Dustin J. Morsette, a/k/a Dusty J. Morsette, 23, of New Town, N.D., was sentenced Aug. 13, 2012, by U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland on charges of sex trafficking, sexual abuse, drug trafficking and witness tampering. Morsette was found guilty of the charges by a federal jury on April 10, 2012.
Morsette was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison, to be followed by supervised release for life. Morsette was also ordered to pay a $1700 special assessment to the Crime Victim’s fund and must register as a sex offender.
Hovland says Morsette deserved a stiff sentence, but says a life sentence "is harsh for a 23-year-old man with no criminal history, a childhood spent living in 21 different foster homes, and a life plagued with dysfunction and chaos."
In Bismarck, U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon said, “Defendant Morsette is a predator who targeted and exploited young girls and women of the Fort Berthold Reservation. He sexually abused multiple young girls, he engaged minor children to sell drugs for him, and he used physical force and coercion to force an additional young woman to perform sex acts for money in Minot and Williston. The stiff sentence imposed by the court today is a just punishment for Defendant Morsette’s crimes. The climate of fear he created for young girls and women on the Fort Berthold Reservation is no more.”
Following a six-day jury trial, the federal jury convicted Morsette of one count of sex trafficking by force or coercion, three counts of aggravated sexual abuse by force, five counts of sexual abuse of a minor, two counts of sexual abuse, one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute marijuana, three counts of employment or use of a person under 18 years of age in drug operations, and one count of tampering with a witness. There were five female victims of the sexual abuse by Morsette, four of whom were minors under 16 years of age at the time of the offenses.
In or about September 2009, Morsette and another person conspired to distribute marijuana in and around the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. As part of this conspiracy, Morsette began to recruit minors and young adults to be part of a gang he described as the Black Disciples. According to testimony at trial, Morsette used physical force and coercion to cause an adult female he had recruited for the gang to engage in commercial sex acts on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and in Williston and Minot.
After his arrest in July 2010, Morsette attempted to influence this adult female’s testimony in this case and to prevent communication of information about the sexual abuse and prostitution activity to law enforcement.
Also according to trial testimony, gang members were required to distribute marijuana for Morsette and/or engage in sexual acts with Morsette. Morsette used force and threats to coerce individuals he recruited for the gang into engaging in the sexual acts with him. Morsette also engaged in a sexual act with a minor who was physically incapable of consenting to the act due to her consumption of alcoholic beverages and drugs.
Page 2 of 2 - U.S. attorneys Brendan Johnson of South Dakota and Timothy Purdon of North Dakota say the two states are seeing an increased number of human trafficking cases.