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Hill District man pleads guilty to child sex trafficking

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 1:00 p.m.

The first person to plead guilty to child sex trafficking in Western Pennsylvania almost didn't.

William Miller, 37, of the Hill District had a plea bargain with the government in which he would admit he recruited a 15-year-old girl into prostitution and would get a guaranteed 12-year prison sentence. Child sex trafficking carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life.

Part of the plea process required Miller to agree with Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Smolar's summary of the crime: that he knew the victim was a minor, that he kept her at his residence, gave her money to advertise on the classified ad website pittsburgh.backpage.com and that he took part of the money she received from johns.

While he agreed to most of that, he denied knowing she was a minor or that she planned to have sex on Feb. 10, 2012, when he drove her to the Quality Inn in Oakland.

“No,” he said the first time U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose asked him.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Linda Cohn said that while Miller was prepared to plead guilty, he never admitted he knew the girl was underage. Ambrose said she couldn't accept his plea if Miller didn't believe he was guilty.

“I need him to tell me what he did,” she said.

Miller reluctantly went through the details of meeting the girl at a bus stop and agreeing to escort her in return for half of the money she earned having sex.

“I met her. She was a prostitute. She was on backpage. She was working for some guy,” Miller said. “It sounded like I could make some money.”

Under his plea bargain, Miller will get 12 years in prison and five years of probation when Ambrose sentences him on March 27.

Several of his family members said after the hearing that they felt Miller was coerced into pleading to more of a crime than he committed.

Romir Miller, his brother, said that they agree he broke the law.

“Wrong is wrong,” he said.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Bradley Orsini said he couldn't comment on the victim in the case, which was a joint investigation conducted by the FBI and Pittsburgh police. Miller's case is the first conviction of an effort by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition to crack down on child prostitution, he said.

“We started an initiative about 18 months ago to focus on finding victims of child sex trafficking,” he said.

Carlow University psychology professor Mary Burke founded the coalition in 2005.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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