Duo who met in Pa. prison face sex-slave charges

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PITTSBURGH – A former inmate and the state prison guard he befriended while serving time for a drug offense were charged with enslaving a 16-year-old runaway, whom they allegedly forced into prostitution.


The sordid details of the charges faced by Rasul Abernathy, 32, and Poshauntaramin Walker, 34, were spelled out in a search warrant unsealed Wednesday. Online court records don’t list an attorney for the couple, who have been in custody since their arrests in Philadelphia last week.


Abernathy met the girl after she told him she ran away from a court-ordered juvenile placement.


“Abernathy told her that she could live with his girlfriend, Walker,” FBI Special Agent Michael Goodhue wrote in the affidavit. “At the time, he did not disclose to the juvenile that he also lived with Walker.”


Abernathy also didn’t tell the girl the residence had only one bed, which the girl shared with the couple, investigators said.


Abernathy met Walker when he was serving time for a parole violation and drug offense from February 2007 to September 2008 at the state prison in Greensburg, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, investigators said.


The couple began prostituting the girl about a month later, posting online ads with the girl’s picture and receiving calls from potential customers on Walker’s cellphone, the FBI said.


Walker showed the teen how to dress and apply makeup, and Abernathy told her what to charge for sexual services, authorities said. The couple gave her marijuana and pain pills to relax her before trysts, and alcohol after, they said.


“If she told Abernathy that she did not want to work as a prostitute or go to an appointment, he would hurt her,” the agent wrote, saying Abernathy punched her in the ribs, choked her and pulled her hair.


Abernathy had guns and threatened her if she left, and Walker also hit the girl, officials said.


The girl was afraid to leave because the couple told her that juvenile authorities were looking to arrest her, investigators said. She nonetheless contacted a counselor she trusted, who contacted North Versailles police, who picked her up in October 2012, authorities said.


The girl was put in another juvenile facility, but she escaped by calling Walker to pick her up, authorities said. The couple moved with the teen to the Philadelphia suburbs, where Walker was transferred.


Walker lost her corrections job when she failed to report, and the girl decided to run away from the couple’s Coatesville home after another former inmate raped her, which Abernathy told the girl was a “learning experience,” investigators said.


The girl eventually wound up in a juvenile detention center in Pittsburgh, and told authorities last year what had been done to her.


Abernathy and Walker were expected to return to federal court in Pittsburgh later this month, though no formal date has been scheduled.


They will be tried on charges of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking, which carries a potential life sentence, and sex trafficking of a child. The charges were filed in Pittsburgh because the criminal allegations involve events that began when Abernathy met the girl in western Pennsylvania in July 2012, according to the 24-page search warrant affidavit.


FBI agents obtained the warrant before searching the couple’s Coatesville home last month.


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