Public Safety

Waterloo couple each sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for sex trafficking teens

CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal judge said Tuesday he “struggled” with the decision to go along with the plea agreements that gave a Waterloo couple 10 years, the minimum sentence for sex trafficking teens.

U.S. District Chief Judge Leonard Strand asked the prosecution and defense in separate hearings for Lawrence E. Campbell Jr., 35, and his wife Sade Campbell, 25, to explain why 10 years was sufficient in light of the guideline sentencing is much higher for both. He noted Lawrence Campbell had a lengthy criminal history.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Duax, in the separate hearings, said there are mitigating circumstances including the victims’ lack of cooperation, the short time of the trafficking and no violence was involved. In comparison to other cases similar to this one, there was less impact on the victims, who are usually physically abused or controlled by drugs, and Sade Campbell had less criminal history than her husband.

Melanie Keiper, Lawrence Campbell’s lawyer, said her client didn’t set out to entice minors. He believed one of the 16-year-olds was 19, but she admitted he didn’t stop the offense. Keiper said Sade Campbell was responsible for getting the girls to have sex for money. He didn’t “actively participate” in that part, she noted.

Clemens Erdahl, Sade Campbell’s lawyer, said during her sentencing that she was under the direction of her husband and he told one of the teens not to reveal her age to his wife.

Lawrence and Sade Campbell, during the separate hearings, apologized for their actions. Lawrence Campbell apologized to his family and the victims’ families. Sade Campbell said she was going to live a “clean, healthy” life.

The husband and wife each pleaded guilty last September to one count of sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion. Each admitted to knowingly recruiting, enticing or soliciting the girls, both 16 at the time, to engage in commercial sex acts in August 2016, the plea agreement shows.

Lawrence Campbell admitted he knew the girls who were identified in court documents as “TC” and “JC,” were under the age of 18, according to the plea.

The couple also admitted to using a computer or internet to bring the girls to Iowa from Chicago for the purpose of trafficking sex for money.

Testimony during a detention hearing in May showed Lawrence Campbell lured the teens from Chicago, telling them he would take care of them, and then he and his wife made them have sex for money. An FBI agent testified Lawrence Campbell met the two teens on an internet dating site. He sent them one-way bus tickets to Waterloo on Aug. 25, 2016. Once the girls were in Waterloo, they were told about the prostitution.

Sade Campbell placed advertisements on the girls, under the names of “Sapphire” and “Aqua” on a website for escort services, FBI Special Agent Scoot Irwin testified during that hearing. Sade Campbell would take them to the customers. The girls told investigators about three sexual encounters, Irwin said.

At some point, the girls were told they didn’t make enough money having sex, so they would have to steal items from local stores that could be resold on the streets, Irwin also said.

Police discovered the sex trafficking when the teens were arrested by Waterloo police for stealing candy at a Target store on Aug. 29, 2016, court documents show.

Officers then checked on possible warrants for the girls and found one girl was listed in a national database as a missing person out of Chicago. One of the girls also had a 1-year-old daughter, who came with them to Waterloo.

Judge Strand also ordered the couple to register as sex offenders and Lawrence Campbell will serve eight years on supervised release following any prison term and Sade Campbell will serve five years on supervised released.

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