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Santa Maria Jury Begins Deliberating Men’s Fate in Human-Trafficking Trial

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court jury began deliberating Monday whether two men were guilty of human trafficking and other charges for their alleged roles when a then-16-year-old Santa Maria Valley girl worked as a prostitute.

The trial, before Judge John McGregor, wrapped up with closing arguments late Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday, jurors are expected to resume deliberating the fate of Humberto Javier Carranza, 24, and Cameron Joseph Jones, 27. 

The men are charged with one count each of human trafficking of a minor, pimping a minor and pandering.

They also are charged with two counts each of oral copulation with a minor child and unlawful sexual intercourse stemming from their actions in October 2015.

The now-17-year-old who testified during the trial told of meeting the men, having sexual relationships with them, and working as a prostitute after running away from home.

“It’s very sad how they exploited this young girl,” Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Karapetian said. 

Using text messages from the girl’s and men’s cellphones, Karapetian told the jury that the men both had sexual relationships with the victim, referred to in court as either Jane Doe or by the initials of her name.  

The girl admitted previously working as a prostitute and is not an angel, Karapetian said.

“We’re here because of these two men … who purposely took advantage of a broken child and exploited her in the worst way,” Karapetian said.

The prosecutor contended Carranza acquired the motel room and purchased a sexy police officer costume, while Jones created the Craigslist ad. 

The girl allegedly had five customers while working as a prostitute. Most paid $100 in cash, but one gave less money since he supplied them with marijuana.

But defense attorneys characterized the girl as a lying, manipulative, attention-loving Lolita. 

Defense attorney Michael Scott said his client admitted to having sex with the girl.

"What is in dispute is whether Mr. Carranza caused, persuaded, induced Jane Doe to engage in sex acts in Motel 6,” Scott said. 

The question is who caused the girl to want to turn tricks, Scott said, adding that his client wasn’t responsible for the girl’s decision.

“Helping is not causing,” Scott said, adding there’s no allegations of force or violence.

“I would submit to you Mr. Carranza has no skills as a pimp,” Scott said, adding that Carranza did not make a financial profit for his involvement with proceeds going to pay for the hotel room, costume, condoms and other expenses.

When the girl admitted her true age, defense attorney Billy Redell said, his client wasn’t present so her never knew she actually was 16 years old.

Jones also was not present during the time the girl worked as a prostitute, and the Craigslist ad used Jane Doe’s email address while the hotel receipt does not include Jones’ name, Redell said.

The defense attorney argued the two men were unfortunate since they “got in the path of her destruction.”

"Mr. Jones did not cause Jane Doe to prostitute herself,” Redell said, 

The defense attorney noted that he told jurors at the start of the trial that the victim would leave “a residue of skepticism.”

“That’s exactly what she did,” Redell added.

Testimony began a week ago after a jury and alternates was earlier selected.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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