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Brantford - The Expositor
Oct 16, 2022
Read The Original Article Here | By: Susan Gamble
When she was 18 years old in 2018, Deja Denique Clarke trafficked two teenagers at Brantford hotels and motels.
For 4 1/2 years, she denied the crimes, saying she was the victim of a revenge plot. But, at a recent sentencing hearing in Brantford’s Superior Court, Justice John Harper heard Clarke say she was sorry.
“Today, she expressed remorse,” said the judge.
“Today, she indicated she recognized and accepted full responsibility and I accept that today she was sincere.”
Despite accepting blame, Clarke, in an emotional statement, also told the judge she “would never do any of the things she was charged with.”
Clarke was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison minus time served of 4 1/2 months.
She was found guilty last November two counts each of human trafficking and receiving financial benefit from a crime and single counts of advertising a person to provide sexual services, procuring a person to offer sexual services, possession of another person’s identity document to commit an offence and possession of currency obtained by crime.
In sentencing Clarke, the judge said he considered the defence’s evidence that the woman was a victim of sexual abuse as a teen, had serious mental health considerations and had experienced anti-Black racism living in Brampton and Brantford. The two victims in the case were Black.
But Harper said he was guided by the fact that sexual violence against children has “life-altering consequences.”
During a long trial that involved both Clarke and her boyfriend, Same Alemu, now 25, the court learned that Clarke had befriended two Hamilton girls, aged 14 and 16, and brought them to Brantford.
She set them up in a hotel, advertised their availability online, instructed them on what to do and charge and provided them condoms. She then collected the money they took from men, who either came to a hotel or had the girls delivered to their homes.
The girls were able to leave once but Clarke lured them back and put them to work.
On March 11, 2018, the teens were able to get a message to a friend who called Brantford police and an officer rescued them.
One victim, now 20, said she has flashbacks and is grateful to be alive.
“Never in a million years did I think I would be forced into the sex trade by another woman,” said the victim.
“Deja, I hope you can come out of this a better person and live a healthy life. I forgive you for what you did but I’ll never forget.”
The second victim would not submit a victim impact statement and lashed out in rage several times during the trial.
“(She) was remarkably overwhelmed and angry in her testimony,” said assistant Crown attorney Jeff Mazin.
“Both victims would have preferred to try and forget what happened and not testify. Both felt the court process was unfair.”
Mazin said that, although Alemu participated in the crimes, Clarke was the clear leader. In July, Alemu was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison after being found guilty of procuring persons under 18 for sexual services.
“Deja Clarke was selfish and callous in the pursuit of money, which she took from (the victims),” said Mazin. “She was the controlling and exploitative force behind the crimes, showing no remorse or insight into her behaviour.”
Defence lawyer Katie Scott painted Clarke as a victimized Black woman who was a “perpetrator-victim” deeply affected by systemic racism, including being one of the only Black students in school when her family moved to Brantford.
Scott successfully asked the court to grant an “enhanced pre-sentence report.” which examines issues that could lead to crimes.
She presented letters from Clarke’s mother and sister, begging the court for leniency and asked for enhanced credit for time Clarke spent on bail. Scott suggested as an appropriate sentence 39 months in prison, minus almost 14 1/2 months of enhanced time served credit, with extra credit for strict bail conditions.
The Crown called for seven years in prison.
The judge noted a “disconnect” in how Clarke’s upbringing was described in the original pre-sentence report and the enhanced version, which told of a more unfortunate family history and Clarke’s rejection as the “black sheep of the family.”
Harper also noted Clarke had connected with mental health resources but hadn’t followed up with appointments, causing him concern for her rehabilitation.
He gave Clarke time served credit of 41/2 months, leaving her just over five years to serve.
And he ordered that she be on the sexual offenders registry for the rest of her life.
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