• Convicted sex-trafficker from Orlando to get out of prison early

    By: Karla Ray , Monique Valdes

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - A 79-year-old Orlando man at the center of one of the state’s first major human trafficking arrests is scheduled to get out of prison on Sunday.

    Richard Rawls’ release comes just three years after he was sentenced.

    Investigative reporter Karla Ray was there to question him the day he was arrested in 2014.

    Prosecutors requested a longer sentence, but a judge ordered Rawls to serve five years, with credit for one year of time served in jail.

    Read: Letters allegedly written by accused sex trafficker details how he ran business

    He's being released a year early due to good behavior in prison.

    Rawls’ conviction was one of the first in the state under a 2011 law that made human trafficking its own felony charge. Since then, sentences have ranged from just a few years to life in prison.

    “The belief was, he was going to die in prison,” now-retired Lt. Mike Gibson said.  

    Read: 75-year-old man, 2 others arrested in Orlando human-trafficking bust

    Gibson worked the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation case against Rawls.  

    Rawls was the 13th person in the state to be sentenced under the state’s newly enacted human trafficking statute, and he’ll be the 13th to be released.

    “He was in one of the first groups of human traffickers we went after,” Gibson said.

    9 Investigates obtained prison records to see how many traffickers have been convicted since the law was enacted seven years ago. To date, 54 traffickers have been put in prison, but their sentences vary. Some have ended up serving less than a year behind bars, while two men have been sentenced to life.

    “In those early days, the sentencing just wasn't as long as it should've been,” Gibson said about Rawls’ case.

    Though sentences may only last a few years, the toll on victims lasts forever.  

    Women who were being held captive by Rawls were at his home the day he was arrested. One of them, who goes by Lisa, told 9 Investigates she moved out of Orlando after learning her former captor is being freed.

    “I didn't realize I was dead when I came out of there. I was completely empty, I had nothing inside of me,” Lisa told 9 Investigates in an interview late last year.

    Whitney Ray, the director of communications from the Office of the Attorney General, said in a statement that the statewide prosecutor requested a sentence twice as long as the one ordered by the judge in an effort to ensure Rawls died in prison and would never be able to threaten the women he victimized.

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