September 22, 2015 - 10:30 AM
VANCOUVER - A British Columbia man found guilty of luring teenage girls into prostitution should spend more than 20 years behind bars, says a Crown lawyer.
Prosecutor Kristin Bryson argued in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday that Reza Moazami should serve back-to-back sentences for each of his 11 victims, who ranged in age from 14 to 19.
In the first human-trafficking conviction in the province, Moazami was convicted last September of 30 of 36 charges laid against him, including sexual exploitation, sexual assault and living off the avails of prostitution.
The court heard during his trial that Moazami recruited vulnerable girls by promising them drugs, alcohol and, in one instance, a puppy.
"Crime must not get cheaper by the dozen," Bryson told the court, quoting an earlier judgment to bolster her case.
Moazami was arrested in 2011 and spent three years and seven months in custody, meaning the Crown's proposed sentence would amount to a further 17 years imprisonment.
A sentencing hearing was scheduled initially for early December but was delayed after Moazami fired his counsel.
Moazami was present for the sentencing hearing and wore jeans and an untucked, neatly pressed, blue dress shirt. When not staring ahead passively he fidgeted in his seat and periodically hunched forward to scribble notes on a yellow pad of legal paper.
One of Moazami's two lawyers began Monday's hearing by asking that Justice Catherine Bruce reconsider her judgment on his client's five convictions of living off the avails of prostitution.
Lawyer Jeremy Fung argued those convictions were no longer constitutional because the Supreme Court of Canada's one-year delay in overturning the country's prostitution laws had expired since Moazami's conviction.
The country's top court struck down Canada's prostitution laws in December 2013, but gave the government a year to establish new legislation.
Bruce rejected Fung's argument, saying what mattered was that the laws were constitutional at the time of Moazami's conviction.
"Mr. Moazami may have an appeal," she said. "But I've convicted him and I'm going to sentence him."
Speaking outside the courtroom, defence lawyer Brian Coleman said he would push for a sentence of "significantly less" than 17 years, but declined to provide specifics.
Moazami testified in his own defence at his trial, saying he didn't know the teens were underage and that he hadn't been living off the money they earned while having sex with a dozen men a day on average.
He is scheduled to appear in court next month to face additional charges of breaching his bail conditions and obstructing justice.
In both instances he allegedly made contact with victims, once online while on bail and once through a third party while in custody at a pre-trial centre.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015