Man convicted of sex-trafficking of teenager sentenced to more than 4 years in prison

Booker Vanderhorst

Speaking via video conference from a California safe house for sex trafficking victims, a 19-year-old woman told a federal judge in Charleston on Thursday about her experience with the man she said prostituted her when she was 17.

"It was a horrific experience and he's robbed me of my innocence, my self-worth, my soul, and my confidence," she said. "He's a predator."

Booker Vanderhorst, 66, of North Charleston, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison by U.S. District Judge Michael Duffy.

Vanderhorst pleaded guilty to two counts in January in connection to the trafficking case.

The woman in this case told Duffy she is undergoing therapy at the San Diego safe house and is working to receive her high school diploma.

The Post and Courier does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault or their relatives.

The woman said she is suffering from psychological and physical effects from her experience, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, Hepatitis and HPV.

The A-21 Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy group with an office in Charleston, paid for the woman's trip to the California safe house, according to court officials.

Between July and August 2012, Vanderhorst was operating the Variety escort service when he met the girl, who was a minor at the time, and on several occasions drove her to locations where she performed sex acts for pay, according to prosecutors.

Afterwards, Vanderhorst and the girl split the money, prosecutors have said.

"She worked under his control and his guidance," Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams said during his January plea hearing.

Vanderhorst's attorney, Ann Walsh, questioned why Vanderhorst was the only one charged in the case after the victim said there were three other people involved as well.

Williams said they investigated everyone they thought was involved and went forward with the evidence they had in the case prosecuting Vanderhorst.

Vanderhorst, who spent much of his life in New Orleans, moved to Charleston with his mother after Hurricane Katrina, he told the judge.

While taking care of his mother, Vanderhorst said he started his escort business in the Lowcountry in order to spend more time at home.

"In 2012, something awry," Vanderhorst told the judge.

His cousin, Edward Brown, who spoke during the hearing, said he didn't want to trivialize what the victim had gone through but said he didn't believe it was fair to blame Vanderhorst for all her misgivings.

Before handing down his sentence, Duffy called it a difficult case and said there are no winners in this scenario.

"It's fair to say and it has been admitted the victim did not start out on the wrong path by Vanderhorst, but he took great advantage of a vulnerable person," Duffy said.

Williams said the woman in this case has come a very long way since they started their investigation.

The woman, who became emotional through much of her statement to the judge, said she hopes to rebuild her life, grow as a person, and hopes her story saves other women.

"I was trafficked," she told the judge. "This shouldn't happen in America."

Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or