Portland pimp sentenced to life in prison - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland pimp sentenced to life in prison

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Gregory Hightower Gregory Hightower
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A notorious local pimp was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Tuesday, making it the longest sex trafficking sentence in the United States in the last six years.

In December, a jury found Gregory Hightower guilty on several counts of compelling and promoting prostitution and sexual abuse.

Officials say his conviction and sentence are the result of a more aggressive stance on pimping in Portland.

Shortly before Judge Edward Jones handed down the sentence, Hightower made some final statements.

"Like I said, I'm not a cruel person. All I did was help them," said Hightower. "I took them to church. What pimp takes hoes to church? You don't do that."

Hightower continued to deny forcing girls into prostitution.

This is the third time Hightower's faced sentencing for similar crimes, and according to a 12-year-old Oregon statute, that means he is eligible for life in prison without the possibility of parole.

That's exactly what the judge gave him, so it's a big day for Deputy District Attorney JR Ujifusa.

"Seeing him fall under this law, in which he receives life without that possibility of parole - it was nice news to give to the victims, who are extremely fearful of him," Ujifusa said.

Ujifusa handles most of the sex trafficking cases for the county and this is the longest sentence of his career.

But he says it was only possible with investigators like Detective Meghan Burkeen.

"I mean, these girls are victims," said Burkeen. "They're being forced to do it. Whether it's physical or emotional force, they're victims."

Last fall, Burkeen helped Ujifusa convict Latrell Poston who also received a historic sentence of 25 years in prison.

Burkeen says Poston sold his girls online like property and continued to pimp them out while he was in jail on a parole violation.

The Portland Police Bureau doesn't have a greater disdain for pimps these days, Burkeen said, they're just more focused on holding them accountable.

"I hope it sends a message to these guys that there are a lot of us out there investigating these cases and we're aggressive," he said.

Along with the Prostitution Street Unit and Human Trafficking Detail, now the Portland Police Gang Enforcement Team is also investigating prostitution.

And Burkeen says they have found a dream partner in Ujifusa who has a clear mission.

"We need to be careful and do as good a job as we can of protecting these victims," said Ujifusa. "And make sure we can take them out of this dangerous lifestyle and help them recover."

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