Alleged Sex Trafficking Victim Testifies: 'They Wanted Me to Sell My Body'
Reported by City News Service in Riverside
The alleged victim, a Bakersfield woman identified only as Jasmine, said she was snatched off of Long Beach Boulevard in Compton by four men in a black Mercedes-Benz on the afternoon of Aug. 15.
"The one guy said, 'You're coming with us,"' Jasmine testified. "I got in the car 'cause I was afraid they were going to do something to me."
The Riverside County District Attorney's Office alleges the men were Jerry Jermaine Landers, 21, Ibrahim Malik, 25, Muhammad Malik, 32, and Yaya Malik, 23 - all of the San Jose area. The four, along with their alleged associate, 20-year-old Ana Karen Ceja, were arrested Aug. 16.
They're charged with multiple felonies, including kidnapping to commit rape, human trafficking, attempted pimping and forced oral copulation, with sentence-enhancing weapons allegations. A preliminary hearing that began Wednesday and is expected to be completed Thursday will determine whether there's sufficient evidence to warrant a trial in the case.
Jasmine spent nearly two hours on the witness stand, recalling - in an often barely audible voice - her 48-hour ordeal last month.
According to the woman, Muhammad Malik was giving most of the orders and proclaimed that he would be her "pimp." She testified that after abducting her, the men drove east, eventually stopping at a Roadway Inn, where Muhammad Malik and Yaya Malik instructed her to orally copulate them in the vehicle.
Deputy District Attorney Gerald Fineman asked her whether she considered refusing the demands, to which she replied no.
"Muhammad had a gun. He was cleaning it," the woman said. "I thought he would probably try to hurt me. It seemed like he would if I didn't do it."
The witness said she spent a restless night at the Roadway Inn with Muhammad holding her next to him in bed. According to her testimony, the men drove her the following day to a Best Western motel on Elder Avenue in Moreno Valley, where she was introduced to Ceja, who said she worked for the foursome as a prostitute, making "a lot of money."
"They wanted me to go make some money by selling my body," the alleged victim testified. "I felt like I would get beat if I didn't."
According to the witness, once at the Best Western, the defendants posted online money-for-sex advertisements using two personals websites, Backpage and Redbook. She said they initially used fake pictures for her ad but used real ones for Ceja's, which received a number of responses.
Jasmine said she was forced to stay in the bathroom of the motel room she was sharing with Ceja while the latter provided sexual services to several men. She said that when she asked Muhammad if she could leave the motel, he refused her request.
However, during the evening of Aug. 16, while the male defendants were in the parking lot and Ceja was allegedly busy with a client, Jasmine said she called a friend - and fellow prostitute - named "CC," who advised her to run to the motel front office and ask the clerk to call sheriff's deputies for help.
She said she followed the advice, and deputies arrived moments later, arresting all five defendants without incident.
During questioning by the defense, the witness acknowledged working as a street walker in the San Fernando Valley and Compton for a month prior to her alleged abduction. She also conceded that while at the Roadway Inn, she was briefly left alone in the Mercedes and had an opportunity to walk away, but didn't seriously consider that as an option.
The Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force is handling the investigation.
According to jail records, Yaya Malik is on parole.
The Maliks - who are apparently related, though their exact relationship was not immediately clear - and Landers are each being held in lieu of $1 million bail at Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
Ceja is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.