Jamaican-born Damion Baston has been sentenced to 27 years’ jail in a Florida court after running a global prostitution business that began in Queensland.
Damion Baston, the powerfully-built Jamaican known as “Daddy”, “Drac” or simply just “D”, considered himself a lover of women, not a hater.
Whether it was on Queensland’s Gold Coast, where he ran the Bachelor’s Club escort service, or in the US, attractive young women would fall under his spell as he painted a fantasy of how their lives could be.
Baston, 37, would convince them to dance in strip bars, then, after he won control of their minds, would use violent threats and beatings to turn them into high-end prostitutes, earning him thousands of dollars a night and leaving them with nothing.
In a Miami, Florida court on Monday, Baston was sentenced to 27 years in jail for sex trafficking offences.
Prosecutors asked for a life sentence, while his lawyer David Rowe called for 10 years.
“He’s not happy, but he’s relieved he didn’t get life,” Rowe told AAP.
“I think he intends to appeal both his conviction and sentence.”
At the sentencing, one of his victims, a US woman, told the court how she had given birth to his child and how Baston had ruined her life.
An Australian victim, known in court as KL, wrote in a statement read at the sentencing she hoped he would never be released from prison because that would prevent him from hurting others.
Another Australian victim, known as TJM, married Baston in Queensland in a 2010 Islamic ceremony at a mosque when she was 18.
In 2011, Baston sent TJM to Perth where other prostitutes had made large sums of money for him, but when she returned to the Gold Coast she had failed to make enough money to cover the airfare.
It was late at night when Baston picked TJM up at the airport. He drove her to a dark, empty golf course, tied her to a chair, “beat her ruthlessly” and raped her.
“When Baston had finished raping TJM, he forced her to have sex with a client,” prosecutors told the court.
KL, TJM, a New Zealand victim and three American women testified in June at Baston’s trial in the US District Court in Miami.
The jury found him guilty of 21 charges, including sex trafficking through means of force, fraud and coercion and the importation of an alien for prostitution, after just six hours of deliberations.
Baston had travelled to Australia under a fake identity he stole from an American man and settled on the Gold Coast.
“He went to Australia as a tourist to enjoy the kinds of activities that exist in a resort where there is a red light district,” Rowe said.
“He was a bouncer, not a pimp.”
Baston had KL and TJM working together out of several rental properties on the Gold Coast.
He initially told TJM his relationship with KL was strictly business and he had recruited KL so she could “earn him and TJM a great deal of money”.
“At the same time, Baston was telling KL that he had only married TJM for an Australian visa, and promising KL that soon they would be able to open a restaurant together,” prosecutors said.
When TJM failed to make as much money as KL, Baston shoved TJM’s head through the wall of a bedroom closet.
After making more than $US200,000 on the Gold Coast, he took KL to Dubai to work as a prostitute before flying to Miami.
In Miami, KL earned $US150,000 in two months from stripping and prostitution, with Baston keeping all the money.
In 2010, a 21-year-old Lithuanian woman, known as GP, who worked as a prostitute for Baston, told NSW police he had hung her by her feet over a fire escape, forced her to remain in a scalding shower for several hours and beat her relentlessly.
“According to the sexual battery detective who interviewed GP that night, GP was the most terrified victim she had ever encountered in her 25 years at the police department,” prosecutors said.
Baston was arrested in New York in December after KL flew from the US to Australia to renew her visa and her relatives alerted the US State Department.