A 16-year-old Rancho Cotate High School student testified Wednesday she worked as a prostitute for two months for members of a Cotati family who plied her with drugs, beat her and threatened more serious harm if she stopped before earning them $100,000.
The girl, identified in court only as Jane Doe, said during a preliminary hearing she was a “slave” to defendants Abdelaziz Thomas, 38, his son Arthur Thomas, 20, and relative April Dominique-Nysha Thomas, 19.
She said she met April Thomas, a single mother, while the two were attending high school together. She agreed to help her financially by trading sex for money, something she had done before, she testified.
But the situation spun out of control soon after she moved into the Thomases’ Charles Street house on April 8, she said.
The girl said April Thomas kept all the money and tried to sell her to a pimp for $400. When she refused to go, Abdelaziz Thomas took over, forcing her to move into his bedroom, have sex with him and sell her sexual services to other men, giving him all the money.
The girl testified the Thomases drove her to customers across the Bay Area and as far away as Medford, Ore., and Los Angeles. She said Abdelaziz Thomas hit her and made her clean his room when she wasn’t turning tricks, and that he threatened to track her down if she stopped working before meeting his financial goals.
“He said if I ran away he would find me and it wouldn’t be pretty,” said the girl in halting testimony, marked by frequent breaks.
But the girl said she couldn’t take it anymore. She decided to flee June 10 while Abdelaziz Thomas was attending a funeral, and later reported what happened to police.
“I had to deal with it for two months, and I was scared for my life,” she said. “I had to give them my whole life. I was their slave. So now it is time I have to go to the police.”
The three, who have remained in custody since their June 19 arrests, stared across the courtroom as the girl testified. April Thomas put her face in her hands at one point and cried while Abdelaziz Thomas shook his head. Family members from both sides watched from the courtroom gallery.
All the defendants are charged with human trafficking and pimping a minor, punishable by prison. Abdelaziz Thomas faces additional child-sex and felony threat counts. The hearing to decide if there is enough evidence for the charges is expected to continue this morning.
On Wednesday, the Thomases’ lawyers questioned Jane Doe’s story, including the suggestion that she was being held against her will. She admitted visiting her mother several times during the two months and not discussing the situation. On a trip back from Arizona, the car she was in was stopped by police, who asked her privately if she was a runaway. She said she was not.
April Thomas’s lawyer, Barry McBride, asked why she didn’t report what was happening. She said she was “too scared.”
Also, the girl revealed she was a prostitute before moving in with the Thomas family, advertising services on the website Myredbook.com, and that she had three previous pimps.
During the hearing, prosecutor Bill Brockley objected to questions about the girl’s past involvement in prostitution, saying it was not relevant to the charges.