ST. PAUL, Minn. - A Columbia Heights man was sentenced to 21 years in prison after pleading guilty to prostituting a teenage girl.
Besides prison time, 39-year-old Samuel Cozart will also have to register as a sex offender.
Roseville Police were called to the Days Inn Hotel at 2550 Cleveland Avenue North in Roseville last January by the manager who suspected a patron was prostituting an underage female.
The manager explained to police that a quick internet check of the defendant's name turned up an escort service known as M.A. Entertainment on www.backpage.com featuring the 17-year-old victim.
After removing both the victim and Cozart from the hotel room, officers confirmed that the teen had been prostituted in exchange for money and methamphetamine. Further investigation revealed that the girl had posted on the website and that she and the defendant were on their way to a prostitution job when police arrived.
Eventually, she broke down and asked for help during the investigation.
"Our justice system sent a strong message today to those who prostitute young girls in our community," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi in a written release. "This significant sentence is a declaration that Ramsey County will hold traffickers of prostitution accountable for their crimes."
Adhering to the policy of Choi and his colleagues, the 17-year-old juvenile was not charged with prostitution but treated as a victim of sex trafficking.
"I repeat my call for Village Voice Media to shut down the adult section of its online classified site, Backpage.com," Choi added, "because it serves as a platform to traffic minors for sex."
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