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Jury convicts pimp for child sex-trafficking

A King County Superior Court jury last Thursday convicted a 32-year-old Seattle man of prostituting a 15-year-old runaway girl from Auburn and of raping and assaulting her.

But Baruti Hopson was not in court when the foreman of the jury read the verdict. After testifying Tuesday, Hopson skipped the next day's closing arguments, and a judge issued a no-bail bench warrant for his arrest.

Should authorities catch up with Hopson, he could spend 20-26 years in prison.

Following a weeklong trial, the jury took only four hours to find Hopson guilty of two counts of promoting the commercial sex abuse of a minor, three counts of third-degree child rape and one count of second-degree assault.

Prosecutors had asked last fall that Hopson be held on $100,000 bail, but the judge set bail at $25,000, according to court records. In November, Hopson posted a $2,500 bond, and the jail released him.

The jury was the first in the state to hear a case under new penalty enhancements dating to last June that make the commercial sex abuse of a minor a Class A felony. Under the new law, pimps face standard sentences of seven to 10 years, up from about two years, when victims are younger than 18.

Before running away last June, the girl had lived with both of her parents and her sister at their home in Auburn. She was a varsity athlete, and played the violin.

But it was the second time she had run away in 2010.

According to court records, the girl met Hopson within 24 hours of running away, and he invited her to stay with him. Within days, she was having sex with him and began working for him as a prostitute, court records say.

According to court records, Hopson took pictures of the girl in provocative poses to post on-line and used his credit card to buy the ads. He drove her to "dates", told her that all the money was to go him and that she should be on the lookout for police, among other things. According to court records, the girl believed she was in love with Hopson, and he used that to control and manipulate her.

According to court records, the girl briefly left Hopson last July and an unidentified man y pimped her out, court records say. Bellevue police arrested her in an undercover sting. She told police that she was 18, but she had no identification. Although officers didn't believe her because of her youthful appearance, they released her.

Within a month, she was back with Hopson. According to court records, he choked her during a fight. A Bellevue patrol officer who believed the girl had lied about her age had taken photos of her and searched for her for months in Internet sex ads, according to court records. In September, the officer found her picture on backpage.com and called Seattle Police Department’s Vice & High Risk Victims Unit.

According to court records, on Sept. 24, a Seattle detective set up a “date” with the girl at the Silver Cloud Hotel in Seattle. He agreed to pay $170 for sex, court records say. Police arrested Hopson, who had driven the girl to the hotel in the parking lot just after 1 a.m., records say. He had nearly $600 in his pockets at the time of his arrest.

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