A federal jury on Friday found a former Little Rock prep and college football star guilty of two counts of sex trafficking.
Deonte Womack, 48, was found guilty of the two charges after four women testified Thursday.
"Today, the jury simultaneously affirmed the prosecution of sex traffickers who seek to profit from the sale of people and the inherent value of the victims of sex trafficking," U.S. Attorney Jonathan D. Ross said. "Sex trafficking destroys lives, and preventing and prosecuting sex trafficking and other crimes against the most vulnerable in our community is a priority in the Eastern District of Arkansas."
A 1993 graduate of Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Womack was a star running back for Southern Methodist University between 1993 and 1997 and led the Mustangs to wins over the Arkansas Razorbacks in 1995, 1996 and 1997, including a 212-yard performance in 1997 when SMU beat Arkansas 31-9.
His attorneys, J. Blake Byrd of the Federal Public Defender's Office and John Wesley Hall Jr., were not available for comment after the verdict.
Womack was accused of forcing three women -- identified in a superseding indictment as "J.G." "A.B." and "T.S." -- into working for him as prostitutes and, when threatened with prosecution, attempting to coerce the minor son of one of the victims -- identified in the indictment as "D.J." -- into lying to investigators. A fourth woman, "C.C." also testified that she worked as a prostitute for Womack.
On Thursday, after testimony from the three women and the teen, U.S. District Judge Brian Miller dismissed the witness tampering count and one of the sex trafficking counts, saying the government had failed to provide sufficient evidence for the jury to make a determination but ruled in favor of sending the evidence to the jury in the remaining two counts.
"I think that's the first time in 15 years I've done that," Miller remarked after the decision.
Ruling on a motion for a directed verdict from Hall, Miller said it wasn't established by testimony from one of the women that she had been forced to turn to prostitution or that Womack had attempted to coerce favorable testimony from the son of one of the victims.
In sometimes combative testimony Thursday, Womack insisted the women were all lying and one of them came up with the idea to start an escort service.
No sentencing date has been set for Womack. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Information for this report was provided by Dale Ellis of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.