Man gets 27 years, 8 months for sex trafficking Highland High School girls

Dec. 16—A man was sentenced Friday to 27 years, eight months in prison for forcing three Highland High School girls into sex trafficking by luring them with drugs.

"That's a horrific lifestyle they were forced to live," said Deputy District Attorney Tyson McCoy, who added one victim testified to having sex with hundreds of men. The Californian generally does not name victims of sexual assault.

Kajuan Richardson, 26, acknowledged he committed wrongs, but emotionally refuted McCoy's statements about him lacking remorse and hatching a "calculated" plan to trap girls. Richardson's comments before he was sentenced lasted nearly 30 minutes and teetered off with him tearing up.

"He doesn't know my heart," Richardson said of McCoy. "Only God knows my heart."

Richardson illegally sold drugs through the social media app Snapchat from November 2021 to February 2022. His buyers included teenagers from 14 to 17 years old, according to the DA's office.

"I don't think it's a coincidence he used Snapchat," McCoy added. Drugs acted as a "gateway" to force girls into a sex trade, the prosecutor noted.

Victims manipulated into sex trafficking were sold online or at local motels, the DA's office added. A teenager testified during trial she took drugs to endure having sex with strangers.

A Kern County jury found Richardson guilty last month of three felonies related to human trafficking of minors, pimping, possessing a firearm by a felon, transporting cannabis and having sexual content of minors.

This was a "classic" case of human trafficking, McCoy said. There's a misconception that human trafficking looks like someone stalking and kidnapping a victim. It actually more commonly appears through grooming vulnerable victims on social media, he noted.

"It was very sophisticated," McCoy said of Richardson's ability to manipulate victims. "It showed professionalism, it showed planning, it showed grooming."

Richardson added he's not psychologically smart enough to coerce girls into sex trafficking. He said he has kids, and wouldn't force anyone to do anything.

But McCoy added Richardson manipulated the vulnerable victims to feel loved and accepted and abused that trust. The prosecutor is confident if Richardson still freely roamed the streets, more victims would turn up.

The convicted trafficker blamed his background for leading him to Friday's sentencing.

He's been on probation since he was 12 years old and lived in group homes for years. Older criminals served as heavy influences on his life.

"I had no direction," Richardson continued. "I was just in the streets."

McCoy added Richardson was convicted of trafficking a 15-year-old girl in Orange County. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, but served less than half because of California's sentencing laws. Soon after Richardson's release, he jumped straight into similar patterns.

"The psychological damage, what they had to go through — that will always stay with them," McCoy said of the victims. "The defendant will be released from custody. He will be able to move on. Whether the victims will be able to overcome what they had to go through will be a question."

You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @_ishanidesai on Twitter.