06/24/2024

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Robert Hawkins appears in a booking photo

Man gets 448 historic years in prison for human trafficking operation in which girls called him ‘master’ and ‘had to serve’ by making him meals and at least $500 per day

Robert Hawkins appears in a booking photo (Denver District Attorney’s Office)

A Colorado man has been sentenced to 448 years behind bars for human trafficking-related offenses — the second-longest sentence ever meted out for such charges in U.S. history. If the sentence holds up on appeal, it would qualify as the longest such sentence ever.

In March, Robert Earl Hawkins, 44, was convicted by a Denver jury on 18 charges, including three counts of human trafficking — sexual servitude of an adult, one count of human trafficking — sexual servitude of a minor, four counts of pimping of an adult, one count of pimping of a child, one count of sexually assaulting a child, and two counts of assault in the first degree, as well as various other charges.

The defendant was tried in three separate but related cases involving seven victims. The charged crimes occurred between 2018 and 2021.

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    During the trial, prosecutors showed that Hawkins used violence and threats to keep his victims subservient to him.

    Four victims were identified as adult women by law enforcement. Two victims were identified as children. One victim was a man who purchased sex from a sex worker under Hawkins’ control and was subsequently shot in the leg and robbed by the defendant.

    “Like most human traffickers, Robert Hawkins showed no regard for anybody but himself, taking advantage of six extremely vulnerable victims,” Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said in a press release. “This sentence should send the message that human trafficking of any kind will not be allowed in any way in Denver, and that those convicted of the crime will pay a significant price for it.”

    One victim described Hawkins as her “master” and said the girls he controlled “had to serve” him by “doing things like making him meals and making money for him through commercial sex acts,” according to a search warrant affidavit filed in the case.

    “[T]he girls were required to make a minimum of $500 per day,” the affidavit reads. “They were also required to make a $5,000 quota to gain Hawkins’ trust. This quota was intended to help pay for a fake identification and birth certificate in order for the girls to travel to and perform sex work in California.”

    Prosecutors say Hawkins used a popular online escort ad website to advertise women and girls — with listings in Denver and Los Angeles.

    An adult victim came forward in December 2019 — prompting a nearly two-year-long investigation. An arrest warrant was issued in October 2021. He was arrested in the Golden State the next month.

    During the sentencing hearing, a defense attorney pushed for 40 years behind bars, which had previously been the state’s offer during plea negotiations, according to Denver-based Fox affiliate KDVR.

    But, prosecutors pushed back, noting the plea was offered to stop the victims from being re-traumatized by having to go through the trial process — and that Hawkins opted to have his day in court.

    Second Judicial District Judge Kandace Gerdes issued the lengthy sentence.

    The longest sentence ever handed down for human trafficking also occurred in Colorado.

    In 2017, Brock Franklin was sentenced to 472 years in prison by Arapahoe County Judge Peter F. Michaelson for sexually exploiting women and children as the pimp of a child prostitution ring. Later, an appellate court reduced Franklin’s sentence to 401 years behind bars.

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