DALLAS, Texas — A Shreveport, Lousiaiana, man was sentenced to 50 years in prison for sex trafficking a 14-year-old Texas girl — 18 more years than he was originally sentenced before winning an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
40-year-old Tyrone Larry Smith, of Shreveport, was sentenced on August 22, 2019, by Chief U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. to serve 50 years in federal prison for sex trafficking the 14-year-old Texas girl. He previously pled guilty to the charge on March 7, 2019.
According to federal court documents, Smith had previously been convicted and sentenced in the case with his then-girlfriend, Lacoya Washington, in January 2017 to 384 months concurrently with a 240-month sentence, or 32 years. Washington was sentenced to 292 months.
During his first trial, a bench-trial alongside Washington, Smith filed a motion to represent himself, or pro se, which would terminate his representation by counsel from the Office of the Federal Public Defender. In a subsequent Faretta hearing, the magistrate judge warned Smith it was a "terrible idea" to represent himself and told Smith he couldn't change his mind on the morning of the trial in an attempt to delay the court's proceedings. The judge granted his motion and appointed standby counsel to be with Smith throughout the trial.
On the morning of his trial, Smith told the judge he changed his mind and filed a motion to reassert his right to counsel, arguing he could no loner adequately represent himself due to the complexities of the trial and the physiological tolls the case had taken on him.
In clarification, the judge asked Smith if he would like to request a continuance on the basis that he no longer wished to represent himself, after already conducting a Faretta hearing and being granted a motion for pro se. Smith answered yes and the judge objected to any continuance in the trial, stating in a ruling that the court believed the motion was an attempted delay tactic, and proceeded to trial with Smith's previously appointed stand-by counsel.
Because the district court did not inquire into Smith's standby counsel's readiness to step in as trial counsel, the Court of Appeals concluded Smith was deprived of his Sixth Amendment guarantees and reversed his previous conviction and sentencing.
In his new court proceedings, now being represented by his standby counsel, Smith pled guilty to sex trafficking of the minor and was ultimately sentenced to 50 years in prison — 18 years longer than his previous sentencing.
Washington also appealed her conviction — challenging the sufficiency of the evidence against her, denial of her motion for severance, and the reasonableness of her sentence. The Court of Appeals found no error and affirmed her conviction.
Prosecutors say Smith began communicating with a 14-year-old Texas female on Plenty of Fish, an internet-base dating service, in June 2015 — telling the minor he wanted to start a relationship and convinced her to travel to Shreveport. The minor agreed and took a Greyhound bus to Shreveport.
Washington picked the minor up from the bus station and took her to her apartment which she resided in with Smith and her four children. Shortly after arriving, Smith told the minor to meet a man outside in his car, have sex with him, collect money, and come back inside. When the minor objected, she testified Smith said she would "get in trouble" if she refused, later telling her "this is what you're going to be doing from now on."
Smith later uploaded images of the minor to Backpage.com and solicited prostitution.
Smith and the minor were also involved in a fight after she locked him out of a hotel room in which Smith punched the minor several times and pointed a gun at the minor.
A Shreveport Police Department officer discovered the online ads the day after the fight between Smith and the victim. Suspecting the victim was a minor, the department arranged a sting operation — ultimately rescuing the victim and arresting Smith and Washington.
According to prosecutors, Smith kept all the money made during the sex trafficking.
This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a U.S. Department of Justice nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood combines federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
Those concerned may also leave tips with the FBI at tips.fbi.gov. Tips may be submitted anonymously. The Shreveport FBI office number is (318) 861-1890.