Three men pleaded guilty Thursday in connection to charges stemming from a gang-run ring that prosecutors say forced and coerced teenage girls into prostitution.
Shawn Clark sweet-talked the teenage girl, someone he had known since childhood. He doted on her, told her he loved her.
Once he gained her trust, Clark, 21, put the girl to work as a prostitute in motels across the region.
Thomas Foster, 20, did the same thing with two women, forcing both into prostitution. One was the mother of his two children.
Clark and Foster, members of the West Side Street Mobb, were among three men who pleaded guilty Thursday in connection to charges stemming from a gang-run ring that prosecutors say forced and coerced teenage girls into prostitution.
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Authorities estimate that about a dozen teenage girls worked for the three men as well as three others arrested last year after Seattle police vice officers conducted a sting operation and arrested a 19-year-old woman who had advertised sexual services on Craigslist. Officers soon learned about the prostitution ring and its connection to members of the West Side Street Mobb.
By pleading guilty in King County Superior Court, Clark, Foster and the third defendant, Gerald Jackson, 21, of Des Moines, may have avoided longer sentences had they been prosecuted federally. Brian Todd, Clark’s lawyer, said the men potentially faced organized-crime charges under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
So far, five of the six men arrested during the Seattle police operation have pleaded guilty. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed charges against another six West Side Street Mobb members and has been working closely with the King County Prosecutor’s Office in handling their cases.
The men prosecuted in King County were told there was a possibility their cases could be handled in federal court, said King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sean O’Donnell.
Clark, of Seattle, tearfully pleaded guilty to nine counts, which included charges of promoting prostitution, violation of a domestic-violence protection order, witness tampering and criminal conspiracy. He likely will serve extra time — a total of about nine years — because the crimes were committed as part of gang activity, O’Donnell said.
Court documents describe how he coerced the childhood friend into prostitution.
“He stood up and frankly dodged a significant amount of time on a federal conviction,” O’Donnell said in court.
Foster, in his plea paperwork, said that West Side Street Mobb members worked together to manage their groups of prostitutes.
Foster pleaded to five counts, including promoting prostitution, assault and conspiracy to promote prostitution. Prosecutors are seeking a five-year prison sentence.
Kadora Foster, his sister, said that Foster is innocent and took the plea agreement to avoid federal prison. She believes he was “bullied” by prosecutors.
“The only reason he took this plea … is because he has children,” said Kadora Foster, 18, of West Seattle.
The third plea Thursday came from Gerald Jackson, 21, of Des Moines. According to plea paperwork, Jackson pimped out his girlfriend last year, even taking her to Portland to work. While Jackson said he’s not a full-fledged West Side Street Mobb member, he called himself an “associate” of the gang who grew up with Clark and his brother DeShawn Clark.
Prosecutors say the West Side Street Mobb was formed only three years ago but now has 25 to 50 members and associates and has been tied to two fatal shootings, drive-by shootings, identity theft and bank fraud, as well as sex-related crimes.
Earlier this month, West Side gang member Mycah Johnson also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the prostitution ring. In plea paperwork, Johnson said members of the gang forced young girls into prostitution to bolster their image among other gangs.
“Being a pimp helped me live a gang lifestyle,” Johnson wrote in plea paperwork. “Being a gang that pimped out girls made the gang sound better to other gangs.”
Clark’s brother, DeShawn Clark, also appeared before King County Superior Court Judge Helen Halpert twice on Thursday where he was expected to enter pleas to plead guilty to his slew of charges, including human trafficking — a charge that has never before been used in the state. Both times Clark told the judge he needed more time to decide what to do.
Clark, 19, was scheduled to return to court this.
If Clark takes the case to trial he could face up to life in prison if prosecutors seek an exceptional sentence.
The Clarks’ mother, Glenda Thomas, refused to comment after the court hearings. She was charged last week with witness tampering after she allegedly called several of the prostitutes who worked for the gang and told them not to talk to authorities. She also contacted another West Side Street Mobb member who has pleaded guilty in the case and threatened him, prosecutors said.
Thomas has prior convictions for prostitution, according to prosecutors.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org