NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal jury will begin deliberating in Nashville on Monday in the trial of nine defendants accused in a child sexual trafficking conspiracy operated by Somali gangs.
Attorneys finished their closing arguments Friday and the jury of six men and six women will return Monday morning to start deliberations after more than two weeks of testimony.
This is the first trial from an indictment that alleged 30 defendants, mostly people of Somali descent, were involved in a wide-ranging conspiracy to commit child sex trafficking and operated in Minnesota, Ohio and Tennessee. Other defendants in the case could be tried at a later date.
Defense attorneys argued that the main government witnesses, identified in court as Jane Doe No. 2 and Jane Doe No. 5, were unreliable and inconsistent.
Jane Doe No. 2, who is a Somali female, described during the testimony earlier this month being taken to several apartments around suburban Minneapolis to have sex with other Somali men for money, sometimes as little as $40. She said the sexual acts began at the age of 12.
She later described a trip to Nashville in 2009 with several of the gang members where she was found by police.
Defense attorneys questioned her age because her birth certificate was revealed to be fake. The jury will have to decide whether she was a juvenile when the sexual acts occurred.
Jane Doe. No. 5 testified earlier this month that she was being used to have sex with men in Minnesota when she was around 15 or 16 years old. She said she later moved to Nashville as an adult and said she saw girls and young women being used as prostitutes at a Nashville apartment.
Defense attorneys in closing arguments this week said that Jane Doe No. 5 was mentally ill and was inconsistent on dates and events during her testimony. They argued that prosecutors had failed to present proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants in the trial were part of the conspiracy.
All nine defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion and conspiracy to benefit financially from sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion. Some of the defendants face additional charges of sexual trafficking of children or attempted sexual trafficking of children.