Constitutional Law

Congress can require pimps to pay restitution to overseas sex-trafficking victims, 11th Circuit says

  • Print.

Congress has the power to require international sex traffickers to pay restitution to their victims for sex trafficking that occurs overseas, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (PDF) on March 24 that convicted pimp Damion St. Patrick Baston had to pay $400,000 to a woman he forced to perform prostitution work for him in Australia, the Daily Business Review (sub. req.) reports. Baston was also ordered to pay the woman $78,000 for her work in the United States, and to pay a total of $21,270 to two other victims.

According to the 11th Circuit, Baston lived in the United States after entering the country illegally with a stolen identity, but he traveled the world, He funded his lavish lifestyle by forcing women to prostitute for him. Following the advice of a book called Pimpology, Baston recruited women who were sexually abused as children and took all of the money they earned. But he departed from the book’s rejection of violence.

“Baston slapped, choked, and threatened to kill his victims whenever they ‘got out of line,’ ” the court said. He had a muscular physique, aided by steroid shots administered by his victims, and sometimes dressed as a vampire.

Baston had argued that forcing him to pay restitution for his alleged victim’s prostitution that occurred wholly overseas would exceed Congress’ power under the foreign commerce clause and the due process clause. The 11th Circuit disagreed.

“Congress has the power to require international sex traffickers to pay restitution to their victims even when the sex trafficking occurs exclusively in another country,” the opinion said.

Besides paying restitution, Baston will have to serve 27 years in prison. His lawyer told the Daily Business Review he will probably seek an en banc rehearing.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.