Seth Wenig / AP
Vincent George Sr., right, and Vincent George Jr. sit in the courtroom before the start of closing arguments in New York, Thursday, June 6, 2013. Prostitutes in the sex-trafficking case that's winding down, say they and their pimps were one big happy family, enjoying a comfortable suburban life as "wife-in-laws" in Pennsylvania and commuting by night to work in Manhattan. Both men have pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking, money laundering and other charges.
A father and son who ran a prostitution ring in New York were acquitted of sex-trafficking charges Wednesday after three out of the five prostitutes who worked for them testified in their defense.
Vincent George Sr. and his son, Vincent George Jr., were convicted on charges of money laundering by Judge Ruth Pickholz.
New York District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. said, “The goal of this prosecution was to dismantle a profitable criminal enterprise from the top down, addressing both supply and demand."
"The felony convictions today achieve that goal,” Vance said in a press release.
Despite the mixed verdict, attorneys for George Sr. and George Jr. also believed they had a victory in court Wednesday. “I called this verdict before the trial started and I’m thrilled,” said George Sr.’s attorney, Howard Greenberg.
“The fact is that no girl was forced to do this,” he added.
The three women who testified for the defense said they had a good lifestyle and loved the Georges, according to George Jr.’s attorney, David Epstein. He said one of the women, Danielle Geissler, has been with George Jr. for 14 years and had a child with him. “They’re like a family,” said Epstein, adding: “obviously, a non-traditional family.”
The DA discounted the women’s testimonies by calling Chitra Raghavan, a psychologist, to the stand.
Epstein said the psychologist “said that people in these relationships are under a spell of the quote, unquote abuser.” He said he found the doctor’s analysis to be “anti-feminist” because it implied women cannot make their own choices.
Tom Hays / AP
Desiree Ellis, center, was one of the prostitutes who testified on the Georges' behalf. She is being comforted by a supporter outside of a courthouse in New York after a mixed verdict was delivered in the trial of Vincent George Sr. and his son, Vincent George Jr., who were found guilty of promoting prostitution and money laundering, but acquitted of sex trafficking.
Epstein also said the DA had tapped the phones of the prostitutes and the Georges for five months. “They basically took the worst of the worst of the phone calls, where someone was agitated or in a bad mood, and they used those tapes to try to give the impression that these women were being forced to work,” he said.
According to a press release from the DA’s office, the trial proved that the women traveled from Pennsylvania to New York for “many years” and performed sex acts for sums ranging from $200 to $500.
The Georges would have each faced a minimum of 25 years in prison if they had been found guilty of sex-trafficking. Instead, their July 8 sentence could range from no prison time to 15 years maximum, according to Greenberg.
“This case was a monumental waste of resources and time,” he said.
“They felt vindicated,” said Epstein of the father and son. “They do not like that label of ‘traffickers.’”