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Three-Year Sentence Given for Pandering

Eventually, Chantilly's Joshua Brandon Tart will answer to a probation-violation charge in Arlington. First, though, he must spend the next three years in prison.

Tart, 26, of 13110 Point Pleasant Drive, was sentenced Friday in Fairfax County Circuit Court for pandering. Now both he and his partner in crime, Miguel Angelo Castro, 26, of Fort Washington, Md., have been punished for their roles in a teen-age prostitution scheme.

THE OFFENSE involved a 16-year-old runaway and, on April 1, a City of Fairfax detective discovered she was staying at the Fairfield Inn in Chantilly. Since the hotel was in their jurisdiction, Fairfax County officers were notified and responded to the scene.

There, around 3 a.m., they found the girl with Tart and Castro. Further investigation revealed that, between March 11 and April 1, they and the girl had used the Internet to run a prostitution business. Police also discovered illegal drugs inside the hotel room.

They charged both men with pandering and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The latter charge was dropped in May; but on June 19, the grand jury indicted both men for pandering. And on June 27 in Circuit Court, Castro entered an Alford plea of guilt — acknowledging that enough evidence existed to convict him.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Camille Turner said the teen and the men met in March when she ran away from home. Then, said Turner, Castro and Tart "began posting ads on the Internet advertising sex [from the girl] on craigslist.org."

Once prospective customers responded, she said, "Arrangements [for sex] were made by phone, and the girl would provide oral sex or sexual intercourse for a previously arranged fee. The proceeds were used to purchase food, hotel rooms, drugs and alcohol."

On July 28, Circuit Court Judge Gaylord Finch sentenced Castro to three years in prison, suspending all but three months. Tart had a two-day jury trial before Finch, beginning Aug. 21, and was found guilty.

He returned Friday for sentencing, and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Bob McClain told the judge, "The jury recommended three years. Respect [its] judgment and impose the three years."

But public defender Dawn Butorac said Tart has a severe drug addiction and, while in jail, enrolled himself in an intensive-addictions program. "He was battling the demons of drugs and grew up in a drug-addicted family," she said. "Both his mother and father used drugs, and he began breaking the law as a young teen."

She said her client understands he needs to stop using drugs or else he'll continue coming back to courts. Said Butorac: "This is when Mr. Tart is going to take matters into his own hands and get his life back on track."

Noting that he has a probation violation pending in Arlington, she said, "In all likelihood, [some part of a previously suspended sentence there] will probably be imposed." On June 19, 2003 in Arlington Circuit Court, he was convicted of a Dec. 4, 2002 grand larceny and was sentenced to five years in prison, with 3 1/2 suspended.

Next came Tart's Fairfax County arrest and, on July 20, Arlington issued a bench warrant for his arrest for probation violation. But because of his latest conviction in Fairfax, he'll serve that sentence first before being brought back to Arlington to answer to the probation-violation charge there.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Butorac told Judge Finch that Castro only received three months in jail and he and Tart were "equally involved" in the crime. Said Butorac: "Although I know my client had a more extensive record, I ask you to suspend a portion of the sentence and order him to continue drug treatment."

Tart then stood and said, "This is the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to me in my life. My addiction has taken me from smoking weed to I.V. use of cocaine, crack and heroin."

But Finch was unmoved. "This jury spent a great deal of time on this case," he said. "Four years was the midpoint of the [sentencing] guidelines and six years, two months was the high end, so I think the jury got it right."

"I'm going to sentence you to three years [in prison] and three years post-release supervision," he told Tart. "I wish you good luck — it's a miracle you're not dead."