YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – He was accused of forcing young girls, some of them underage, into being prostitutes for drugs. Now, he’s on his way to prison, but not without some drama in the courtroom.
Days before he was set for trial, Ronald Hellman stood next to his lawyer ready to take a plea deal with prosecutors.
Hellman was accused of running a human trafficking scheme involving more than half a dozen victims who were forced into prostitution in exchange for drugs. Investigators said he preyed on drug addicts and prostitutes.
He was also accused of sexually assaulting some of the victims, some of whom were minors, but things in court did not run so smoothly.
Hellman: “I want to go to trial.”
Judge Anthony Donofrio: “You just want a moment to talk to your lawyer?”
Hellman: “I want to take it to trial.”
After a brief recess, Hellman came back and finished entering his guilty pleas to nine counts, including trafficking in persons and compelling prostitution.
Two of Hellman’s victims then came forward, telling the judge the plea agreement gives them some closure.
“I just hope that he gets right with God,” one victim said.
“He also needs to know that he caused a lot of pain and suffering messing with these girls, something that they can’t fix or get back,” another victim said.
As the investigation played itself out over the last two years, one of the others charged in the ring, Charles Krusac, of Austintown, took his own life in Oct. 2018 after being indicted on child pornography charges. Police said Hellman was paid to provide women and girls to Krusac.
In court on Wednesday, Hellman’s attorney admitted there was little chance of winning an acquittal.
“There was just too many that I believe a jury would have been compelled by just the amount of victims saying the same thing over and over again,” Atty. Dave Betras said.
In the end, Judge Donofrio sentenced Hellman to 15 years in prison. He will also have to register as a Tier 3 sex offender every 90 days for the rest of his life.