MADISON – A Lodi man convicted of prostitution and trafficking minors was sentenced Monday in federal court to 17½ years in prison and lifetime supervised release.
Jurors had previously found that Maurice Adonis Withers, 48, recruited, coerced, forced and transported two minors and three adult females, either to Wisconsin cities or to Las Vegas in 2015 to engage in commercial sex.
Evidence introduced at Withers’ four-day trial in May included victim testimony and postings on Facebook and sex-for-sale websites offering the women and girls ranging in age from from 16 to 32 for sex acts.
At trial, Withers contended that the women involved in the case were independently engaged in prostitution before he met them and sought his assistance with their “business.” They then worked as a team of a group of adult entertainers, who “pooled their resources to attract more clients.”
At least three witnesses testified that Withers coerced or forced them into prostitution. One woman testified that Withers had taken her to La Crosse where unbeknownst to her, he had arranged for her to have sex “dates” with men in a car while he watched, according to court documents.
Jurors needed about three hours to convict Withers, who faced 15 years to life in prison for convictions on four counts of sex trafficking of adults by force or coercion, two counts of sex trafficking of a minor and transporting a minor for prostitution and transporting an individual for prostitution.
Before sentencing, Withers sought a new trial on grounds there was not sufficient evidence to convict him or he was not guilty on all counts because he did not cross state lines with women for the purpose of prostitution.
In denying Withers’ motion, District Judge William Conley ruled that some of the convictions involved transporting women between the Madison area and Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells, Janesville or La Crosse for prostitution. However, Withers affected interstate commerce when he used the internet or a cellphone to promote prostitution in those Wisconsin cities.
At sentencing, Withers wrote the court that he got into a pimp lifestyle by emulating his father and other family members who thought it was “cool” to “live off women,” and he had wanted to live up to his father’s expectations.
He also stated that more recently he realizes that he made some “very bad decisions” and is in “this predicament” because of his own actions.
“I would never want my daughter to experience what I put these women through,” he wrote Conley.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Pfluger, who prosecuted the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Stephan, sought a lengthy sentence arguing that he must not get another chance to abuse and profit from women.
“The facts … show that Withers systematically targeted and preyed on vulnerable women and girls,” Pfluger wrote the court. “He used whatever tactics necessary … manipulation … to threats of physical force, to get these women and girls to perform commercial sex acts solely for his profit. Additionally, Withers’ history shows that he has been preying on and profiting from women and girls his entire adult life.”
Pfluger also wrote that:
While Withers’ father also was a pimp, Withers had limited contact with his father until he was 15 and had good role models to follow, including his grandfather, who was a detective, and grandmother, who was a social worker.
At age 16, Withers was abusing drugs and had robbed a woman. His disregard for the law and women continued with a burglary conviction at 18 years old, followed by drug convictions, and while on probation, beating his pregnant girlfriend on average every few days.
“Withers wanted money and notoriety and targeted vulnerable women to make him money that, he believed, would garner him the ‘fame’ he was seeking,” Pfluger wrote.
Withers’ case was investigated by the Madison Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation, Sauk County Sheriff’s Department and Wisconsin Dells Police Department.