A woman convicted of sex trafficking and prostitution was sentenced to three years on Monday, but with nearly two years suspended, she will not return to jail.
Karen L. Carpenter, 50, was jailed at Wildwood Pretrial Facility for about nine months before she was bailed out on $4,000 in October. She was sentenced to two years of probation.
A Superior Court 12-person jury found Carpenter guilty at a July trial of prostitution and five counts of sex trafficking: running a prostitution enterprise, soliciting a customer, running a place of prostitution, accepting money from prostitution and promoting a prostitution enterprise.
The jury was hung on two counts, inducing a person younger than 20 to become a prostitute and inducing a person older than 20 to become a prostitute.
The court acquitted Carpenter of a charge of inducing a person younger than 20 because evidence was not sufficient to prove the woman’s age. The state dismissed the second remaining charge.
The five counts of sex trafficking charges were merged into one class B sex trafficking felony offense, which calls for one to three years, District Attorney Scot Leaders said.
Leaders asked for a sentencing of three years with one year and six months suspended and four years of probation for the merged sex trafficking charges as well as 60 days to serve for the prostitution charge. He did not specify if the state wanted the 60 days to run consecutive or concurrent to the time for the other charge.
“While (Carpenter) comes to the court with no prior criminal convictions, she doesn’t come to the court as someone who just made a one-time mistake,” he said.
Leaders said investigation showed that Carpenter was involved in prostitution in Fairbanks before moving to Kenai. Once she moved to Kenai she continued to work as a prostitute and developed a small-scale enterprise in the business, he said.
“It became her lifestyle, not solely … she did give legitimate massage as well, but it became a means, in essence, a bit of who Ms. Carpenter was,” Leaders said.
He said Carpenter used the “limited financial situations” of a 19-year-old woman and a 20 year-old woman to convince them to work as prostitutes. Leaders said the state’s sentencing recommendation would tell the community crimes like Carpenter’s won’t be tolerated and it would deter Carpenter and others from committing similar crimes.
Public Defender Bill Taylor said Carpenter is a certified massage therapist and started on the path to prostitution after she was asked to give a “happy ending” during a massage session. He said she was offended at first, but changed her mind after realizing she would likely get additional customers and money if she did different sexual acts with her clients.
Taylor reiterated that Carpenter has had no prior criminal history.
“This is a bump in the road,” he said.
He recommended a sentencing of two years with one year suspended followed by two years of probation. For the prostitution charge he recommended 10 days to serve concurrent to the sex trafficking sentence.
Taylor said Carpenter has served months in jail and has been on release. Rehabilitation needs to be the focus of the probation time.
“Sending her back to jail would not serve any purpose,” he said.
At the sentencing, Carpenter said her intent with her business was to provide people with quality massages and she’s not sure why exactly she decided to work as a prostitute.
“I met many lonely men who don’t have the time or inclination to go out and pursue women who don’t want the entanglements of a relationship,” she said. “I decided to provide what I thought was another way to help people.”
She said she won’t provide sexual favors in the future and wants to help people through massage therapy.
The parties and the court discussed whether or not Carpenter should be required to register as a sex offender.
“My client hasn’t been convicted of something that would be considered a sex offense by statute,” Taylor said.
The prosecution agreed that sex offender registration is not required, however it did request a sex offender assessment and to comply with recommendations as conditions of probation.
Taylor asked for a mental health evaluation and following any recommendations instead. Superior Court Judge Carl Bauman sentenced Carpenter to that condition as opposed to the sex offender assessment.
According to the charging document, in January, an undercover officer responded to Carpenter’s advertisement and went to her shop, Gifted Hands. She told him her business provided massage and companionship packages, which, if clients choose, can include various types of sexual activity. The report also states she told him two women, a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old worked for her. She was indicted in superior court on Jan. 18, according to a state court database.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at email@example.com.