OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The defense lawyer for an ex-convict charged with human trafficking of a minor, rape, sodomy, kidnapping, torture, pimping and other offenses told jurors Monday that his client’s alleged victims worked for him voluntarily and aren’t credible witnesses.
In his opening statement in the trial of Albert Rich, 35, defense attorney Ernie Castillo said, “Each of these girls (the alleged victims) did prostitution on their own and made their own decisions to work with Mr. Rich.”
Castillo admitted that Rich is a pimp but said “he’s not a human trafficker” and “he didn’t force them into the prostitution life.”
Castillo told jurors that when the victims testify, “You will witness firsthand the depths of dishonesty that they bring from the streets into the courtroom.”
But prosecutor Sabrina Farrell said she believes the multiple victims in the case are credible and said Rich should be convicted of all the serious felony charges he faces.
Farrell also said co-defendant Sasha Coleman, 28, should be convicted of human trafficking and pimping for helping Rich in his alleged human trafficking scheme.
A third defendant Khalilah Barker, 23, was also scheduled to stand trial for allegedly helping Rich, but on March 29 she pleaded no contest to three counts of human trafficking and two counts of pimping in a deal with prosecutors that calls for her to get a light prison sentence in return for testifying against Rich.
Castillo alleged that Barker entered into the plea agreement “because she was highly motivated that she might get to go home and see her child.”
Castillo also alleged that Barker was jealous because Rich, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound man who’s been convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, false imprisonment and illegal gun possession, was spending time with other women.
Castillo said, “There’s a lot of animosity and anger” in Barker.
Coleman’s lawyer Mario Andrews said Coleman was a hard-working prostitute who was one of five women who worked for Rich and told jurors she should be considered a victim in the case, not a suspect.
Andrews alleged that Rich used psychological tactics to intimidate Coleman and the other women who worked for him, such as forcing them to watch him when he physically and sexually abused other women who had crossed him.
Andrews said Coleman and the other women “were afraid of him.”
Andrews said Coleman should be found not guilty of human trafficking and pimping because there’s no evidence she engaged in those activities.
Barker, who was the first witness in the case, said she began working as a prostitute at the age of 13, had her first child at the age of 13 and has four kids.
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