A Trenton man who was released after he was caught with three handguns and a missing 16-year-old girl following a high-speed police chase and crash was charged with prostituting the underage teen at a local hotel, state authorities announced.
Ronald D. Harris, 40, originally was arrested on weapons charges by Trenton police and New Jersey State Police in July, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said Monday.
Harris had fled a traffic stop, hitting an unmarked police vehicle with his car, running a red light and hitting speeds of up to 80 miles an hour before it slammed into a taxi, Grewal said.
Harris bailed out of the car but was caught carrying a duffle bag that contain three handguns, two of which had illegal large-capacity magazines, the attorney general said.
A judge eventually freed Harris, who Grewal said also had the girl in the car with him.
Authorities soon learned that the teen, who’d been reported missing, was “a victim of ongoing commercial sexual exploitation,” the attorney general said.
The night of the crash, she told them, Harris had rented a hotel room in Trenton for her to use in prostitution.
Examination of three cellphones found in the vehicle “revealed messages showing Harris was actively promoting the prostitution of the 16-year-old girl at the hotel,” Grewal said.
“Messages revealed Harris to be demanding additional money for specific sexual services which the girl was to provide to various men,” he added.
New Jersey State Police re-arrested Harris last week and charged with human trafficking and promoting prostitution, among other offenses, the attorney general said.
“Far too often we uncover this tragic form of human trafficking, where a vulnerable underage girl is trapped in commercial sexual exploitation involving multiple men per day so that a trafficker can ruthlessly reap the profits,” Grewal said.
“Human traffickers lack any sense of morality or compassion as they essentially treat their victims, who are often children, as commodities rather than human beings, allowing them to be sexually abused repeatedly,” State Police Supt. Colonel Patrick J. Callahan added. “This type of cruelty is unimaginable.”
Grewal cited the work of State Police on the case, with assisted from Trenton, Ewing and Hamilton police.
NJSP Detective Kyle Feigley is the lead investigator on the case, which is being prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Katherine Morris for the state Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau Human Trafficking Unit, he said.
Division of Criminal Justice Director Veronica Allende, meanwhile, called on the public to help fight human trafficking.
“Because these crimes so often are hidden from view and involve victims who feel helpless to escape, we urge the public to be vigilant and call our human trafficking hotline if they see a child or teenager in suspicious circumstances,” she said.
Anyone who is involved in or suspects human trafficking can report it confidentially by calling the Division of Criminal Justice’s Human Trafficking Hotline 1-855-END-NJ-HT.
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