Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Alleged pimp confronts federal judge Memphis man indicted on 14 counts related to human sex-trafficking ring

By Beth Warren
On the streets, Memphis native Terrence Arnett Yarbrough reigned over a dozen teens and women with intimidation and extreme violence, federal prosecutors say.
The alleged pimp branded four victims with his nickname, "T-Rex," knocked out a teen's front teeth and chopped her hair off with a knife, poured bleach on a woman before burning her with an iron and beating her with a padlock, and smashed another woman's head into a car before stripping skin off of her back, according to the federal charges against him.
But when Yarbrough faced off with a federal judge during a contentious hearing Monday, the judge made it clear that the courtroom is not Yarbrough's domain.
Yarbrough, 35, insists he is innocent on charges of running a national, human sex-trafficking ring. He told U.S. Dist. Judge S. Thomas Anderson he wanted to represent himself because he has already been through five lawyers he described as incompetent or unethical.
Yarbrough frequently interrupted the judge and said he found the hearing "redundant."
"Mr. Yarbrough, you're playing games with me and I'm not going to tolerate that," Anderson said.
The judge's face flashed crimson as the antagonism continued.
Yarbrough blurted out: "Your face is getting very red."
The judge responded: "Well, don't you know, they call me Red Face Tom. I take my job very seriously."
Yarbrough, who faces 15 years to life in prison if convicted, retorted: "I take my life seriously."
The judge, who had repeatedly cautioned the defendant about the challenges of forgoing help from a defense attorney, responded: "You should."
In August, a federal grand jury indicted Yarbrough on 14 counts, including child sex trafficking of four teens and sex trafficking of eight women by force, fraud and coercion from 2006 to 2009.
Anderson ordered Yarbrough to undergo a mental-health evaluation to determine his competency, and said he will decide whether Yarbrough can represent himself after the evaluation.
Yarbrough and his mother, Norma Webb of Memphis also are charged with lying to get food stamps and TennCare benefits, purportedly for Yarbrough and his infant son in 2009. At the time, Yarbrough was in a Missouri prison and the child was living with an aunt in Memphis, according to the indictment.
The government gave more than $1,800 to Yarbrough that was spent by other people, the indictment alleges.
In a 10-page letter the defendant sent to reporters and court officials, he claims the money was lawfully used for his son.
In pretrial motions, federal prosecutors say the FBI's investigation yielded "a massive volume of incriminating evidence" against Yarbrough, including thousands of images, videos, recorded phone calls, information on social media sites and transaction records. And, they say, all 12 victims are ready to testify.
Yarbrough's letter accused the FBI of teaming with prosecutors to frame him.
He cited a Bible verse against prostitution and used lewd sexual images to attack the lead investigator. Yarbrough included a reader advisory on the cover page: "Warning: this letter contains some words that may be considered offensive, inappropriate and/or vulgar to some readers. I am only trying to exercise my rights to freedom of speech."
Federal prosecutors Stephen Parker and Jonathan Skrmetti said in legal filings Yarbrough might use unpredictable behavior to intentionally cause a mistrial.
"This defendant has demonstrated repeatedly his abusive and manipulative approach to the legal process," the prosecutors wrote in their motion.
They say Yarbrough tried to get the victims to destroy evidence and lie to investigators, and that he threatened his own lawyers.
Parker and Skrmetti urged Anderson, who will oversee the trial, to appoint an attorney to remain on standby to avoid a retrial, "so as to spare the defendant's many victims from the painful prospect of having to testify multiple times about the degrading physical, sexual and mental abuse."
A trial date has not been set.
-- Beth Warren: (901) 529-2383

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