Tonisha Alecia Moore doesn't deny she is a prostitute and that in 2012 she violated federal law by transporting two minor girls, ages 13 and 17, across several state lines to sell them by the hour on the Internet for sex.
But Moore, 24, is hoping U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney is lenient at her July 8 sentencing hearing inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
Sentencing guidelines call for a minimum of 135 months in prison and there's a mandatory minimum incarceration period tied to the use of children in the prostitution ring that operated in Nevada, Arizona and California: 120 months.
Pimp Eric Lamar Wells, Moore's criminal cohort and the father of her three-year-old daughter, wept during his June 26 in a play for significant guideline waiver to serve 84 months in prison, but instead received the mandatory minimum.
Randolph K. Driggs, Moore's defense lawyer, has advised Carney that his client deserves a guideline waiver reduction to 70 months largely because of her “unusually harsh [personal] history” that included repeated molestations as a child, cocaine addiction and because she blames fear of violence from Wells as a major cause of her participation in the sex crimes.
“There is a long history of abuse from Wells to Moore,” Driggs told Carney in a brief.
Moore, who is 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, sent the judge a letter and explained her remorse.
“I would like you to know that I am very ashamed of the person I was when I got arrested,” she wrote. “I was nothing more than a drug addicted prostitute and at one point I felt that I had no way out of that lifestyle. I feel like being incarcerated was an intervention and wake up call for me. I can now say that I am proud of the woman I am becoming and I am longing to live a lifestyle that includes my daughter . . . I would like to apologize to the victims and their families. After being able to look back at what happened with a clear mind and remembering the events that transpired, I am ashamed and there is no way to justify what took place . . . Your Honor, I know I have made mistakes but I am not of a criminal mind.”
Letters to Carney from Moore's relatives blamed the defendant's plight on Wells' negative influence.
Wells, who recruited the two minors in Las Vegas, has already been bused from lockup in Orange County to begin serving his 10-year sentence at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles.
When he emerges from prison, he'll be ordered to undergo federal supervised probation for eight years.
Denied bail, Moore remains locked inside the Santa Ana Jail.
Police captured Wells and Moore, who collected all the money the girls made from Johns, after they sold the minors for sex near Disneyland.