Human trafficking charges guarantee no chance ever for parole
Publisher’s Note: In court, testifying victims were named for jury purposes. However, to protect their identities, the Tribune will be referring to them by their pseudonyms given during the investigation.
By Susan Lindsey Staff Reporter
Through tears, a 29-year-old DeKalb woman told a jury how she was drugged and raped to try to coerce her into becoming a sex worker.
“He went to the kitchen and got me a drink … then everything slows down and I get real heavy. I could barely move my arms and my legs. I felt like I couldn’t move at all. Everything was real slow, real sluggish feeling”, the woman, identified as Adult Victim #8 in court documents, told the jury in the trial of 40-yearold Brandon Palmer.
“From the drink, I ended up on the floor and I don’t remember how. I was on the couch then I was on the floor … My arms were stretched out above my head and my pants were getting took off.”
The jury of six women and six men found Palmer guilty and sentenced him to two life sentences plus 80 years in a Texas state prison for sexual assault, trafficking women for prostitution and possession of a cell phone while in jail. The jury selected to enhance the charges due to Palmer’s criminal career going back to 2002. His sentences will run concurrent because of state law. The trafficking charge makes Palmer not eligible for parole in the State of Texas.
Palmer is one of four named defendants in a sex for hire operation which dated back to 2015. One of the co-defendants, Rashaan “Fashion” Cunningham, 46, pleaded guilty earlier this month to two counts each of trafficking and sexual assault. He received 40 years for each charge, all four sentences to run concurrent.
Victim #8 was the named victim in an assault charge against both Palmer and Cunningham.
She told the jury how the men took turns holding her down and raping her while she was unable to move.
“Fashion got my pants off and started having sex with me … Then they switched … I kept saying no and I was telling them to stop … I couldn’t even move my arms up … he told me to shut up. He told me that this was going to make me join with Fashion doing what he wanted me to do,” she said in her testimony.
When they were done, she said they just left the room.
“They left and I was just laying there until I could just finally sit up. As soon as I could, I got my pants on and I ran out of that house,” she added.
Palmer, Cunningham and Palmer’s younger brother Marcus Palmer, 38, were indicted for drugging, threatening and using violence to force women into prostitution.
The fourth defendant, Ryan Layne, 48, is alleged to have been a regular customer of the trio, Throughout Palmer’s trial, the jury heard testimony from several victims of the trio, but only three were named in the trial charges against Palmer.
Some of the victims had to be subpoenaed to testify.
“I interviewed 22 victims and every one of them were scared of him,”Texas Department of Public Safety Special Agent Briscoe Davis said in his testimony.
Davis, who has successfully worked a number of human trafficking and child sexual abuse investigations in Bowie County, led the investigation into the prostitution operation.
The women who testified told the jury how they had addictions to methamphetamine and Xanax before meeting the Palmers and Cunningham and the promise of a supply of drugs kept them under the control of the trio.
A 25-year-old woman identified as Adult Victim #13 testified that she first came to know Palmer in 2015 at the age of 17. At the time, she told the jury she had been five years into a heavy addiction to methamphetamine and Palmer was supplying it for her.
“You wake up, if you wake up at all, if you’ve even been to bed, and you get high. You look for ways to get high. Then after you get high, you look for money to get high again. It just kind of goes in a circle. Anywhere you can get money. Anything goes, it doesn’t matter really,” she told the jury when describing her day to day life amid her addiction.
Victim #13 was one of the two named victims in the trafficking charges brought to trial against Palmer.
She testified that between 2015 and 2021, Palmer sold her for sex on “50, 60, 70” and upwards of 100 times.
Palmer did not testify in either the trial or the sentencing phase. First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp and Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards represented the state. Palmer was represented by Texarkana attorney Derric McFarland.
At the conclusion of the four day trial, 202nd District Court Judge John Tidwell thanked the jury for their service. “When we started this process of potential jurors, I told you I was looking for 12 people to listen to the evidence, to be fact finders and be prepared to render a verdict … The community has spoken through your work and your verdict. And I thank you on behalf of myself, my staff, and most importantly the people of this county,” he told the jury before dismissing them.
Palmer’s mother was present throughout the entirety of the trial and broke down into tears when the verdict and sentence were read.
The trial for Marcus Palmer is scheduled to begin next week. Layne’s trial is set for mid September.