A man who pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a 16-year-old girl who was later murdered was sentenced to seven years in prison Friday.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Coleman handed down the sentence to Charles McFee, tacking on five years of supervised release upon his discharge from prison. He must surrender on Aug. 6, though that date could be changed at another hearing next week.
McFee admitted to essentially selling 16-year-old Desiree Robinson for $250 to Joseph Hazley, a pimp who marketed her for sex on Backpage.com. Robinson was murdered, authorities allege, by a customer on Christmas Eve 2016 in a garage in south suburban Markham.
Hazley was sentenced to 32 years in prison last week.
At his two-hour sentencing hearing Thursday, the 27-year-old McFee said he “wasn’t thinking of the consequences of my actions at the time. I was young and dumb, truthfully.”
“I can’t take it back, but I would if I could,” he added.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Parente — who asked for a 9 ½-year sentence — stressed that McFee “knew what Mr. Hazley was going to do with Desiree.” Parente still heaped relative praise on McFee for his cooperation in the case, which included testifying against Hazley.
“He has a lot to offer, and I think he will go on to do good things,” Parente said. “I do not see this defendant as a danger to any other children going forward.”
About a half dozen members of McFee’s family were in court Friday, including his mother, a sister and a young nephew. At one point, Coleman asked McFee’s mother to take the young boy out into the hallway to avoid hearing some of the case’s details.
Parente also read aloud a letter written by Robinson’s mother, Yvonne Ambrose, who said the teen had “the brightest smile that lit up any room.” She also called for accountability for those involved in her daughter’s death.
“Charles McFee preyed upon my baby,” Ambrose wrote. “He was willing to sell my baby’s safety, her life, for $250.”
“Desiree did not deserve or ask to be sold to the highest bidder,” she added.
McFee’s attorney, Christopher Graul, called McFee’s behavior in the case “an aberration,” adding that “this is not an evil man.”
Testifying at Hazley’s trial, McFee said he and Robinson had only planned to con Hazley and split the money — a finder’s fee Hazley was going to give McFee for bringing him the teen. Robinson, though, ended up staying with Hazley.
McFee said he met Robinson through Facebook in 2016, and they quickly began meeting in person. Robinson, he said, claimed to be 18 years old. Late in the year, McFee said, Robinson had arranged to perform a commercial sex act on her own, and McFee said he drove her to her date. However, he said, it fell through.
To make some quick money, McFee said he suggested taking Robinson to Hazley’s house, where McFee planned to collect the finder’s fee in exchange for Robinson. Then, McFee said he expected he’d be able to leave for a liquor store with the girl. He said he schemed with Robinson to make it look like she ran away while they were running their errand. Later, they would meet up and split the money.
McFee said he planned to keep $50 of the $250.
Instead, when they arrived, Hazley asked Robinson if she was sure she wanted to have sex for money, McFee said. When she agreed, Hazley allegedly asked another woman who worked for him, nicknamed “Winter,” to get Robinson some nice clothes. Hazley then uploaded photos of Robinson to Backpage and gave Robinson the nickname “Nicki,” McFee said.
Robinson’s accused killer, Antonio Rosales, is awaiting trial in state court. The feds seized Backpage last year, and its founders are under indictment.