News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Tacoma Felon Sentenced To Ten Years In Prison For Human Trafficking And Illegal Gun Possession

Used Threats and Violence Forcing Juvenile Girl to Work as Prostitute

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 27, 2012

            A Tacoma man with a lengthy criminal history was sentenced Monday to ten years in prison for two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of human trafficking, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  JONELLE LAJOHN BRAUN, 24, of Tacoma, Washington was arrested in March 2011, as he left a Federal Way, Washington motel.  BRAUN was wanted for violating the terms of his state parole.  When officers approached and told BRAUN to raise his hands, BRAUN pulled a .380 caliber semi-automatic Llama pistol from his waistband and dropped it on the floor.  Further investigation revealed that BRAUN recruited a 16-year-old female to work for him as a prostitute.  BRAUN forced the teen to give him all her earnings and he hit, slapped and threatened her.  At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle said, “It can hardly be overstated the devastation to young women who get involved in this lifestyle.”

            According to records filed in the case, BRAUN has previous convictions for assault, burglary, cocaine delivery, possession of stolen property and unlawful possession of a firearm. As a convicted felon he is barred from possessing firearms. In addition to the gun he possessed at the time of his arrest, BRAUN also pleaded guilty to illegal gun possession for a January 2011 incident where he stole a rifle from the home of two acquaintances.  BRAUN later sold the rifle to a person working with law enforcement. 

            Following BRAUN’s arrest investigators interviewed a 16-year-old female who had been working for BRAUN as a prostitute.  BRAUN recruited her in November 2010, and showed her how to advertise on backpage.com for prostitution services.  BRAUN took all her earnings and threatened her with a gun or hit her if she did not do as he ordered.   “…he led her to believe that if she did not follow his instructions and directions that she would suffer serious harm, … the defendant is a young man who lacks respect and consideration for another human being, and… he is driven utmost by greed,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.  The 16-year old female was finally able to escape from BRAUN when he was arrested and placed in federal custody.

            The case was investigated by the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force, as well as the Lakewood Police Department, Tacoma Police Department, Washington State Department of Corrections and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ye-Ting Woo and Special Assistant United States Attorney Jesse Williams.  Ms. Woo heads the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s task force on human trafficking.  Mr. Williams is a Deputy Pierce County Prosecutor, specially designated to prosecute firearms cases in federal court.

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