A federal jury has found an Illinois man guilty of forcing a woman into prostitution at a hotel in Bloomington.
The jury convicted Darnell Deshawn Stennis, 29, of sex trafficking by force, fraud, coercion, transporting an individual to engage in prostitution, and obstruction, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release on Thursday.
“Darnell Stennis is a violent sex trafficker whose singular goal was to make money by gaining physical, emotional, and financial control over his victims," said Acting U.S. Attorney W. Anders Folk.
Between January and March in 2019, Stennis transported a woman between Minneapolis and North Dakota to force her into prostitution. He also used threats and physical violence to force another woman into performing commercial sex acts.
Stennis was arrested on March 25, 2019, after Bloomington police were called to the La Quinta Inn on a report that a hotel guest heard yelling and what sounded like someone being thrown against a wall.
Police officers found Stennis and two other women. In their hotel room, officers found "obvious signs of a disturbance," including a toilet seat in multiple pieces and a bent towel rack.
One of the women told police Stennis had assaulted her after she told him she didn't want to be a prostitute anymore. She said he choked her, bashed her head into the towel rack and pushed her down onto the toilet seat.
“The damage inflicted upon survivors of this form of sexual exploitation is immeasurable. The victims are subject to multiple forms of trauma, which never fully fade,” Jamie G. Holt, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations St. Paul, said in a news release. “Stennis used violent assault, fear, coercion, and control to abuse and exploit two people for nothing more than simple greed. HSI special agents remain steadfast in our pursuit of all those who perpetrate this modern-day slavery.”
Stennis was found guilty after a four-day trial. A sentencing date wasn't announced.