PITTSBURGH — A man faces 10 more years behind bars after pleading guilty to forcing two teens into prostitution with the help of his girlfriend, who was a guard at the western Pennsylvania prison where he served time for drug charges.
Rasul Abernathy, 33, who last lived in Coatesville, in eastern Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty Thursday to sex-trafficking charges involving a 16-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy. The charges carried a potential sentence of 10 years to life in prison, but under a plea agreement, Abernathy will receive the shortest term possible at sentencing set for Jan. 8.
The former guard and Abernathy's girlfriend, Poshauntaramin Walker, 34, remains in federal custody. She has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. Her federal public defender has declined to comment.
Details of the sex-trafficking charges are spelled out in an FBI search warrant unsealed in February, a few days after the couple was arrested near Philadelphia.
Abernathy met Walker when he was incarcerated from February 2007 to September 2008 at the state prison in Greensburg, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. After his release, the couple wound up in North Versailles, a Pittsburgh suburb, where Abernathy met the 16-year-old after she ran away from a court-ordered juvenile placement.
Abernathy told the girl she could live with Walker, but he didn't tell her that he lived there, too, and they'd all have to share one bed, authorities said. About a month later, the couple began prostituting the girl by posting online ads with her picture, the FBI affidavit said.
Authorities say the girl was prostituted from July 2012 to March 2013, while the boy was trafficked from December 2012 to March 2013. Few details of the allegations involving the boy were included in the court documents, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Lieber Smolar told the judge Thursday that Abernathy found the boy through an online site before persuading him to sell sexual services for the couple.
According to the search warrant, Walker showed the girl how to dress and apply makeup, and Abernathy told her what to charge for sexual services. The couple gave her marijuana and pain pills to relax her before trysts — and alcohol afterward — and physically abused her if she refused to provide sexual services or tried to run away, authorities said.