Jury deliberations are expected to resume Wednesday morning in a Houston County trial of a 23-year-old man accused of pimping out a 16-year-old runaway at two Warner Robins motels in August 2016.
Akeem Taylor, who took the stand in his own defense Tuesday and denied all the allegations against him, is charged with trafficking persons for sexual servitude, pimping out a minor for the purpose of prostitution and sexual exploitation of children.
Taylor is accused of harboring a 16-year-old girl, who had run away from her Warner Robins home, and pimping her out for a day each in August at the Days Inn and Baymont Inn, both on Watson Boulevard.
He also is accused of placing an ad on a website, with a photo of the teenager, that listed prices for various sex acts with her. Also posted on the website was an ad that included a video of the teen engaged in sexually explicit conduct, according to prosecutors.
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The girl, now 17, testified that Taylor contacted her about having sex or performing sexual acts, for money, and she agreed. She said they split the money.
She said that Taylor took the video of her and posted it on the website with her consent. She said that the prices for the sex acts were in code, with each apple pictured worth $1. She said she had sexual intercourse with some of the men, but not all.
But Taylor testified that he was only trying to help the girl out after she contacted him and told him that she was stranded and that her parents had kicked her out of their home. He said he never pimped her out.
He said that she lied and told him she was 19 and that he did not know that she was 16 then, though he’d known her for four or five years.
He said he picked her up at a friend’s house and he got the hotel rooms for himself and allowed her to stay there. He said he sometimes sold drugs.
The girl was initially a reluctant witness, with Judge Edward D. Lukemire warning her outside of the jury’s presence that she could testify or he would place her in jail until she was ready to testify. He also warned her of the consequences of perjury, a felony that carries up to five years in prison.
Houston County sheriff’s Lt. Darin Meadows, a forensics computer expert, testified about text messages between the teenager’s phone and Taylor’s phone.
One of the texts was about a “client” coming from Macon who was willing to pay $50. Taylor said he often let the girl borrow his phone.
The girl’s stepfather testified that his wife got an anonymous text message about the website ad. The teen’s face was blurred, but they recognized her from her tattoos. Her mom called police, and police found her at the Baymont Inn.
In closing arguments, Taylor’s attorney Carl Veline told jurors that the prosecution had to prove its case and that “bare suspicion” was not enough to convict.
Assistant District Attorney Clif Woody said that Taylor took advantage of the teenager’s situation in life and advertized her on a website like a piece of meat.
“And then having men, nasty, perverted men, show up at the hotel, and do stuff to a 16-year-old girl that a 16-year-old girl shouldn’t even know about,” Woody said.
Taylor’s parents sat behind him during the trial, which began Monday afternoon. Jurors deliberated for just over an hour before recessing for the day Tuesday.