Before Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker sentenced an Auburn man to life in prison with the possibility of parole, the victim’s father stood up and talked about the trauma his child had to go through with tears in his eyes.
“Every element of this case ripped away a piece of my heart, making me feel as if I had nothing to live for. And then I looked at my daughter, an innocent child, a soul worth saving, fighting and living for,” the victim’s father said. “We all know that healing will take time, as deep wounds don’t heal overnight, but as a family, we can overcome anything together.”
Brian Askew, 41, was arrested and charged in January 2018 after he allegedly assaulted the 13-year-old victim at his residence in October 2017 after she ran away from the Lee County Youth Development Center.
In the trial, prosecutors said Askew created a “climate of fear” at his trap house where the victim was kept for several days and allowed men, including himself, to sexually assault the victim multiple times.
“Human traffickers like the defendant steal the body of another by using their victims for their own activities with absolutely no regard for the lives of the victims. Brian Askew had no regard for [the victim’s] life,” Assistant District Attorney Cathey Berardi said at Askew’s sentencing hearing. “He is the reason why prisons are built.”
Because Askew had previous convictions prior to his first-degree human trafficking charge, a Class A felony, the judge explained that the only two options for sentencing were between a life sentence and a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Askew was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, and Acting Lee County District Attorney Jessica Ventiere said her office would do its best to make sure that he stays behind bars by opposing his release every time he goes before the parole board.
“The DA’s office is going to object to his release for as long as I have anything to say about it,” Ventiere said. “This is the type of case where I could see us personally appearing and objecting to any kind of release. My goal is that he spends the rest of his life in prison.”
Askew’s case was the first human trafficking case to be tried in Lee County, and the Lee County District Attorney’s Office said very few trafficking cases make it to trial because the victims are scared, can’t be located or are too ashamed to talk about what happened.