Maurice Hunt knows he is no angel. He's had several felony convictions over the years and he admitted as much to the jury Tuesday. But Hunt said he is not a human trafficker, just a ladies' man. Prosecutors say he is a dangerous pimp who deserves a life sentence.
For the first time ever in Fresno, federal prosecutors are going after an alleged pimp using human trafficking charges. Maurice Hunt is the target. Prosecutors say the convicted felon had several females working for him, including a 13-year-old girl.
"He's using these women as his own money machine," said legal analyst Melissa White, a former prosecutor. "He's sitting back and he's taking them up and down the 99 freeway."
White says Highway 99 is known as a corridor for drugs, but it is also used to traffic human beings, whether for the sex trade or for labor.
The girl who was 13 testified Tuesday that she usually prostituted for Hunt in Fresno, along Belmont. But he also took her to Bakersfield to work there. She said Hunt physically and sexually abused her before an uncle and a school counselor stepped in and convinced her to tell the truth about how Hunt controlled her.
"It's a child that's perpetually being used and this system needs to be stopped, the system itself that the traffickers are using needs to be broken," White said.
Hunt is acting as his own attorney. He got the girl to admit she was a prostitute before she ever met him, and said he expects jurors to see through the trafficking charge he is facing.
If Hunt was charged under state law for pimping and found guilty, the maximum sentence would be six years in prison. Under federal human trafficking laws, he could be sentenced to life in prison.