Man behind prostitution ring sentenced to at least 18 years in prison

DETROIT (AP) - A man accused of drawing girls and young women into a multistate sex ring was sentenced to 18 to 40 years in prison.

Henry Davis, 32, of Chicago pleaded no contest last month to multiple prostitution, rape and kidnapping charges.

"It was never my intention to harm anyone. ... I'm quite grieved if I caused anyone any grief," he said during his sentencing Monday in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Davis' attorney, Marvin Barnett, told the Detroit Free Press that his client pleaded guilty to avoid a long court proceeding.

"This man has a strong family here, and it was his concern not to put anybody through a trial," Barnett said.

A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as one for sentencing purposes.

Prosecutors accused Davis (pictured in court hiding behind lawyer, above) of using rape, beatings and threats to keep women and girls as young as 13 under his control since as far back as 1995.

At least 40 women -- some of them teenagers -- have told investigators they were abducted or tricked into joining the sex ring. Davis and his associates forced some of them to sell jewelry on the street, dance in illegal clubs or work as prostitutes, prosecutors said.

One defendant is awaiting trial, and seven other people have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from their roles in the sex ring. Two others remain at large.

The case made headlines in January when a 17-year-old Cleveland girl told a security guard at a shoe store that she had been kidnapped from a bus stop and forced to perform sex acts. The guard called police.

Investigators said Davis and the ring's members traveled to Cleveland, Milwaukee and Gary, Ind., but were based in a house in Detroit.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)