Twenty-eight-year-old Matthew Jeffery Holt pleaded guilty to first-degree conspiracy to commit human trafficking, two counts of second-degree human trafficking, and promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor. Twenty-eight years old and his life is essentially over. But he got what he deserved.
Holt was in jail in August of 2016, when he was overheard on the phone talking about prostituting women. Apparently he never got the memo that jailhouse officials listen to all inmate telephone conversations. After investigating, authorities learned that Holt was the leader of a gang trafficking at least 15 girls and women, some as young as 13.
Like most traffickers, Holt used violence and terror to acquire and control his slaves. He assaulted one woman so badly she had a seizure, which he then decided to film. He brutally raped another woman in front of her two kids.
Holt took a “friend’s” girlfriend to a hotel and forced her into prostitution, telling her that “if she didn’t he would kill her and leave her on the highway.” He also told her that he would kill her child.
He tied up a woman and beat her for four hours after she asked him not to stay in her home for fear Child Protective Services would take her kids away. This partial list of Holt’s atrocities only illustrate his feelings toward women.
Thanks to good police work, eleven people were arrested and charged in the trafficking ring. Among them were: Howard Jones, 19; Quantreyvis “Q” Smith, 19; Monjae “Baby Boo” Haynesworth, 21; Michael “Slim” Hurst, 27; Jamaal “B1” Pinkney, 33; and Clarence “YG” King III, 34. Yeah, a bunch of young black men abducting and selling black women and girls in the year 2020. Nothing I could say would adequately convey my own personal sense of disgust at this widespread practice. The historical fact of black enslavement in this country ought to paint a line on the roadway of life that tells young black men to rise above selling their sisters and daughters.
I’m pretty sure other people were involved in Holt’s becoming the person he is today. We look at the childhood pictures of people like Holt and we see our own younger selves looking back– smiling and innocent and so full of promise. No one would have predicted he would one day become a brutal enslaver of young girls. Someone did that to him. Someone wrote horrible things on the blank slate. that was once his mind. Instead of asking the question “What’s wrong with you?,” maybe the more appropriate question is “What happened to you?”
Unfortunately, though, none of us is able to turn back the hands of time. We meet our monsters– however they were produced– when they have grown up and become the bringers of fear and pain.
Holt’s lawyer brought up his traumatic and violent upbringing in a sentencing memorandum he filed with the court, saying:
“Mr. Holt was essentially left to fend for himself and predictably fell into a lifestyle that he was born into, brought up around, and that he was accustomed to. … Add to the already immense hurdles that Mr. Holt would need to overcome in order to be a law-abiding citizen and contributing member of society, there is systemic implicit racism permeating our entire society, increasing the odds against Mr. Holt achieving lawful success.”
It’s possible– maybe even likely– that he was living out the nightmare that was his reality as a child. The American Academy of Pediatrics says adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have a significant, negative, impact on how we act as adults. And from a clinical perspective, I get it. It’s probably true that people who abuse their own children were abused when they were young. I believe the things we experience during our childhood can shape our views, our perceptions, our wishes and even the goals we set for ourselves. But I don’t believe our experiences mummify us and leave us unable to choose. At the end of the day we are each of us individually responsible for the decisions we make.
Adverse childhood experiences don’t dictate the future of any child. Some not only survive but thrive despite the worst of circumstances. Neither does the existence of systemic racism. People who make conscious decisions to prey on the innocent and weak may be redeemable, but they are equally deserving of a punishment that fits their intentional crime.
On Friday, Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend sentenced Holt to 30 years in prison.
What a waste.