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Human trafficking lands Superior man in prison

MADISON — A 56-year-old Superior man who tried to get a teenage girl to work as prostitute was sentenced Wednesday in federal court to 15 years in prison followed by 10 years supervised release on a human trafficking charge.

Eugene Wearing sought out a then 15-year-old girl, "a family friend" whose family he knew was having financial problems and offered to set her up as a prostitute once she proved her skills to him, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman.

Wearing told the girl she could earn $1,000 per "date."

Wearing then took photos of the girl in her underwear and posted them on the Craigslist website, offering her to men in March 2014.

The girl was with Wearing and his children at a Superior hotel when Wearing told her he had a sex client for her at the hotel. However, the client and Wearing both saw police at the location and decided it was too risky too and called off the "date."

A few days later Wearing arranged for another man to have sex with the girl at an apartment he acquired for commercial sex acts but the client did not show up.

Also in March 2014, Wearing picked up the girl as she walked to her school bus stop and took her to the same apartment. The girl asked Wearing to take her home but Wearing replied, "You don't want to get me in trouble, do you?" Wearing told her that she had made a commitment to their sex business and she needed to do as she was told, according to documents filed in court.

Wearing would not let the girl leave the apartment and had sex with her then, and other numerous times, many through intimidation and manipulation, Altman said.

District Judge William Conley called Wearing's crime "horrific" and warranted severe punishment but it is not a typical trafficking case that is associated with the 30-plus year sentences that can be imposed under federal sentencing guidelines.

There was only one victim in the case, unusual for a trafficking offense, and the interstate element of the offense was "happenstance" because Superior and Duluth are geographically close.

Wearing's attorney agreed that his client's conduct was "horrific" and would be severely punished if the case had remained in Douglas County. Instead, he asked for a 10-year sentence, saying it would probably be the last "fruitful decade" of his life considering he has Parkinson's disease.

Altman asked for a 25-year sentence saying while there was only one victim, she was young and highly vulnerable to Wearing's manipulations and traumatically affected by his crime.

The sexual assault counselor read the girl's written statement in court saying she still has nightmares and takes medication to help block out the memories of her encounters with Wearing. She would not have reported Wearing to the police but her mother told her he might victimize other minors unless he is caught.

Conley told her that he could not attempt to understand her pain but hoped she could get beyond it.

"These events don't define you, they are not you, they are the defendant's. I hope you can lead a productive life and advocate for others like you," the judge said.

Wearing said that it "was difficult to listen to the statement of the victim and to think that I am the cause of that."

Wearing was on probation when he was charged with human trafficking. He underwent a mental health evaluation and was found competent to stand trial. After a trial before Conley without a jury, Wearing was found guilty of recruiting and coercing a minor to engage in a commercial sex act despite not having engaged in sex for hire.

Conley wrote that as defined by case law, violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act does not require the victim to have engaged in a commercial sex act if they were recruited and marketed for commercial sex.

Conley made Wearing's sentence consecutive to cases pending in Douglas County and St. Louis County, Minn., which are "related and unrelated to the conduct in this case."

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