As Mississippi continues to fight human trafficking, an offender will spend over three decades in prison.
After he was convicted in November 2018, Willie Blackmon Jr., 37, has been sentenced to serve 32 years for running a prostitution ring out of the Jackson and Vicksburg areas between 2014 and 2016. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Blackmon “purchased and recruited” runway minors, and kept them in hotel rooms while forcing them into prostitution while also giving them drugs.
Evidence showed that if the victims refused, Blackmon physically harmed them, and he would threaten them by holding a gun to their heads if they “did not perform or if they disrespected him.”
During the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill to further assist victims of human trafficking by making additional resources available to them, and it ensures that a minor cannot be charged with prostitution.
After Blackmon was sentenced, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst emphasized the importance of prosecuting those who participate in human trafficking.
“Harming, threatening and drugging children to do unspeakable things for money will be swiftly prosecuted by this office and harshly punished in this district. The men and women in law enforcement, as well as our prosecutors and support staff, are to be commended for bringing justice to these victims and accountability to this defendant. I would ask the public to remain vigilant as to these crimes and to promptly report any suspicious activities to law enforcement so that other children never become victims of such heinous acts in the future,” Hurst said.
Blackmon’s sentence will be followed by a lifetime of supervised release, and he must register as a sex offender.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet as well as to identify and rescue victims.