VANCOUVER — A British Columbia man convicted of trafficking underage girls for sex has been handed a 23-year prison sentence in a case described by a judge as violent, extremely disturbing and "bordering on psychopathic.''
Reza Moazami's sentence, delivered by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce on Tuesday, is nearly three years longer than the prison time sought by the Crown.
Moazami, 30, was convicted in September 2014 on 30 charges involving 11 teenage girls as young as 14, including living off the avails of prostitution, sexual assault and sexual interference. He is the first person in the province found guilty of human trafficking.
Crown counsel had asked that Bruce impose a 20-year sentence, which Moazami's lawyer protested as "unduly harsh and crushing,'' arguing instead that 10 to 12 years minus time served would be more appropriate.
Bruce awarded Moazami about five years credit for time he had already spent behind bars awaiting trial, reducing his overall sentence to just under 18 years.
Dressed in dark jeans and a sharply-pressed, oversized blue dress shirt, Moazami stared mostly straight ahead as his sentence was read, while about 40 people watched from the public gallery, including several members of the Vancouver Police Department.
Crown lawyer Damienne Darby address to the court while the accused 29-year-old Reza Moazami writes in the prisoner's box in this court drawing from 2013.
Bruce told the court that Moazami repeatedly took advantage of young, vulnerable, often drug-addicted girls to make money and in turn had a "devastating'' impact on many of their lives.
"His conduct warrants the highest condemnation by the justice system,'' she said.
She went through each of the 11 complainants, listing off numerous "egregious'' instances in which he used physical and verbal abuse to coerce "his girls'' into following orders. He also repeatedly drugged and raped many of them, she said.
"Mr. Moazami regarded free sex with his prostitutes as a perk to being their pimp.''
Bruce spoke of Moazami forever changing the life of at least one of the girls: "His relationship with (her) was lengthy, coercive, violent, degrading and emotionally abusive. The harm caused was more than significant,'' she said.
"Even when (she) left, Moazami manipulated her to return to his stable of prostitutes.''
Bruce spoke of another of the girl's attempted suicide by jumping off an apartment balcony as a result of the man's treatment.
Moazami testified earlier that he wasn't aware his victims were underage and denied he was living off the money they earned from each having sex with an average of 12 men a day.
Sgt. Richard Akin, a Vancouver police officer who was one of the lead investigators in the case, told reporters outside the court he was thrilled with the outcome.
"This is more than we expected,'' he said. "That type of sentence will send a huge message ... for those who are involved in exploiting young people in this city.''
Crown prosecutor Kristin Bryson said it was gratifying to see this type of case even come before the court, especially given the challenges faced by victims to share their stories.
"That's part of the insidious nature of the crime. They're indoctrinated by their pimps to think that the police are their enemies,'' she said. "It helps keep it in the dark. And we saw in this case that that's just not true.''
Crown co-counsel Damienne Darby added that the sentence will hopefully also serve as a deterrent to those who buy sexual services from teenagers.
"There's a lot more misery going on behind (the scenes) that is not apparent,'' she said.
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