Four defendants accused of running an Anchorage sex trafficking ring involving underage girls, some recruited from a downtown shelter for runaway teens, were in federal court Monday, together for the first time since the charges were filed in mid-December.
The accused spread out from the defendant's table to the jury box, each sitting beside a lawyer and wearing a jailhouse orange uniform. Keyana "Koko" Marshall, 21, was there for the first time. She was arrested Friday after being on the run for weeks, looking quite different from the "wanted" photo police released of her, with her long locks now replaced by a shaved head and a four-inch, orange mohawk.
"I don't really know ... why I'm here," Marshall told U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess after he asked her if she understood what was going on. She spent much of the half-hour proceeding with her head down and her mohawk pointed toward the judge. She is accused of prostitution and conspiring with the others in the ring.
When Burgess asked Sidney Lamar Greene, 30, if he understood the charges against him, Greene answered, "True."
Burgess used the court proceeding to schedule the trial for February 2011, justifying the significant delay by declaring it a complex case with an unusual amount of evidence to process.
Sabil Mumin Mujahid, 52, is the alleged ringleader. The fourth defendant, Rand Hooks, 50, was a landlord of an apartment where the business operated and is accused of various crimes including exchanging rent money for sex with some of the victims.
The defendants have all pleaded not guilty.
On Monday, Mujahid, Marshall and Hooks objected to delaying the trial by more than a year, but because all parties agreed the case was "complex" the judge overrode their rights to speedy trials.
Defense lawyers remarked that there are enough audio recordings in the case to keep one lawyer occupied for two months. Many of the recordings are from the Anchorage Jail, where prosecutors say Mujahid continued to run his ring even after being arrested on other charges.
The male defendants are currently at the Anchorage Jail and not eligible for release because of the severity of the charges involving minors. Marshall has a bail hearing this week.
Prosecutors say the prostitution business included at least three underage girls and 17 women. Greene, who had the street name "Ten Below," and Mujahid, who was born Terry E. Smith, recruited teenage girls from the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage and from streets around the Covenant House, a downtown shelter for runaway teens, according to an FBI agent's affidavit for a search warrant.
Mujahid picked up one girl who was staying at the Covenant House in a nearby alley and brought her to an apartment in south Mountain View on Klevin Street. Mujahid had sex with her, then made her dress up and pose for pictures, which were posted on Craigslist to lure customers, prosecutors say.
The teenaged victim was later sent on "a date" where customers paid $250 an hour for sex acts, prosecutors say.
The victim told investigators that Mujahid then took her shopping at Luxie Casual, a "partywear" shop at the Northway Mall, took her tanning and had her nails done. Days later, when the teen complained of pain, Mujahid medicated her with cocaine before taking her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with herpes, the FBI agent wrote in her affidavit.
Deirdre Cronin, Covenant House Alaska's executive director, said on Monday that she didn't know about the case but was not surprised some of the shelter's teens were victimized.
"Homeless kids are often easy prey to being victimized," she said. "Predators are smart, they know where the most vulnerable kids are. They know what malls to go to, and they know schools, and they know homeless shelters. That's where they spend their time and their energy."
She said the shelter tries to teach the teens not to be victims and to watch out for predators.
"It makes me so sad," Cronin said. "It's an underground problem and we had to educate the community."
Prosecutors say the sex trafficking often involved coercion, threats and physical abuse, including beatings and rapes. Mujahid also used the promise of marriage to some of the women to keep them around. He was allegedly married to at least four at one time, court documents say.
The prosecution alleges that Mujahid was in and out of jail while he and Greene ran the ring. From December 2008 until March 2009, Mujahid had drivers deliver the women and girls, the prosecution says. Mujahid could not leave his Mountain View apartment because he was on house arrest and wore an electronic monitor.
Burgess said he expects the trial to take six weeks.
Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343.
By MEGAN HOLLAND