Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009 | 2:01 a.m.
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Things are not getting any better for Derrick Avery.
Two days after Avery was the subject of a Las Vegas Sun article examining Avery’s insistence he’s not a pimp despite years of appearing in documentaries and TV shows as “Pimp Snooky,” authorities filed a criminal complaint against him in Nevada federal court accusing Avery of beating prostitutes and transporting minors across state lines to sell sex.
The three federal charges he now faces for sex trafficking could carry a life sentence, making the new case far more serious than the single pandering charge Avery is also facing in Clark County District Court. It was the lesser charge that Avery had been trying to counter by insisting Snooky was all an act.
In the 1999 documentary “Pimps Up, Ho's Down,” Avery expounds on his technique for managing prostitutes and his lifestyle in general, ending one interview by saying “let me pimp, or let me die” before flashing a Cheshire smile.
That smile is nowhere to be seen in the mugshot of Avery that ran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday, after his arrest. Avery is known to split his time between Las Vegas and Milwaukee, where the federal case against him originated.
It remains to be seen whether Avery will apply the same argument, that he is not a pimp, in the sex trafficking case. The 26-page complaint details information from seven confidential witnesses who all claim they worked as prostitutes for at some point in the last decade, including two who began working for him at ages 14 and 17.
One day before the Sun story ran, on July 31, Avery was quietly arrested by FBI agents with a woman, Shamika Evans, who also faces federal charges for her alleged role in assisting Avery’s prostitution ring. Avery remained in custody as of Friday and is now waiting extradition to Wisconsin.
Perhaps most relevant to the Las Vegas pandering charge, and ongoing court battle over Avery’s status as a pimp, however, is information from a confidential witness who says she was in the movie "Pimps Up, Ho's Down" with Avery, in a scene where two women are shown carrying Snooky’s “Pimp of the Year” trophy, which stands at least 4 feet tall. This witness, who has a child with Avery, said she worked for him in Las Vegas from 2003 to 2004, until she got arrested and left town.
Shortly after leaving, she filed a restraining order against Avery, who reportedly left her messages stating, among numerous threats, that he would kill her, and that she was messing “with a pimp.”
It wasn’t until April of this year, the woman told FBI agents, that Avery called her and “told her that if investigators contact her, she should not label him as a pimp....she should tell investigators that he was pretending to be a pimp.”
Also according to the criminal complaint:
The woman who started working for Avery at 14 was required to earn $500 a day in Chicago and at least $1,000 a night in Las Vegas — a lower mandatory minimum than other prostitutes working for Avery because she was underage and not able to get into clubs or bars. The teen claimed she was not allowed to communicate with family, and that she was instructed to rob clients and move through them quickly: “Avery stated that a prostitution date should take the amount of time (it takes) to smoke a cigarette,” the complaint states. The teen said she was regularly beaten and that Avery often subjected his prostitutes to something called the “hot or cold treatment,” where women were to pick between two forms of abuse.
“The hot treatment consisted of Avery pouring rubbing alcohol on a particular part of the girls body and then setting it on fire with a match. While this treatment usually did not leave any marks, (the witness) stated that the heat was very intense and frightening....prostitutes were also subjected to the cold treatment, which consisted of the offending prostitute being placed in a bathtub filled with ice for the amount of time it took for a cigarette to burn down...it never mattered which of the treatments she chose for her punishment, because Avery would pick the one he wanted,” the complaint states.
The teen witness also indicates that a local cab driver, only identified as “D.B.” in the complaint, was working for Avery; renting houses in his name for Avery to avoid detection and co-signing on bail when the teen was arrested on a theft charge. The complaint states that D.B. worked for Yellow Checker Cab but was fired in April this year.
By 2008, five years after she started working for Avery, the teen — now an adult — was pregnant with his child.
A second witness described being wooed by Avery at 17 years old after he offered her a ride at a Greyhound bus station. Avery bought her clothes, discussed her troubled family life and invited her to live with him in Milwaukee. She obliged and, several weeks later, was working for him as a prostitute.
On one occasion, she told other prostitutes working for Avery that it was silly for them to hand over their $1,000 a night minimums or more, since they had been the ones taking on all the risk. When Avery found out, he beat her with a metal broom stick and then called Evans for a knife and nectarine.
“Avery peeled the skin off the nectarine, stabbed it a couple of times, and sat it down on the table with the knife sticking out of it. Avery told (the teen) that he was going to slice her face with the knife. Avery also stated, “I’ll toss you to the wolves.’ (The teen) knew that meant that he would tell his pimp friends that they could do whatever they wanted with her.”
These statements, and others like them, will likely be of great interest to Clark County prosecutors, who have fought to introduce footage of Avery as Snooky in the documentary and on the Jerry Springer show, where he appeared wearing a trademark gold ring featuring a king with two women kneeling on each side, and carrying a cane topped with a gold handle designed to hold a full-sized gold Champagne flute.
Whether or not you want to call it acting, it’s clear that Avery is a convincing person — he “was selling me my dreams” one woman told FBI investigators, adding that she was “sucked in by him quickly.”