Ft. Lauderdale resident Van Lawson Williams, 49, was convicted by a jury to five life terms in prison for sex trafficking of minors and attempted sex trafficking of a minor, following an October trial.
According to federal prosecutors, Williams preyed on runaway girls between the ages of 12 and 16, exploiting their vulnerability by convincing them that he loved them, and that he was their only family. He often used a slogan, "ride or die," to entice them to stay with him.
Then he would pimp them out of his Ft. Lauderdale home in the 2000 block of Northwest 30th Avenue between August 2011 and May 2012, telling them it was their way of help paying the rent. He also had sex with several of the girls, and gave some of them crack cocaine, according to authorities.
The most damning part for Williams was the testimony of the victims, which ultimately swayed the jury to side with prosecutors.
One of the girls, now 16, read from a pink diary during her testimony.
"You made me feel real bad about myself," she said.
The youngest to testify was a 12-year-old victim, whom Senior U.S District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley says is "living proof that someone can go through something as hard as this" and go on to live a productive life.
Williams' sole defense seemed to be his claim that the girls baby-sat his 7-year-old daughter, something the jurors did not believe.
Williams will be appealing his convictions, standing by his argument that all of the victims lied when they said he pimped them out. Williams also stands by his claim that he was just trying to help a couple of troubled girls, and that they were prostituting themselves before he even met them.
"He created a relationship with these young women, starting out with the notion that the relationship was real and affectionate and that it would be long-lasting," Judge Hurley said of Williams.