Atlanta drag queen Pasha Nicole received a 14-year prison sentence for forcing a transgender teenager into prostitution, supplying her crack cocaine, creating graphic photos and video of her and driving her to meet sex-for-pay clients.
Nicole (second and fourth photos), known legally as Christopher Thomas Lynch (top photo), repeatedly cried during a two-hour hearing in a Douglas County courtroom on Wednesday before pleading guilty. Lynch’s attorney portrayed him as a prostitute with a troubled past working with friends to make a living. A prosecutor painted him as a domineering personality who manipulated a 16-year-old into sex acts for cash.
Lynch expressed regret and apologized before Superior Court Judge David Emerson sentenced him to serve 14 years of a 30-year prison sentence for pandering by compulsion, two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and a count of pimping a minor, which was reduced from a more serious charge of human trafficking.
“I have made a lot of mistakes in my life,” Lynch said. “It is the first time in four years that I am thinking clearly because I don’t have drugs in me. I was wrong. I was so wrong.”
Prosecutor Rachel Ackley sought a 40-year sentence with Lynch to serve 18 years; public defender Alison Frutoz asked for Lynch to serve five years of a 20-year sentence.
“It is clear that you were involved in it at great lengths and basically made it a criminal enterprise,” Emerson said.
A Douglas County grand jury indicted Lynch and Steven Lemery (third photo) in April 2011 on 18 counts, ranging from aggravated child molestation to human trafficking and possession of drug-related objects, for enticing teens for sex and forcing them into sexual servitude. Lynch was indicted for incidents that took place between Aug. 13 and Oct. 1, 2010; charges against Lemery date from 2008 to January 2011 and include victims in three states. The men were arrested in March 2011 after victims came forward with allegations about what occurred in Lemery’s home on Long Lake Drive in Douglasville.
Lynch portrayed himself as a bystander to the alleged sexual servitude happening around him during a Fox 5 interview when Lemery was arrested on March 2, 2011. Two days after the interview, a victim told police that he recognized Lynch from Lemery’s home and that Lynch abused him.
The case spawned intense reaction, a satirical Facebook page and a line of merchandise on a do-it-yourself t-shirt website.
‘Lynch found his meal ticket’
During the hearing, Ackley said prosecutors agreed to a plea agreement at the request of the 16-year-old victim – identified by Lynch’s attorney as Christiana – who was reluctant to testify in court for a trial.
“The victim would testify it’s the most humiliating thing that ever happened to him in his life. We are agreeing to this plea today at the victim’s request. The victim does not want to relive this in a roomful of people,” Ackley said.
Ackley said Lynch preyed on the victim, forced her into having sex with “much older men” and manipulated her into remaining in the Douglasville home. Once Lynch convinced Christiana to live with him and his boyfriend, Lynch stopped having sex for money and turned to the victim, Ackley said.
“Mr. Lynch had found his meal ticket,” Ackley said. “Anytime the victim walked out of the household [of a paying client], Pasha was sitting with her hand out, took the money and fed them cocaine.”
Lynch had a boyfriend, identified in court as Sam, and they lived in Lemery’s home while forcing Christiana to live in a closet, pay the rent for the couple and never allowing her to have her own transportation, Ackley said. Lynch and Lemery placed ads on Craigslist to attract up to three or four clients a day for Christiana, sex acts that would bring in thousands of dollars per week, Ackley said.
“This is not a case of a bunch of teenagers deciding to engage in a team effort of prostitution,” Ackley said.
“His life has worth and none of these things that happened to him are things that he asked for or things that he deserves. We have a duty to protect young people from this kind of activity. Most 16-year-olds live at home with their parents so they can be protected from people like the defendant,” Ackley said.
A drag queen working for a better life
Frutoz worked to portray Lynch as a drug-addicted street kid who worked as a prostitute to make ends meet. She described Christiana as a troubled teen who performed sex acts for money months before meeting Lynch in August 2010. She said Lemery owned the “party pad” where they lived and was the ringleader of the criminal activity.
“[Lemery] is a 40-year-old man with a history of inappropriate sexual conduct with minors. He is a man who dresses, wears wigs and does things he needs to do to make himself appear to be a 20-year-old male,” Frutoz said. “It is the penultimate house of ill repute. This house had just about everything going on in it.”
Lemery, a sometimes go-go dancer at gay bar BJ Roosters, lived in the house with his wife and their children, the wife’s boyfriend, Lynch and his boyfriend, Christiana and others. Lynch met the victim through a mutual friend and Frutoz described them as “transgendered girls who became pals, who became buddies” and worked together as prostitutes thanks to ads placed online.
“The internet has become the new street corner, for lack of a better description,” Frutoz said. “It is a very seductive promise to someone who is young, who is disenfranchised from society because of gender issues, and especially for someone who is broke.”
“Pasha was basically building her reputation as a drag performer in the Atlanta community. She even had a Wikipedia page. It was basically a way out of prostitution once you get your reputation big enough,” Frutoz added.
Lynch performed as Pasha in the Dragnique competition at Jungle in January 2011, just a few months after forcing Christiana into prostitution. She was eliminated during the second week of the competition.
Frutoz said Lynch and Christiana compared notes on drag and prostitution, and the victim used a fake ID to perform in a show at LeBuzz, a gay club in Marietta.
“They basically both looked and acted like teenage girls and for all intense purposes, that’s what they were. In the community of johns, the standard of excellence for a young transgendered male who is being female is someone who is passable,” Frutoz said.
Christiana is a victim, Frutoz said, but so is Lynch. He was born to a prostitute mother who was murdered in front of him when he was six. Once in foster care, Lynch was subjected to physical and sexual abuse, Frutoz said.
“I went through different foster homes where I was raped and molested. One foster parent tied me to the bed and set it on fire,” Lynch said.
Frutoz said police investigators, in their frenzy to build a case against Lemery, linked his criminal actions to Lynch.
“I felt like investigators in the case were in such a hype about Steve Lemery, who is frankly a very nefarious person. They assumed this was the case with my client,” Frutoz said. “What they thought the case was actually really wasn’t. We had some teenagers that conspired together to commit prostitution.”
Lemery remains in jail and faces a trial later this year. A condition of Lynch’s sentence is that he testifies against Lemery in the trial.