Crystal, a former 23-year-old Texas stripper, worked as a prostitute for Christopher Lamont Brantley, her pimp, in Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C. and, around the time of the 2008 Super Bowl, Orange County.
Based on her $300 to $1,500 daily income, the otherwise unemployed 32-year-old Brantley managed to live "a pretty rich life," Crystal would later tell an an Orange County jury. He liked to wildly gamble, drink $120 bottles of liquor and buy games for his Sony PlayStation. Jeans that cost $600 repeatedly proved irresistible to him.
But being an immature, violent hoodlum, Brantley never managed to grasp the first rule of business: Don't break your own product.
Despite the sweet, tax-free cash flow, the arrangement between Crystal and Chris began to crumble at a Motel 6 in Orange after he refused to save any money and wanted her to train a new employee. While the Pittsburgh Steelers were on their way to defeating the Arizona Cardinals for the world championship, Chris answered Crystal's cell phone and decided--erroneously--that she had a financial deal with another pimp. The thought proved too much for him to handle.
Chris punched Crystal as much as 50 times in the face and vagina, kicked her at least 30 times, repeatedly whipped her body with an electrical cord until she bled, broke a glass ash tray on her head and forced her to sit naked in a corner and answer questions while he threatened to "stomp" her to death. After listening to a rap song about killing, he grabbed her hair, threw her on a bed, choked her and made her defecate in a corner of the room before she passed out and he fled.
When police eventually arrived, they transported Crystal to a hospital. Detectives then asked the motel manager to call Chris, who was out of state, and ask him to return to collect his clothes, computer and PlayStation. But he played dumb. He said that he'd never even been to California.
His defense might have had a better chance without Crystal's eyewitness statements and the fact that a computer and beer bottles recovered in the motel room carried his fingerprints. Compounding his problem, he'd left his DNA on a broken ash stray.
Found in Las Vegas and confronted, Chris changed his story: He'd arrived at the motel and found Crystal already beaten. Before the interview concluded, he admitted that he'd been violent, but had only grabbed her by the neck and shook her.
An Orange County jury convicted Chris and he appealed, claiming that his trial violated the U.S. Constitution because, for example, Superior Court Judge Richard W. Stanford, Jr. had used his prior violent felonies--he'd shot two people in Texas--to slap him with California's tough Three Strikes law.
This month, a Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana considered his arguments and determined that he'd been wronged. According to a three-justice panel led by Justice Raymond Ikola, Stanford's punishment had been too severe. The prison term was reduced by a whopping 18 years.
But I'm guessing this pimp isn't elated. Instead of having to serve a sentence of 138 years in prison, he now has to spend only the next 120 years locked away. In 2131, he'll be 153 years old. That's when he gets his first chance to return to society.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly