NEW YORK — A judge who heard prostitutes testify that a father-and-son pimp team made them feel like family cleared the two men of sex-trafficking charges Wednesday.
The men’s supporters in the courtroom cheered the verdict, but the gallery fell silent when Manhattan Judge Ruth Pickholtz announced convictions against Vincent George Sr. and Vincent George Jr. on charges they laundered millions through music recording and car service businesses.
George Sr., 56, and his 35-year-old son had faced possible 25-year terms on sex-trafficking charges accusing them of coercing women into becoming prostitutes. They could get up to 15 years at sentencing on July 8 for the money laundering conviction.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. called the outcome a victory. “The goal of the prosecution was to dismantle a criminal enterprise from top to bottom,” he said.
Defense attorneys — who called the women working for their clients “happy hookers” — also claimed victory and plan to appeal the convictions.
The verdict “recognizes that people have free will and the right to make choices whether or not you like those choices,” David Epstein, the son’s attorney, said of the prostitutes.
Prosecutors had alleged the prostitutes made as much as $500,000 a year for the Georges but got only a few dollars a night themselves and had no bank accounts or property. They were threatened with beatings, according to wiretap conversations played at trial.
The women painted a different picture, saying they were treated to nice cars, vacations in Florida, and affection from their pimps.
One witness, Heather Keith, 26, has George Jr.’s nickname, King Koby, tattooed on her neck. Another, Desiree Ellis, 24, dismissed allegations that George Jr. abused her, calling him a “teddy bear.”