The path 19-year-old Curtis Maurice Canady took to land face to face this week with a no-nonsense federal judge in Orange County for pimping minor girls in prostitution near Disneyland isn't pretty or fair.
Canady grew up in an exceptionally poor, crime-infested section of Los Angeles. His mother gave birth to him at the age of 14. When he was a toddler, his father--a convicted murderer serving a life sentence in Pelican Bay State Prison since 2001--dropped out of his life. Electricity and food wasn't always available at home. His stepfather was a physically abusive drunk murdered in a bloody 2008 drive-by shooting covered by the Los Angeles Times. His family allowed an illegal sex ring to operate out of their home during part of his childhood. When he walked to and from elementary school, he passed groups of prostitutes working the streets and nobody thought to coach him on ethics or morals, a failure that later blinded him to legal consequences of selling underage girls for sex to anonymous men. He began smoking marijuana daily when he reached puberty, quit high school before graduating and colored himself in tattoos, including inking a Gucci symbol on his face. While a minor he started dating an older prostitute and worked as her driver. He picked "Cash" as a nickname because he naively thought it was flattering.
On the brighter side, Canady loved skateboarding, sports and recording rap music. He posted a couple of his lively performances on the Internet and played in small Southern California venues. He also won the sincere love of his family and friends, 13 of whom drove to the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana to show support during his sentencing hearing.
Last summer police detectives caught Canady working as a pimp selling minor girls and transporting them between Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Anaheim. His warped, off-kilter support group responded to his arrest with intense outrage, alternatively claiming he was framed by a well-respected Anaheim Police Department vice squad, blaming Orange County white racism and, incredibly, maintaining the notion there is nothing wrong about pimping girls not old enough to obtain a driver's license or legally see an "R-rated" movie. After initially pleading not guilty, Canady had a change of heart. He confessed and wrote a letter to U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter.
"I understand that what I did was wrong and I should have been smarter," he explained to Carter in neat, handwritten penmanship and perfect grammar (especially for a high school dropout). "I only wish to move forward and get something positive out of life . . . Although people may look at me and my appearance and make assumptions, I am truly not a bad kid. This has really been a life lesson learned and I will never make a mistake like this again."
He claims one of his biggest worries now is that his mother will lose her government welfare and housing subsidies.
As evidence of his asserted regret, Canady did something I've never seen an adult defendant do in decades covering court cases. In 51, single-spaced pages, he dutifully wrote over and over again--5,015 times to be precise: "I will not aid prostitution." His taxpayer-funded defense lawyers thought the exercise reflected both school kid-type immaturity but also genuine sincerity. They shared the pages with Carter not because the pimp asked them too, but because they thought the information would give the judge valuable insight.
But post-arrest wishes and twisted rationales couldn't alter the strength of veteran Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Brown's case. Brown requested that Canady serve 97 months in prison as the appropriate punishment and Carter, one of California's most thoughtful judges, agreed. When he re-emerges back into society around 2020, this defendant will be forced to undergo formal supervised probation for an additional decade.
This case--like all the other recent Disneyland-area cases involving trafficking of minors--raises an alarming question: Who nowadays doesn't understand it is repugnant and illegal to sell children for sex?
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Sadly, that's the approaching sound of similar, future pimping cases in our county.