Teen prostitute: 'I felt like a slave'
At first she didn't want to be a prostitute. Living on her own after running away from a Frankford group home, the 13-year-old didn't need the money when she first hit the streets. She bounced from house to house in the summer, sometimes sleeping in the back of a neighborhood store.
At first she didn't want to be a prostitute.
Living on her own after running away from a Frankford group home, the 13-year-old didn't need the money when she first hit the streets. She bounced from house to house in the summer, sometimes sleeping in the back of a neighborhood store.
But life got harder in the winter. She needed cash and a more permanent place to live.
So she called a pimp - and her whole life seemed to collapse.
"I felt like a slave," she said Friday, her voice a monotone. "My body was there and my soul was in another place."
During hours of excruciating testimony in the trial of Jason Guerra, the girl, now 17, laid bare the harrowing life of a teenage prostitute.
For more than six months starting in 2012, she said, Guerra, of West Oak Lane, threatened her, beat her, and told her to have sex with dozens of strangers in a Chester motel room without paying her.
One time, Guerra punched and beat her so badly, she said, that she miscarried in a bloody bathtub.
Guerra, in the third day of his trial, watched her testimony without visible reaction. He faces a possible sentence of 196 years in jail if convicted of the nearly two dozen charges against him, prosecutors said, including rape, promoting prostitution, and corruption of a minor.
Assistant District Attorney Rochelle Keyhan contended that Guerra was a pimp for multiple women around the same time as he was for Friday's witness. But this trial, she said, relates specifically to the teenager who took the stand. The Inquirer does not publish the names of alleged sexual assault victims.
Court-appointed defense attorney Leon Goodman pointed out that the witness had a history of choosing to associate with pimps, implying that her time with Guerra was more a choice than his imposition.
She coolly testified about her experience, describing how she joined the lifestyle, how she got trapped in it, and how she thought she might never get out.
"I felt dirty," she said. "I felt really, really dirty."
The witness said she left the St. Joachim group home in summer 2012. She didn't like the rules there, she said, and wanted to be able to smoke marijuana. She was already estranged from her parents.
For the next six months, she said, she bounced around the streets - smoking weed, occasionally hooking up with guys. She got pregnant by another pimp at one point, though she said she wasn't working for him.
In November 2012, she said, she called Guerra to work as a prostitute. That, she said, was when she lost control of her life.
Guerra, 35 at the time, picked her up and drove her to a Days Inn in Chester, she said. With the help of another prostitute, he explained how she should act with men.
She was to instruct men to place a "donation" on the table, she said, then make them take their clothes off to prove that they weren't wearing a wire.
She got two days off per week, she said, but spent them at Guerra's house in Philadelphia. She befriended another prostitute who lived there, she said. The two would often trade-off "dates" when working at the Days Inn.
One time she told Guerra she wanted to stop, she said. Her complaint unleashed a beating full of slaps, punches, and threats.
The worst beating preceded her miscarriage, she said. After getting out of the bathtub alone, she simply threw the fetus away.
"I couldn't do nothing else," she said through tears.
She escaped in spring 2013 with the other prostitute, she said. Guerra was out fixing his car.
Even though she escaped his grasp, she fell in with another pimp. Eventually she started posting her own ads online.
A few months after she escaped, she said, Guerra found her and pistol-whipped her in the head, knocking her unconscious. He told her she was lucky he hadn't killed her.
She continued working as a prostitute through 2013, until the FBI caught her in a sting in December. In the car with an agent, she said, she broke down and let her stories flow.
"I was tired," she said of her decision to cooperate with authorities. "I was just tired."
She said she hadn't been a prostitute since. Guerra was arrested in March 2014.
The trial is set to continue Tuesday. Keyhan said closing arguments could begin that day as well.