Jason Gatlin forced a 17-year-old girl into the sex trade in Miami-Dade and the Keys, took videos and pictures of her having sex to attract clients and then bribed the victim to lie, a federal jury decided Monday.
After a two-week trial in Fort Lauderdale federal court, the jury convicted Gatlin, 42, of Miami, on charges of sex trafficking of a minor, production of child pornography and witness tampering.
He will be sentenced in December.
A criminal complaint alleges Gatlin first met the girl, whom the feds say he knew was being sex trafficked by others, in October 2018. They met at a McDonald’s in the Florida Keys and Gatlin offered her money to work for him, court records show. He convinced the girl he wanted to marry her.
But investigators say that over a two-month span, he taught her how to post ads of herself to attract customers. If she didn’t give him enough money through prostitution, he beat her, according to the criminal complaint.
Gatlin also rented rooms in the Keys for the teen to meet her customers.
On Nov. 26, Gatlin took her to a Motel 6 in Cutler Bay, where he rented a room for a few nights so she could have sex with customers who had responded to her online ad.
When Gatlin arrived on the 28th, the minor said she didn’t have any money for him. Gatlin hit her across the face and drove her to Monroe County, where she had sex with more customers, the complaint says.
While in Monroe, Gatlin beat her to the point of unconsciousness after she threatened to call the police on him if he didn’t take her back to Miami-Dade County, records show.
Gatlin eventually relented and two days later, they were on the road back to Miami-Dade, the complaint says.
The teen asked him to let her use a bathroom at a gas station. Once inside the bathroom, she locked herself in and called 911 on Nov. 30. Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies found her with “a swollen face, and bloody, ripped clothes,’’ according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Gatlin was arrested a few days later in Miami-Dade.
While in jail, Gatlin bribed the girl to tell investigators that she was never trafficked. It was Gatlin’s mother who housed the girl and drove her to the defense attorney’s office for her to recant her story, court records show.
“The government presented recorded evidence at trial to prove the witness tampering,” the U.S. Attorney’s office wrote.
Gatlin is being held at a federal detention center in Miami. He could spend the rest of his life in prison.