Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Public safety

Palm Harbor man gets six years for helping underage girls prostitute themselves

PALM HARBOR — A Palm Harbor man has been sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to charges based on allegations that he helped minor girls prostitute themselves through Internet classified ads.

James Perdue, 62, had pleaded guilty to charges including procuring a minor for prostitution, child abuse, and possession of illegal drugs. He was sentenced last month and has been handed over to the Florida Department of Corrections, according to his lawyer, J. Jason Bangos of Clearwater.

At the time of his arrest, Pinellas County sheriff's deputies said Perdue helped two minor girls advertise sexual services using the website backpage.com. The site has attracted scrutiny from law enforcement officials across the country who say it plays an outsize role in online ads for prostitutes, many of them teen girls.

Perdue had previously been arrested in 2007, according to the Sheriff's Office, when a deputy conducting a traffic stop discovered that he was wearing a sex toy while driving around with a teen girl. Perdue is also facing outstanding drug charges in Tennesee, Bangos said.

Bangos said Perdue had made some unwise decisions based on an ongoing methamphetamine habit. But he said his client had good intentions, and was only trying to help the minor girls engage in prostitution safely.

"The guy smokes meth. That's his bag; that's his deal," Bangos said. "It affected his judgment."

Two other adults have also been charged in connection with the case.

Mikki Lightsey Pitts, a 50-year-old Palm Harbor woman who lived in the same neighborhood as Perdue, is awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a child. Authorities say that Pitts also helped the minor girls use the Internet to advertise sex for sale.

Palm Harbor resident Michael Bowers, 19, was also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a child, a misdemeanor. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail, according to court records. Investigators said Bowers acted as "security" for the girls during their meetings with clients.

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

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