A state appellate court panel Tuesday rejected an appeal from an ex-con who contended that he was “bamboozled” into accepting a nearly 17-year state prison term and lifetime sex offender registration for trafficking a 17-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman in South Los Angeles.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal turned down Benjamin Pennington’s contention that a judge should have held a hearing to determine whether another attorney should have been appointed on his behalf at his October 2016 sentencing, about two months after he pleaded no contest to one felony count each of human trafficking of a minor for a commercial sex act, human trafficking and dissuading a witness from prosecuting a crime.
He also admitted that he had a prior conviction for criminal threats in 2003.
Accordign to the 11-page opinion, Pennington said at his sentencing, “I was bamboozled (into) taking the deal … I am not a sex offender. I should not have to register for the rest of my life for something that I didn’t do.”
The appellate justices noted in their ruling that the trial court judge replied that Pennington was suffering from “buyer’s remorse” and “didn’t appear to be pressured” when he entered his plea. The jurist said everything had been explained to Pennington, and that he had been given the opportunity to go to trial the day he entered his plea.
The appellate court panel found that Pennington has “not offered a legal or factual basis for withdrawing his plea” and has not established prejudice.
Between February and December of 2015, Pennington pimped the 17-year-old girl on the streets of South Los Angeles and advertised the teen for sex services online, according to Deputy District Attorney Craig Rouviere.
The teen was apprehended by authorities while working for Pennington, and revealed to police that he was forcing her to be a sex worker, the prosecutor said.
Pennington — who was subsequently located and arrested at his probation officer’s office in December 2015 — also pimped a 23-year-old woman in late 2015, Rouviere said.
While behind bars, Pennington called the woman and demanded that she continue prostituting herself and ordered her not to testify in his criminal case, according to the prosecutor.