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Richard Purnell, 56, maintains that he did not know that the victim, who was 14 years old when he started having sex with her for money, was not an adult. He based this on Backpage. District Judge John Adams did not buy it.
He said the evidence presented at Purnell's trial in September, as well as other information provided to him by prosecutors and the U. Probation Office, showed that Purnell knew the victim was not an adult. Purnell hired the girl, who worked both for the pimp and on her own, several times before the FBI's intervention. Agents posted an ad online using the same username as the victim. Two hours after the ad was placed, Purnell responded, thinking he was texting the girl.
He set up a meeting at his house for the next day. Pratt pleaded guilty to three counts of sex trafficking of children. The probation office recommended that Purnell serve a sentence of life in prison. Adams thought this was too high, especially in light of Pratt's sentence, though Pratt cooperated with investigators and accepted responsibility for his crimes.
Assistant U. Attorney Bridget Brennan said at Monday's hearing that the teenage victim is recovering from her experience as a prostitute, as well as her troubled upbringing. The victim did not ask for any restitution from Purnell, because she knows what that would represent, Brennan said. She even decided against coming to court to watch Purnell get sentenced. And who can blame her? Brennan, as well as the judge, repeatedly came back to the fact that Purnell drove to Canton to pick the girl up from a foster home so he could bring her back to his house in Parma and have sex.
While the girl texted Purnell and said she was in a facility to address a drinking problem, Adams viewed Purnell's decision as "another opportunity to exploit her, to use her, to abuse her. Purnell is expected to appeal his case. Federal public defender Edward Bryan said his client maintains he did not know the victim was 14 years old and that video of his FBI interrogation showed that Purnell had a noticeable reaction when the agents informed him of this. In arguing for a sentence of 10 years, the mandatory minimum, Bryan Purnell learned a lot and now knows his actions caused harm.