes.”
“This verdict means Mitchell is facing justice for the many horrors that he inflicted upon his victim, in the name of profit,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Thankfully, he will no longer be able to prey upon innocent children. This is another example of not only the great partnership HSI has with its law enforcement partners, but also the great work we do to protect our communities.”
Sentencing has not yet been scheduled in this matter. Defendant Mitchell faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, and a maximum sentence of life. Restitution is also required under federal law.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Sandra J. Stewart for the Middle District of Alabama made the announcement.
This case was investigated by HSI, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and Montgomery Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Patrick Lamb for the Middle District of Alabama and Trial Attorney Kate Alexander of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
Anyone who has information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about human trafficking, please visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org.