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Forum News Service, Published January 10 2013

Alleged Grand Forks pimp to fight human trafficking charge

GRAND FORKS - A Grand Forks man charged with pimping a 17-year-old girl turned down a plea deal Thursday in court, deciding, instead, to risk going to trial on a rare human trafficking charge that carries a top sentence of life in prison.

Travis Levar Johnson, 30, is one of three charged this summer with trafficking the girl as a prostitute to several men in Grand Forks in early 2011, including to a University of North Dakota professor and a high school counselor.

They are the first human trafficking charges brought in Grand Forks County, prosecutors said.

Johnson also is charged with felony corruption of a minor for allegedly having sex with the girl to initiate her into prostitution.

His alleged accomplices, Joshua Harry, 27, and Amanda Stewart, 22, faced a similar trafficking charge, but have taken deals with prosecutors, pleading guilty to lesser felonies.

Prosecutor Meredith Larson said she offered deals to the three largely to protect the victim from having to testify at trial.

Even with the deal, Stewart and Harry will serve substantial time behind bars, she said. Their deals also require them to testify against Johnson at his trial, she said.