Young women said he beat them with a silver-studded leather belt.
He pounded their feet with a hammer, bloodied one girl’s head with her own high-heeled shoe, poked a pregnant girl’s belly with a pimp stick and split her head open with a glass ashtray – all to force the girls, as young as 13, to prostitute themselves and hand him their money.
On Monday in a federal courtroom, Datqunn Sawyer, 32, could only drop his head and shake it repeatedly as the Chicago pimp was delivered a series of guilty verdicts that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.
Wearing a preppy gray sweater in court, Sawyer’s head sunk lower with every guilty verdict that was read.
A jury of nine women and three men took just a few hours to find Sawyer guilty on all counts against him, including 10 charges of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and sex trafficking of minors as well as conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors by force.
He must spend at least 15 years in prison, and he could face up to life in a case that has sparked the FBI, Chicago Police and Cook County Sheriff’s Department to formally start a task force that specifically targets sex trafficking of minors.
Six girls testified at the two-week trial to a similar pattern: they were 12-17 years of age when Sawyer befriended them. The girls, who often said they fell in love with him, were given names beginning with “P,” after his own nickname, “P Child” and branded with “P Child” tattoos or with Sawyer’s favorite saying after girls handed him cash from the day: “Chedda make it betta.”
The girls were forced to walk “the track” and have sex with strangers along Cicero Avenue. He’d also arrange for dates in upscale downtown hotel rooms or in homes after posting ads on Craig’s List.
Investigators also captured Sawyer on recorded phone calls, including one in which he acknowledges one of his girls is just 16.
The girls spoke of living with Sawyer in an apartment at Pulaski and Armitage, of walking the track and even of attending pimp parties with Sawyer, where awards were given out to the best pimps in the area.
Sawyer found victims by trolling the neighborhoods looking for young, vulnerable girls, most of who came from troubled backgrounds. He’d promise them love but then force them to prostitute themselves. Those who said no were often beaten or berated.
Sawyer’s defense was that the girls lied to him about their ages and even those who ran away from him returned. One girl, who was 12 when she first met Sawyer, said she once went back to Sawyer after leaving in part because she feared him – he knew all her personal information. “I was only a child,” she said in court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Nasser said encouraging victims to testify is often tricky because they often are fearful or want to protect their pimp.
“That’s part of how he controlled them, he would finesse them,” Nasser said. These victims, they don’t see themselves as victims, they don’t come forward to law enforcement because they’ve had bad experiences with them. …There’s a lot of self-blame involved, people look at them and say they are a prostitute.”
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Greg Wing said the new Innocence Lost Task Force will be formally up and running in a matter of weeks. With more severe penalties under federal law, authorities will target the most egregious offenders and see whether federal law, which can include mandatory minimum prison sentences, applies.
“We’ll have combined resources going after the biggest and the baddest,” traffickers of minors, Wing said. “Trafficking of children is one of the emerging trends, unfortunately.”
Two of Sawyer’s codefendants — Kevin Sharp, 53 and Waymond Orr, 33, pleaded guilty before trial. Sharp and Orr helped Sawyer with his operation, including by driving the girls to have sex with strangers on “the track.” Sharp and Orr also face life in prison.