A March 13 trial date was confirmed Friday for two men accused of forcing a 15-year-old girl to work in a sex-for-money operation in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Brandon Deonte Ellison, 29, and DeJuan Darsean Lewis, 32, were arrested last April following a Riverside County sheriff’s investigation that also involved a female defendant who is no longer charged in the case.
Ellison is charged with kidnapping to commit rape, human trafficking and four counts of unlawful deprivation of personal liberty. Lewis is also charged with kidnapping and human trafficking, as well as one count each forcible rape and assault to commit mayhem.
During a status hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice, Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez scheduled trial proceedings to begin in the second week of March after the prosecution and defense indicated that they would be prepared to move forward at that time.
Both defendants are being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.
According to sheriff’s investigators, the men became acquainted with the victim, whose identity was not released, after an encounter at the Moreno Valley Mall in March 2015.
The defendants coaxed the girl into joining them and then would not permit her to leave once she was under their control, investigators allege.
She was taken to an apartment in Palm Desert, where the defendants allegedly took explicit photographs of her and where Lewis allegedly beat and sexually assaulted her.
Investigators allege that the girl’s pictures and services were distributed via online classified advertisements.
She was then put to work as a prostitute and transported to Colton, Indio, Palm Springs, Rancho Cucamonga and other inland locations as part of a two-month-long sex trafficking operation, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The teen was allegedly threatened with injury or death if she attempted to get away. However, in May 2015, she managed to escape and reveal what had allegedly happened to her, investigators said.
The Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force handled the ensuing yearlong investigation.
–City News Service