DANBURY Guilty plea in sex case
DANBURY — A man who authorities said ran a sex trafficking ring for more than two decades admitted guilt in court Friday after accepting a deal from prosecutors.
Robert King’s eyes welled up with tears as he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in connection to the ring that preyed on young men with disabilities. He accepted a deal offered by the court that calls for 4 1/2 years in prison followed by 35 years of probation.
While King said in court that he continues to dispute the allegations as presented by prosecutors — and attempted to alter the deal on several occasions — he said he accepted the offer out of respect for the victims’ family members, including Lin Marino. Marino’s son committed suicide nine years ago this month after being victimized by the ring.
“Out of respect for Marino being here today I will proceed,” King said.
Authorities said King would target young men in their early 20s with mental health and substance abuse issues. He would befriend the men, offer them drugs, then sell them into prostitution when their drug debts piled up.
Assistant State’s Attorney Sharmese Hodge said King would often send photographs of the victims to clients of the ring asking if they were interested in the young men. King would then deliver the men to the clients and take a cut of the profits.
King would often befriend his victims at group homes and drug addiction centers in the area, offering to help the men get back on their feet by promising odd jobs and other assistance.
He was arrested two years ago along with two clients after an extensive investigation by both local and federal authorities. While investigators identified 15 victims, lawyers said that number could stretch well into the hundreds.
Marino said King had told her that he was a Green Beret and he liked to take kids under his wing and help them out. King, who had a shrine in his mobile home dedicated to Marino’s son, even attended the young man’s memorial services and set up a Facebook page in his honor.
Among the shrine items in King’s mobile home was a hand-written note authored by Marino’s son shortly before his death. Marino said she instantly recognized the writing as her son’s, who was diagnosed with dyslexia.
Westport resident William Trefzger, 73, who authorities said was a client of the ring, pleaded guilty in February to one count of patronizing a trafficked person — marking the first time anyone in Connecticut had been convicted of the charge. The plea deal called for a 10-year prison sentence suspended after one year served, followed by probation.
Judge Susan Reynolds explained that the plea deal took into account Trefzger’s age, his willingness to take responsibility for his actions and the fact that he has agreed to testify against King and Bruce Bemer of Glastonbury, another purported ring client.
King said Friday that he is also willing to testify against Bemer, who rejected a deal earlier this year that called for probation. Bemer appeared briefly in court Friday. His case is expected to go to trial next month.