After two weeks of hearing witness testimony, viewing evidence and listening to closing arguments, the jury in a pimping, human trafficking, kidnapping trial began deliberations in Sutter County Superior Court on Thursday.
The defendant, Archie Thompson, 29, faces 17 felony counts stemming from involvement in an alleged 2016 kidnapping and prostitution ring.
Sutter County Deputy District Attorney Adam McBride and defense attorney Steve Whitworth presented closing arguments until Thursday afternoon.
The main theme of McBride’s closing argument was that Thompson found young, vulnerable women and used their vulnerabilities against them for prostitution, to earn money for him.
He referenced witness testimony from the alleged victim of the 2016 trafficking and kidnapping, and co-defendants Madison Gonzalez and Jaime Bobb.
McBride also referenced evidence shown during the trial in the form of text message conversations and ads posted to the now-shutdown website “Backpage.com” to establish an electronic record of where and when the alleged crimes took place.
McBride said Thompson began pimping Gonzalez in August 2016 by selling her a dream of financial security. He said the dream changed, however, as Gonzalez testified she had to give Thompson the money she earned through prostituting. McBride said Gonzalez became entrenched with Thompson, and was solely providing for him.
When Gonzalez questioned why Thompson wanted her to deposit the money she earned into the bank account of the mother of his child, text evidence shows Thompson telling her not to question him.
“He wasn’t being a supportive coach, coaching her through the world of prostitution,” McBride said. “When she questioned him at all, he jumped on her.”
In closing, McBride said that it’s easy to look at the women who engaged in prostitution for Thompson and ask why they didn’t just walk away, noting that shame and psychological control kept them from leaving.
“Shame is the engine that powers human trafficking,” McBride said.
Whitworth worked to establish that Thompson wasn’t controlling the women, but rather working to help them prostitute themselves.
Four short video clips were projected for the jury, depicting members of the group playing with a large amount of cash, showing off tattoos and purchasing candy.
One video includes audio of the victim narrating from inside a car as Thompson purchases candy. The audio appears to make fun of Thompson, which Whitworth said is something people do to their friends, not people they’re afraid of. The video is allegedly from Dec. 2, the night the victim said she was kidnapped.
Whitworth also spoke to the general demeanor of the witnesses, noting that while other witnesses gave vague or short responses, his client spoke from the heart, with his own vernacular, in real time.
In recounting each of the charges against Thompson, Whitworth acknowledged that Thompson met the criteria for the pimping and pandering charges, but said it didn’t rise to the level of kidnapping.
“Did he know what was going on, did he participate? Yes,” Whitworth said. “Did he kidnap anyone? No.”
McBride noted that the videos the defense presented were posted to social media, which he said is a brief glimpse in time, not the whole picture. He said the time stamped texts, backpage ads and witness testimony tell a complete story.