Man convicted of raping University of Memphis freshman he tried to recruit for prostitution

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A Memphis man on the state Sex Offender Registry was convicted Friday of the rape of a University of Memphis freshman student he was trying to recruit for his online prostitution business, said Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich.

A Criminal Court jury found Willie James Taylor Jr. guilty of rape, two counts of promoting prostitution, and assault involving bodily injury. Taylor, 39, remains in custody and is scheduled to be sentenced later by Judge Chris Craft.

According to testimony in the week-long trial, the student said that in September of 2018 she was befriended online by a woman working for Taylor who told her she could make money as an escort.

Rachel Sumner Haaga is with Restore Corps, an agency that works with prostitution and human trafficking victim. She says it usually begins with a lure, like a job.

“There is a recruitment phase where somebody somehow connects with a potential victim. During that recruitment phase there is relationship building,” says Haaga.

The 18-year-old student said she did not believe the work would require having sex, and that the woman picked her up at her dorm to discuss the matter further. Waiting in the car, however, was Taylor who drove them to a Whitehaven hotel on Winchester where she learned the woman, 21, was working for Taylor as a prostitute and recruiter.

The student said they told her that she too would be working for Taylor as a prostitute and that she would be required to give him the money. Taylor then raped her and made her pose for suggestive photos to post online to attract customers.

“Utilizing those photos then the person can essentially communicate to this victim I have leverage over you. I can exploit these photos. I can show them to your family. I can show them to your church,” says Haaga

When the student eventually was allowed to leave, she returned to her dorm and called police.

Restore Corps says it usually leads to prostitution.

“The seasoning is that next step of because I have these photos because you have already done this with me, you have to do this with other people,” says Haaga.

Taylor has been on the Sex Offender Registry since 2007 for a sexual battery conviction. He also has a pending aggravated rape cold case from 2005 involving a 16-year-old high student.

“This is how human trafficking cases begin. Exactly what this victim went through. Thank goodness she was brave enough to call the police,” says Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich.

To contact Restore Corps, click here.

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