Pikeville man pleads guilty in sex trafficking case
A Pikeville man could face a maximum sentence of up to life in prison after pleading guilty in a sex trafficking case.
In U.S. District Court in Pikeville on Friday, Ernest B. “Junior” Ray, 55, of Beech Street, Pikeville, pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of juveniles, charges stemming from a federal indictment handed down against him in February. He was arrested March 5. The indictment charged Ray with trafficking five different minors for the purpose of sex between 2010 and 2016.
In a re-arraignment hearing in federal court Friday, Ray entered a guilty plea to five separate charges alleging that he “did knowingly recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain and maintain” the children knowing that the children were under 18 years old and knowing that the children would be “caused to engage in a commercial sex act.”
Ray’s guilty plea Friday will mean he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Per the federal sentencing guidelines for the charges to which Ray pleaded guilty, he will face not less than 10 years in prison, but could face life in prison.
During Friday’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Ed Atkins read excerpts from the court file detailing Ray’s crimes. According to the file, as read by Atkins, Ray transported juveniles in his personal vehicle to a residence owned by him on Peach Orchard Drive and provided them with money, alcohol and/or drugs in exchange for them to perform sex acts on one another while he watched and masturbated. In at least one instance, according to the court record as read by Atkins, Ray transported juveniles to his residence for the commercial sexual activity detailed in the record.
Atkins directed Ray to tell the court what he did that made him guilty of the crimes to which he pleaded guilty. Ray offered only a one sentence response.
“I involved those people in these sex acts,” Ray said.
In addition to the charges Ray faced of sex trafficking of minors, he also faced six separate charges of drug trafficking. As part of a plea agreement, the drug charges are expected to be dropped upon Ray’s sentencing on the sex trafficking charges.
According to testimony in Friday’s hearing, Ray signed the plea agreement June 13 and agreed to waive his right to appeal the verdict or sentence in the case. Ray also agreed to forfeit $60,000 in cash or property on or by his sentencing.
Ray will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 11 in Lexington.
By Chris Anderson