Last week, a federal court upheld a 27-year prison sentence for a self-styled "vampire" sex trafficker. Damion St. Patrick Baston, 39, was a pimp in the hard, abusive sense the word possessed before MTV sanitized it for easy television.
Baston, a former stripper, required his victims to call him "Drac," short for Dracula. Baston often wore yellow contact lenses and gold fangs to enhance his bloodsucker persona.
One former prostitute, named only as K.L. in court documents, testified that Baston was a frequently violent man, using the raw physical power to keep women in line. Baston often used steroids and could, allegedly, lift up to 600 lbs. Baston used his bodybuilder strength to assault and throw women across the room when he was in a bad mood. K.L. recalled a particular instance where Baston—jealous because he believed K.L. was cheating on him with another female worker—punched K.L. in her pelvis, strangled her, and then held a flame-heated knife directly to her throat.
Another woman, T.M., testified that Baston once wrapped a belt around her neck and made her crawl on her hands and knees like a dog.
A third woman testified that Baston forced her to have an abortion because he "didn't want to have a baby by a punk bitch."
Using the money he collected from prostitutes, Baston funded a lavish lifestyle for himself, which, according to court documents, included $75,000 diamond watches, homes in multiple countries, designer clothes and fur coats.
At first, the women's business relationship with Baston was consensual, but his violent tendencies increased—whenever the women tried to leave the arrangement, Baston violently coerced them into staying.
Baston marketed the women as high-end escorts over Instagram and in classified ads. Testimony from a woman, identified as L.S., explained that a usual night's work could net $2,000 to $3,000—all of which went to Baston. Baston collected the money and would return some of it to the women when they personally asked him for funds. Women were expected to work seven nights a week.
Baston imposed a rigid set of rules on the prostitutes. Per trial testimony, Baston forbade his victims from, among other things, seeing black clients and from drinking alcohol.
During Baston's first trial, held in 2013 in Miami, he testified—in a confident and unbothered manner—that he was never violent to any of the women. When asked to describe his relationship with multiple women, Baston said "it was—it was—it was love, I believe. It was love, it was romantic, it was—it was fun. It was—it was fun. It was a good—it was a relationship."
When asked about sex trafficking, Baston replied "I don't even know what sex trafficking is."
A Jamaican native, Baston immigrated to the United States when he was twelve years old in 1989. He officially lived in the states until the late 1990s when he attempted to become a naturalized US Citizen. Baston traveled the world using a passport obtained with a stolen identity, and by 2010 the fraudulent passport was so full of stamps and visas that Baston requested more pages. Among others countries, Baston visited Indonesia, New Zealand, Argentina, Colombia, Russia, Oman, the UAE, Japan, the UK, France, and Australia. All of this extravagance was funded by Baston's position as the kingpin in a vast international empire of upscale prostitution.
Baston kept one loyal keepsake through his travels: Multiple witnesses testified it was commonplace for the man to keep a copy of a book titled Pimpology, written by Pimpin' Ken, on his nightstand. Pimpology—which you can read in full by following this Scribid link—is a vulgar book, describing, usually in explicit language, "The 48 Laws of the Game."
Some of Pimpin' Ken's laws are as follows: "Purse First, Ass Last," "Ain't No Love in This Shit," "Turn Ho Ends into Dividends," and "A Ho Without Instruction Is Headed for Self-Destruction." Perhaps the most harrowing of the laws—coincidentally the one Baston most fully imbued—is law number five: "Prey on the Weak." Law five explains in plain language how the best target a pimp should look for is a woman who has been abused, especially as a child.
Weakness is the best trait a person can find in someone they want to control. If you can't find a weakness, you have to create one…. While you want them to feel good about themselves eventually, you want them to feel that it's because of you. They begin to see you as their champion, their hero—even if the weakness you rescue them from is one you created.
K.L.'s testimony revealed how Baston put this manipulation and coercion into action:
From the very first day I met Drac, when I look back, I feel like he was molding me, kind of, day after day, week after week. Slowly, he started cutting me off from friends, cutting me off from uni, and I could see it happening at that point when I asked—I wanted to go home, he really showed this other side. And I think he did let me go home a couple of nights after that just to kind of prove that I wasn't trapped. But, then, you know, he had my number and it was back to his house again and using his charm and the way he is.
When Baston was found guilty of sex trafficking charges in 2014 and was ordered to pay K.L. $90,000 in restitution, he appealed claiming insufficient evidence. On March 28, a federal appeals judge ruled there was enough evidence, and on top of 27 years in prison, the judge increased the amount of restitution to $400,000.