MANATEE -- Manatee County Judge Charles Roberts sentenced Donald James, 47, to 35 years in prison Thursday after a jury in January found him guilty of giving a minor rock cocaine in exchange for sex.
In August 2011, a 15-year-old victim walking down 14th Street West near the Sunshine Motel was approached by Anissa Lawson, who offered her rock cocaine, according to an arrest report. The two went back to Lawson's apartment in the 1800 block of 14th Street West.
At Lawson's apartment the victim met Lawson's boyfriend, James. The victim told them she was 15 years old.
A couple days later the victim returned to Lawson's home. He told her she could have sex with men for money so they could buy more rock cocaine.
The victim told detectives James offered her rock cocaine in exchange for sex. Lawson reportedly watched. After having sex with James, the victim smoked rock cocaine.
James later admitted to detectives he had sex with the victim, and he and his girlfriend arranged for her to have sex with others for rock cocaine, according to the report.
"To say these crimes were serious would be an understatement," Roberts told James, who stood before him emotionless using a cane for a deteriorated hip. "I find it very troubling and very disturbing."
Roberts asked James if he had a statement.
"I'm sorry," James said.
Defense attorney Hannah Bugg asked for a 25-year sentence for her client, saying the minor "knew what she was doing" when she got involved with James.
"This was a sexual crime that was not violent and not forced," Bugg said.
Assistant State Attorney Brian Iten said James' prior arrest record extends from 1986 to 2008, including 12 felony convictions for robbery, battery and controlled substance charges.
The judge appeared moved by testimony from the minor's mother. The Herald is not naming her in order to protect the anonymity of her daughter.
"Every relationship my daughter has from now on will be scarred before it starts," the mother told the judge.
The mother said her daughter suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which prevents her from focusing in class and alienated her from her peers.
"When everyone told her something was wrong, she experimented with drugs," her mother said. "Mr. James orchestrated the entire situation, which involved sex, prostitution, money and drugs."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.