A prosecutor described it as 25 days of hell.
A 17-year-old girl was kidnapped in early 2019, taken to a hotel and forced to pose for nude photos that would be used as sex advertisements.
She was raped by at least six men. The money the men paid for sex was given to Darius L. Alston, who said he would kill the girl’s family if she didn’t prostitute herself.
For one meeting, Alston drove the girl to a man’s truck, where the man beat her, held her at gunpoint and sexually assaulted her until she bled. After the encounter, Douglas County prosecutor Beth Beninato said, she had to walk two miles until Alston picked her up again.
“His job is selling human beings for money, that’s his job,” Beninato said of Alston. “He is a menace to society.”
Alston, 29, was sentenced Friday by Douglas County District Judge Marlon Polk to 40 to 60 years on two counts of sex trafficking. Following state sentencing guidelines, he will be eligible for parole after about 20 years and must be released after 30 years. He also must register as a sex offender.
From Feb. 10 to March 7, Alston advertised the girl on websites for sex. When he first picked her up at her home, he took her to a hotel room at Travel Inn Omaha near 108th and L Streets and told her a man would be arriving soon. He said she had to do whatever he wanted for $80.
The girl then had to give the money to Alston, who was in his car in the parking lot.
Alston also forced another young woman, age 18, to have sex with men for money. She initially was charged in connection with her involvement in the scheme because the 17-year-old said she helped take photos and collect the money.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said it’s typical in sex-trafficking cases for men to coerce females to recruit other females.
“It fits the dynamics of these kinds of cases,” Kleine said.
After more interviews, investigators determined the 18-year-old also was a victim and dropped charges against her. She provided a wealth of information that helped prosecutors with Alston’s case and led to the indictment of an Iowa man, Beninato said.
Cindy Tate, an assistant public defender, said the 18-year-old was able to act as a victim in order to evade prosecution. She noted that Alston did not sexually assault the young women. She also said he did not threaten them — he just treated the crime of opportunity as a business.
In a statement to the court, Alston said he was raised by three women: his mother, his aunt and his grandmother, all of whom were in the courtroom Friday. He also has nine children, four of whom are girls.
He asked Polk for probation in order to be with his kids and show them what a man is.
“I would never try to degrade any woman, intentionally or purposefully,” Alston said.
Beninato said Alston’s words rang hollow.
“A real man is someone who respects and supports his fellow human beings. Not disrespect. Not forcing people in situations by terrorizing them to sell them for sex,” she said. “He’s not thinking about his kids. He’s thinking about his pocket.”
Polk said he knew “in less than 10 seconds” that probation was not appropriate for Alston.
“The part of this I can’t put together is you say that you were in the good hands of so many women in your life and you have four daughters of your own, but yet you turn around and do this to these girls?” he said.
Tate said at one point when visiting Alston in jail, she asked him how he would feel if a man were telling his daughters to prostitute themselves. It seemed that something clicked, she said.
“There was no response, but the look on his face said it all,” Tate said. “I don’t think Mr. Alston had ever placed a name or a face to these female victims. Once it was put in perspective for him, that’s when the light bulb went off.”
After Polk issued the sentence, three women left the courtroom, yelling and sobbing. Alston’s relatives, who continued to loudly cry in the courthouse, declined to comment.
Kleine and Beninato said the public needs to understand that sex trafficking is happening in Omaha and elsewhere in Nebraska.
“A lot of people hear the term ‘human trafficking’ and they think, ‘Well, that doesn’t happen in Nebraska or Omaha,’” Kleine said. “But it’s real and it does and we’re seeing it and we’re handling these kinds of cases.”