Jury hears tale of ‘fear’ from second alleged victim in teen pimping case
Last Wednesday, jurors heard one alleged victim in a felony pimping and pandering case tell them that she was not controlled, nor coerced, into selling herself on behalf of Roseville’s Stephen Putnam and Syla Thongsy — though Monday the same jury spent the day listening to the other alleged victim in the case testifying she was pimped against her will.
Before the day was out, the prosecutor had laid the groundwork for arguing the main charges against Putnam and Thongsy, while the defense had launched a grueling cross-examination of the couple’s sole accuser.
The last witness the jury watched before breaking for the weekend was the alleged victim known as Terri, who was 16 during the summer of 2010, when the crimes reportedly happened. On Monday, Placer County Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Macumber called to the stand the other alleged victim in the case, Angelica, who was 15 when she joined Terri as a runaway on the streets of Sacramento.
Macumber asked Angelica how she came to be living with Terri and Thongsy.
“Terri told me she had run away and was living with a porn star,” Angelica said. “Terri said she was a really pretty lady that I might like, because she was buying Terri clothes and all kinds of stuff.”
As Angelica continued with her testimony, some of her statements matched those of Terri. Angelica agreed that neither of the teens had told Thongsy they were runaways, nor had they revealed their true ages to her. Angelica also agreed that she and Terri had engaged in prostitution by street walking outside a Motel 6 on Stockton Boulevard in Sacramento. However, when it came to why the 15-and 16-year-olds were bringing “tricks” back to their room, Angelica had a very different version of events than the one told by Terri. Terri had testified that Thongsy never asked them to engage in prostitution and that any money they had given her was to pay back cash she had spent on food and clothing for them. Macumber asked Angelica how she remembered it.
“(Thongsy) said that she wanted us to make a Red Book account and walk the streets,” Angelica told the jury.
Angelica went on to testify that Thongsy bought her a dress to wear while “walking the track,” advised her on prices and announced she wanted the money Angelica and Terri earned.
“Did you feel like you had a choice in that?” Macumber asked.
“No,” Angelica responded.
“Did you try to negotiate it?” the prosecutor continued.
“No,” Angelica answered.
“How did prostituting feel?” Macumber asked.
“Disgusting,” Angelic said in firm voice.
Angelica also told jurors that Thongsy had unsuccessfully tried to set up a photo shoot for her at Putnam’s house in Roseville, and that the pictures were meant to be used on MyRedBook.com, an Internet site used by escorts and other sex workers.
According to testimony from both Terri and Angelica, after the teens had spent two weeks at the house on Wood Leaf Circle in Roseville, as well as motel rooms in Sacramento, Thongsy drove Terri home to her father. Angelica reportedly stayed with Thongsy for several more days before returning to her foster mother. It was at this point, Angelica testified, that she became afraid to leave Putnam and Thongsy.
“There was a party I wanted to go to with my boyfriend, and she said, ‘no,’ and then there was another party I wanted to go to, and she said ‘no,’” Angelica said. “Basically, I felt like she was saying I couldn’t go anywhere.”
Angelica added that she overheard Thongsy telling someone on the phone to beat up Terri the next time they saw her — though, according to testimony, that may have been over an iPod Terri reportedly stole from Thongsy, rather than her going home to live with her father. Angelica told the jury she absolutely thought the threat was over Terri leaving.
Angelica also testified that on two separate occasions while staying at Putnam’s house, he had engaged in sex acts with her, even though Thongsy allegedly told him not to via a text message.
During cross-examination, Thongsy’s attorney, Dionne Choyce, began inquiring about Angelica’s state of mind when she first ran away. His first question involved the allegation that Terri was working as a prostitute long before she ever met Thongsy or Putnam.
“Did you know that Terri was a prostitute before you ran away from home to join her?” Choyce asked.
“Yeah,” Angelica said. “She would talk about ‘tricks’ she had met … she never went into specifics about what type of acts she was doing.”
“So, you knew that Terri was involved in prostitution, and then you knew she was living with a pretty lady she described as a ‘porn star,’ and you chose to leave your foster mother and go live with them?” Choyce continued.
“Yes,” Angelica said.
Choyce shifted to a quieter tone, asking, “Looking back, would you say it was a poor decision to go with your prostitute friend?”
“Yes,” Angelica replied.
“You didn’t have any money, so how did you think you were going to survive?” Choyce went on.
“I don’t know,” Angelica said. “I was 15, I didn’t know anything.”
Choyce turned his attention to Angelica’s testimony that Thongsy pressured her to walk the streets, asking her about the exact words that had been used.
“(Thongsy) asked me if I was going to stay,” Angelica said, “which I thought meant, if I was going to stay, that’s what I had to do.”
Two hours into Choyce’s cross-examination, he got Angelica to acknowledge that — during the weeks she stayed with Thongsy and Putnam — she had spent an afternoon at the Arden Fair Mall with her boyfriend and taken a trip with only Terri to Planned Parenthood. Choyce asked Angelica why she didn’t use these opportunities to leave if she was afraid of Putnam and Thongsy. Angelica maintained she was scared to do so. Choyce asked Angelica if she had made a trip to church with her boyfriend during the period she was living with Putnam and Thongsy. Angelica testified she couldn’t remember.
Macumber repeatedly objected to Choyce’s questions, telling Placer County Superior Court Judge Mark S. Curry they were “argumentative.”
When Putnam’s attorney, Daniel Nicholson, began his own cross-examination, he asked Angelica why she had initially told Roseville police detectives that “nothing had happened” when Putnam made sexual advances at her.
“I don’t know,” Angelica said. “I was nervous, I guess.”
The Press Tribune will follow with another story about the Putnam and Thongsy trial after more testimony is given and more evidence is presented.
Scott Thomas Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at ScottA_RsvPT