Teen testifies in court ‘I am not your victim; I am a survivor’
Emmanuel Nyuon, 34, was facing a possible life sentence after being convicted in April of sex trafficking involving a minor and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier said that Nyuon’s case didn’t warrant the maximum sentence because his offenses and the number of victims were not equal to two previous sex trafficking cases in which she sentenced the defendants to life in prison.
But Schreier said that even though Nyuon professes that he only was helping the women, his behavior was not the kind of help they needed in their vulnerable situations.
“These women did not need help in the sex-trade business, this kind of work does not help women,” Schreier said.
The defendant’s case began last year, when administrators from the online classified website backpage.com flagged a page offering escort services with what appeared to be an underage girl.
Undercover detectives, posing as johns, set up a date with the girl at the Hampton Inn in Sioux Falls. Nyuon was caught on video dropping off the girl, who was 14 years old.
That victim testified during Nyuon’s three-day trial that he had sex with her when she was too ill to fight back and had beaten her because of suspicions that she was pregnant. She said she had also been threatened with a Taser and an air pistol she thought to be a handgun.
During Monday’s hearing, James Eirinberg, Nyuon’s lawyer, said while his client admits to driving the victim to the hotel for money, a life sentence was not warranted for aiding and abetting in the crime.
Eirinberg also asked the judge for leniency in light of Nyuon’s difficult childhood as a refugee from Sudan. Eirinberg said his client suffered from sexual assault growing up and from never having a solid father figure in his life.
Schreier said she knows Nyuon had a difficult upbringing, but he, too, became a sex offender at a fairly young age, and had treatment and the opportunity to help himself later on in life, so his past does not excuse his trafficking actions.
Nyuon also addressed the judge during the hearing, and said he is glad that the women who testified against him are getting help, but he qualified his involvement with them as “minimal” and said the victims “are not as innocent as they act.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Clapper argued that Nyuon’s guise of trying to help the women instead of using and abusing them is why he should be incarcerated for life.
“There is no rehabilitating a man like this,” Clapper said.
The 14-year-old victim was in the courtroom during Nyuon’s sentencing, and read a statement about her ordeal with the defendant, and her subsequent recovery.
“I am not your victim,” she said in court. “I am a survivor.”
After he was sentenced to 30 years in prison, Schreier instructed the 34-year-old to pay a $5,000 fine. If he completes his sentence, Nyuon will be subject to 10 years of probation upon release.
U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson said he was “very satisfied” with the 30-year sentence. This case, he said, is a good example of how his office is aggressively prosecuting pimps and johns to target supply and demand of human sex trafficking in the state.
“Thirty years means that this individual will not be getting out anytime soon, and when he does, he’ll be an old man who won’t be able to perpetrate the same crimes that he has now,” Johnson said. “We won’t get a life sentence in every case, but a 30-year sentence — there aren’t many crimes where a 30-year sentence is the norm.”