sioux falls, sd
A man accused of running an internet prostitution ring involving underage girls received a much longer than expected sentence.
Brandon Thompson pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking of a child and one count of attempting to hire someone to murder a witness; in exchange, 24 charges were dropped.
A lengthy speech from Thompson apologizing to his victims and the court, and his claim that he's a changed man wasn't enough to persuade Judge Karen Schreier to lessen his sentence.
In fact, Schreier did just the opposite. Disregarding a plea agreement between the prosecution and defense, she sentenced Thompson to life in prison plus ten years.
"Looking at the pattern of behavior as a juvenile and adult, I have decided life in prison is appropriate," Schreier said in court. "The women in this case are serving life sentences of their own."
Some of those women were given the chance to read impact statements out loud.
"I feel manipulated. I was promised the world and I got nothing. I feel gross," one said.
"Somebody like this should be in there for life," another girl said.
Thompson sat quietly during those statements. Once his sentence was read, he began shaking and broke into tears, telling the judge that she didn't understand his position. Her sentence was a shock to many, including Thompson's attorney Mark Meierhenry.
"It was disappointing for the defendant. We kind of knew what was coming when the judge said it's the most disturbing case she's had since she's been on the bench in 14 years. The sentence reflects that," Meierhenry said.
As for the prosecution, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson released a statement saying, "Today marks the transformation of Brandon Thompson from sex trafficker to federal prisoner. His days of exploiting girls and young women are over."
Thompson was immediately turned over to the custody of the U.S. Marshal. He has 14 days to formally appeal the ruling.