By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com March 08 2012 4:50 PM ET
An Atlanta drag performer has been sentenced to up to 30 years in prison in a human trafficking case that’s shedding light on the young LGBT victims of sexual violence. Christopher Thomas Lynch, who performed in local gay and transgender clubs as Pasha Nicole, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a child, pandering by compulsion, one count of pimping a minor, and possession of drug-related items, according to the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office. His sentence could have been much steeper given the initial charges at his arrest, human trafficking of a minor for sexual servitude, but Lynch pleaded down to lesser charges, with a minimum sentence of 14 years.
The performer and former sex worker was apparently part of a two-person team with his former roommate, Steven Lemery (who was a go-go dancer at a local gay club under the stage name Steven Lang), who used social networking to lure gay and transgender teens from South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia to meet them in Douglasville, Ga., for sex. According to David Ibata at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Lemery would then allegedly lock the victims in his closet and later force them into prostitution.
According to Project Q Atlanta, after Lemery was arrested in March 2011, Lynch went on television and claimed innocence. “It goes something like this,” wrote Matt Hennie. “She lived in the house with Lemery, Lemery’s wife, the boyfriend of Lemery’s wife, and the children that Lemery and his wife somehow managed to have when they weren’t disrupted from the noise coming from their master bedroom closet. That’s where authorities allege Lemery stowed his victims. And [Lynch], to hear [him] tell it, didn’t know of the alleged depravity taking place.”
One of the underage victims saw Lynch on television and alerted authorities to his involvement. He was given a plea deal, according to Project Q Atlanta, because the 16-year-old transgender victim, known in court papers as Christina, was reluctant to testify in court for a trial. Prosecutor Rachel Ackley said the girl was forced to have sex with older male clients found on Craigslist, often four times a day; at home with Lynch, his boyfriend (identified as Sam), and Lemery, Christina was forced to sleep in a closet.
“The victim would testify it’s the most humiliating thing that ever happened...,” Ackley said. “We are agreeing to this plea today at the victim’s request. The victim does not want to relive this in a roomful of people.”
Lynch’s attorney painted a different picture of her client, according to most media reports on the trial. Though Lynch wore male attire, had no record of gender-reassignment treatment, and was reported to be a drag performer (rather than a transgender woman), according to Hennie, his attorney said he and the victim were “transgendered girls who became pals, who became buddies” and that Lynch was “disenfranchised from society because of gender issues.” Hennie also reported that Lynch was “born to a prostitute mother who was murdered in front of him when he was 6” and Lynch testified that in foster care, he was raped and molested, and one foster parent “tied me to the bed and set it on fire.”
After pleading guilty, Lynch broke down sobbing in front of cameras for WSB TV, telling the judge, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life but this is by far the most utterly stupid one I’ve made. I’m just so sorry. I was wrong, so wrong. I don’t even know where to begin. For the first time in a really long time, like four years, I’m thinking clearly because I don’t have the drugs running through me, and I’m so sorry. I feel really bad.”
Lynch is now expected to testify against Lemery at his upcoming trial; he’s been charged with more serious offenses including human trafficking and aggravated child molestation and in most official accounts is alleged to be the ringleader of the operation.