A man who ran a ring of underage prostitutes in Kansas City and Overland Park received a sentence of almost 22 years in federal prison Wednesday for child sex trafficking.
But even though Randal G. Jennings, 43, had pleaded guilty to the single human trafficking count last year, the Chillicothe, Mo., man came close to getting another five years added to his sentence by minimizing his role as a pimp at the sentencing hearing.
Addressing the judge, Jennings said he thought the girls were college-age students. He also said he placed their ads on Craigslist and another Internet site so they could meet clients in nice hotels, not on the rough streets. He also said prosecutors had overcharged his case.
“I did research on human sex trafficking, and this doesn’t fit,” Jennings said. “What I did barely qualifies for it.”
U.S. District Judge Greg Kays came close to removing a credit Jennings had received for “acceptance of responsibility” under federal guidelines, which could have added years to his sentence. Kays ultimately relented, saying Jennings’ guilty plea had prevented a trial at which his victims would have had to testify.
Kays sentenced Jennings at the top of the guidelines.
“Prostituting young girls is a reprehensible act. … It’s a terrible thing to do,” Kays said. “Because you describe yourself as a nice pimp doesn’t make you less of a pimp.”
Jennings’ four working prostitutes were 16 or 17 years old when he was arrested in January 2009. Prosecutors also alleged that Jennings had tried to induce a 13-year-old girl to begin working for him, but she declined.
In interviews with investigators, the girls said that they paid about 20 percent of their earnings to Jennings, who often drove them to their “dates.”
Jennings also took photos of the girls with his cell phone camera and posted the images with their online ads.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Cordes asked for the maximum sentence under the guidelines.
“This is a defendant who sought out young girls, lost girls,” Cordes said. “He exploited them in a sexual manner, but he also took their pictures and put them on the Internet. That’s a whole different level of victimization.”
Jennings’ lawyer, Travis Poindexter, argued for a much lower sentence, noting that Jennings had had not used coercion or force on the girls. Poindexter said that Jennings had become involved in prostitution when his marriage fell apart, and he began to again use crack cocaine after being clean for 15 years.
“He was a lost person himself and was susceptible to controlled substances,” Poindexter said. “Any sentence he gets is going to be a significant deterrent. The past shows that he can conform his conduct.”
Kays left one sentencing issue unresolved Wednesday. He said he would rule within 90 days on how much restitution to order for future medical and psychological treatment for Jennings’ victims.
Prosecutors asked that Jennings be ordered to pay $882,650.