Montia Parker seemed loaded with promise as she was finishing high school this spring: an honor roll student already accumulating college credit, a frequent volunteer and cheerleading captain at her suburban Minneapolis school.
Months later, Parker is off to prison after being sentenced Friday to three years for prostituting a younger member of the cheer squad and keeping the money for herself.
"Tragically — for many — her high school years ended in criminal activity. She was the leader of an attempted high school prostitution ring," Hennepin County District Court Judge William Koch said when issuing the sentence. "It is, in many ways, inexplicable."
Parker, 18, of Maple Grove, had previously pleaded guilty to three prostitution-related counts. She was immediately ordered into custody, and must spend at least two years behind bars before she's eligible for release. She must also register as a sex offender upon release.
Parker admitted she told a 16-year-old fellow cheerleader at Hopkins High School last March the girl could earn money through prostitution. The younger girl agreed, so Parker placed an ad online and took her to an apartment where the girl was paid to perform oral sex. The girl gave Parker $60, which the judge said went toward "a pair of sneakers."
The next day, Parker drove the girl to another apartment, but the girl didn't do what the man asked her to do.
The victim's sister told Koch that Parker manipulated a girl with a learning disability and that the victim had considered Parker a friend and trusted her. She asked the judge to make an example of Parker, saying her sister's life had been destroyed. Her sister has since isolated herself, switched schools, and quit cheerleading, she said.
Prosecutor Joshua Larson had sought up to five years in prison, saying Parker was the "instigator, designer, manager and CEO of pimping this child."
Parker's attorney, Leon Trawick, argued for time in the workhouse and probation, saying his client was a standout student with no criminal history and a bright future ahead of her.
"It has been tragic on both families," he said.
It was revealed in court that Parker had become familiar with online sex ads after a former boyfriend tried to pressure her into selling herself. Koch said that because of that, Parker should have known better and should have protected the victim instead of exploiting her.
Parker apologized in a letter to the judge, which was not read in court and not released publicly.
But Koch said her actions were peer pressure of the worst kind.
"This took planning. It took preparation. It took follow through," Koch said.
The victim's family left the courtroom without commenting. Parker's family declined to comment.
Two men who responded to Parker's ad await prosecution. Oladipupo Legunsen, 27, is set for a January trial on a prostitution charge. The other man is wanted on a warrant, so authorities haven't named him.
According to the criminal complaint, Parker posed as the girl's mother and took her out of school.
The victim's actual mother called police after she noticed changes in her daughter's behavior and found messages on the girl's cellphone between Parker and the girl.
Hopkins High School took immediate action against Parker when it heard of the charges in the spring and followed its disciplinary policy, which includes permanently removing a student from campus. As a result, she didn't participate in her graduation ceremony.