Sex trafficking trial: Massage parlour owner set to hear verdict
Johannesburg high court judge Ismail Mahomed is on Wednesday expected to deliver his verdict in the trial of Gerhard Ackerman, accused of running a child sex ring.
Ackerman ran a massage parlour in northern Johannesburg where adult male clients allegedly paid for massages with sexual experiences with underage boys working as masseurs.
During the trial, which began in January, the court heard testimony alleging Ackerman abused minor boys between the ages of 14 and 16, groomed his victims and benefited financially from facilitating their services with clients.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges, including rape, human trafficking, distribution of child pornography and sexual assault.
He also faces a charge of attempted murder for allegedly exposing youths to a client he knew was HIV positive — his co-accused,advocate and acting judge Paul Kennedy, who committed suicide in February last year while on bail.
The state led evidence, including from some of the alleged victims, that he recruited boys — some from other provinces — under the false pretence that they would be doing basic massage work and nothing sexual or against their will with adult clients.
Pornographic communication between Ackerman and Kennedy, allegedly found on Ackerman's electronic equipment, was revealed in court.
Ackerman, maintaining his interactions with the youths were consensual, told the court he had trained about 70 to 100 masseurs. Many of them contacted him as word of his business got around, with the knowledge that “happy endings” were part of the job.
He testified he believed the boys were all over the age of 16 — the legal age of consent.
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