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GTA man guilty of sex trafficking in Sarnia

It is an eye-opening reminder that sex trafficking happens everywhere, including small towns in Ontario. A Sarnia jury took just two hours to find a Toronto-area man guilty of exploiting two women for selling their sexual services. Javoll Devon Blackwood was found guilty of 11 charges, three for trafficking in persons, gaining material benefits from sexual exploitation — including that of a minor — and the making of child pornography, as well as two charges of drug possession.. The names of the women involved are protected by court order. The Crown’s case hinged on proving the defendant exploited one of the women by preying on her addiction to crack, while a 17-year-old was manipulated as the result of homelessness and poverty. The charges stem from an arrest made by OPP in July 2018 at a Point Edward motel located in plain view of the Sarnia jail and courthouse. The court heard the details of a bungled, alcohol and drug-fuelled trip from the GTA to Sarnia, which occurred on Ribfest weekend. Prosecutor Assistant Crown attorney Bianca DiBiase says police discovered the sex trafficking when one of the women called police after being locked out of her hotel room. When the OPP arrived and busted in, they found cellphones, a box of condoms and a suitcase full of lingerie. The defendant and the younger sex trade worker were asleep at the time. Police also found cocaine and fentanyl. When interviewed by police the defendant claimed he was coming to Sarnia to start a new life, however, the young women said the trip was made so they could escort and make money. It was the second time Blackwood and the younger woman had made the trip. Earlier in 2018, they travelled by train to Sarnia where the young woman provided service to at least 10 clients. Technology and Social Media played an important role in the conviction. An internet search report prepared by OPP analysts revealed text messages, social media posts and website searches from three cellphones, all of which came from phones and SIM cards linked to the accused. Many of the messages displayed in court — as they appeared on the website LeoList — were highly suggestive—including pictures of the bodies of the two women. They included price lists for services and prohibited acts like no kissing on the lips. Price lists for the sex work included $140 for a half hour and $240 for an hour. They were plenty of messages to unnamed phone numbers, the Crown said were clients. All told, OPP Det. Const. Vicki Bradford said there were at least 7,000 messages relating to sex trade work on an iPhone belonging to the defendant. Blackwood said his phone had been used by one of the women to take pictures and post photos and ads, but he never forced either to work, adding the two were always free to “come and go” as they pleased. He denied taking any pictures of the minor or posting any ads related to the so-called dating websites saying she did it herself. The admitted crack dealer said he knew the women were escorting, but that it was their choice, as they wanted to make money. He helped them “out of the goodness of his heart.” But the crown painted a different picture. DiBiase pointed out the defendant had known the one of the women, who was in her twenties, for at least three years. She was addicted to crack and the defendant was one of her suppliers. She engaged in sex trade work to pay for her habit. The court heard that the defendant would sometimes wait next door while the escort was working.  After the job was done she would slip the money to him under the door. The jury heard the 17-year-old met the defendant by chance at a party in the GTA. He took her and a friend under his wing, allowing them to live with him at his rented room and providing them food. Eventually, the young woman began escorting, turning over her profits to the defendant. She never received any of the money she earned which the defendant said went to pay for her share of living expenses. The relationship between the girl and the defendant came under intense questioning from DiBiase. Blackmore says she wanted to make money escorting in order to not be a “freeloader” and to “feel good about herself.” When confronted with the fact the younger woman was a minor, Blackmore said he was under the impression she was 19 years old.  However, the court heard the defendant had taken her to get a fake ID saying she was 18. Blackmore will be sentenced in April. He’s been in custody since 2018.

- The Independent of Petrolia and Central Lambton

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative, The Independent