For ADN: The sex trafficking trial of Troy Williams

I’m interested in doing deeper coverage of sex trafficking in Alaska, in part because this state shares demographic characteristics with other places in the United States, like North Dakota, with high numbers of women involved in trafficking.

I’ve been following several sex trafficking cases, including the case of Troy Williams that went to a jury last week. He was accused of recruiting, torturing and forcing mostly young Alaska Native women in to sex work. Ash Adams and I visited the courtroom as the trial closed.

Here’s the beginning of our story for Alaska Dispatch News:

As he ran his sex trafficking ring over the years, Troy Williams always recruited the same kind of girls, assistant attorney general Adam Alexander told a jury Wednesday, as he gave his closing argument in Williams’ trial.

They were older teenagers, mostly Alaska Native, he said. They had rough childhoods in villages or elsewhere. Some were addicts. And, he said, they were usually broke.

At first, Williams was like Prince Charming, Alexander said. He met wayward teenagers and promised them a fresh start. He bought the young women things and gave them a place to live.

“He was a very talented man, and sometimes very charming,” Alexander said.

But then he got controlling, like “a strict dad,” Alexander said. Eventually, he told them they had to have sex for money and give him the proceeds, he said. And with those who challenged him, Williams got violent, beating or torturing one in view of the others to reinforce his power, the prosecutor said.

A jury will now decide whether Williams, 49, is guilty of eight counts of felony sex trafficking for operating a prostitution ring from 2004 to 2011. Investigators said that he and a woman, Heidi Ross, forced women to have sex for money under threat of violence.

Ross, who faced fewer charges, pleaded guilty and has completed her jail sentence. At the time they were charged, their crime was called “promoting prostitution.” The wording of the statute has since been changed to call the crime “sex trafficking.”

Read the rest here. (He was found guilty on some of the charges.)