No new trial for NJ man guilty of sex trafficking

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — A judge is declining a new trial for a New Jersey man who was found guilty of running a nationwide prostitution ring.

U.S. District Judge James Gritzner ruled Wednesday that the evidence supported Johnelle Bell’s conviction on 12 counts of sex trafficking and interstate prostitution, and testimony from a witness who didn’t appear at trial likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

Prosecutors say Bell was a pimp who ran an Arkansas-based traveling prostitution venture. He lured troubled young women to join under false promises of long-lasting relationships and coerced them through physical abuse and threats.

Prosecutors uncovered the ring after an FBI agent posed as a customer in response to prostitution ads on Backpage.com in Omaha. The federal trial took place in Iowa because the venture traveled to Des Moines.

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