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Alleged human trafficker faces charges

By Melanie Ruberti

mruberti@civitasmedia.com

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LaGRANGE — A man accused of being part of a human trafficking ring faced a judge Thursday in Troup County Magistrate Court.

James Jamal Brown, 30, of Columbus, is charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, pimping and trafficking persons for sexual servitude.

Sgt. Mark Cavender, head of LaGrange Police Department’s Special Investigation Unit, told the court that on the evening of Aug. 14 the team discovered an alleged human trafficking and prostitution ring at the Super 8 motel off Patillo Road involving a 16-year-old girl.

Cavender said the teen told investigators she met three females in Columbus who told her they were escorts. The women allegedly told the girl they worked in cities as far as Savannah and towns in Alabama.

Cavender testified police Investigator Darrell Prichard located an advertisement on the classified advertising website backpage.com featuring pictures of all four females using fake names, including the 16 year old, soliciting sexual acts.

One of the other females allegedly told the investigators they were brought to LaGrange by Brown. He allegedly told the women how much money they needed to make that night before he would drive them back to Columbus.

Cavender said the females had to make back the money that was spent to rent out the motel rooms and gas to transport the women back and forth to Columbus. If the girls did not generate enough cash, Brown allegedly told them they would be left behind, stated Cavender.

Judge Vickie Sue McWaters said Brown has an extensive drug record and has violated his probation under the Family Violence Act.

He is being held in the Troup County Jail without bond. The case was bound over to Superior Court.

In a separate case Thursday, Christopher Eugene Hunter of Woodbury made his first appearance in magistrate court.

Hunter was charged with kidnapping and simple battery.

Investigator Jeffrey Sheppard with the Hogansville Police Department said that on the night of Sept. 10 eyewitnesses heard a female screaming for help on Hutchins-Moody Road. Officers responding to the scene found a key chain and a smashed cell phone.

The next day, a female was spotted at the scene and told officers she was looking for the missing items, Sheppard said.

According to Sheppard, the woman said she was driving her boyfriend to his parents’ home on Hutchins-Moody Road that night when they got into an argument. The victim told the investigator she stopped the car, got out and was going to walk to Hunter’s parents’ house.

Hunter then jumped out of the vehicle, grabbed her by the neck and forced her into the passenger seat, Sheppard told the court.

The investigator said the man allegedly grasped the victim so hard, he ripped the key chain off the necklace she was wearing and caused her to drop the cell phone.

Sheppard testified the woman said Hunter drove down Ga. Highway 100, suddenly stopped the car at Pop’s Grocery Store at the county line, got out of the car and walked away.

Hunter’s defense attorney, Ken Gordon, asked Sheppard if the victim ever reported the incident on her own will. Sheppard responded that she hadn’t.

McWaters told the court Hunter also had two other outstanding charges of battery under the Family Violence Act in Meriwether County within the last six months.

She bound the case over to Troup County Superior Court.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter for LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.