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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Arkansas

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kansas Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison for Sex Trafficking of a Child

            Fort Smith, Arkansas - Kenneth Elser, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that Darnell James Winston, age 23, of Leavenworth, Kansas, was sentenced to 120 months in prison without the possibility of parole and five years of supervised release for one count of Sex Trafficking of a Child.  The sentencing hearing took place before the Honorable P. K. Holmes, III in the United States District Court in Fort Smith.  

            According to court records, on August 26, 2015, the Fort Smith Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation received information from an individual that a 17-year-old female was being worked as a prostitute in the Fayetteville area. Law enforcement was able to identify the Facebook profile of the 17-year-old girl, which contained photographs of her with two men one of whom was identified as Darnell James Winston.  An undercover Fort Smith Police detective began communicating with Winston online.  Winston recruited the undercover to work as a prostitute for him and continued to do so even after the undercover advised Winston that they were only 16 years old.  Winston stated that it was ok because the girl currently working for him was only “17”, referring to the minor female law enforcement had previously identified.  Winston continued his recruitment of the undercover officer and discussed, an internet website commonly used by sex traffickers to advertise prostitution.  Arrangements were made between the undercover officer and Winston to meet at a hotel in Alma on August 28, 2015.  When Winston arrived at the hotel with the 17-year-old female and another adult male, he was arrested, and she was recovered by police.  Winston was indicted by a federal grand jury on September 16, 2015 and pleaded guilty to the charge on November 4, 2015.

            This case was investigated by the Fort Smith Police Department, the Alma Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  Assistant United States Attorney Aaron Jennen prosecuted the case for the United States.

            This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and their Criminal Division Child Exploitation and Obscenity Sections (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

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Related court documents may be found on Public Access to Electronic Records Website


Project Safe Childhood
Updated March 9, 2016