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MailTribune.com
  • Medford man gets prison time for promoting prostitution

    Police say Dennel Smith, 23, pleaded guilty to fewer charges after a plea agreement with prosecutors
  • A Medford man arrested last year after selling sexual encounters between paying strangers and women he recruited was sentenced Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court to more than a year in prison.
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  • A Medford man arrested last year after selling sexual encounters between paying strangers and women he recruited was sentenced Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court to more than a year in prison.
    Dennell Lawrence Smith, 23, of the 1600 block of Hollyhock Drive, was convicted of two counts of promoting prostitution, said Jackson County Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe, who prosecuted Smith.
    In two separate cases, Smith initially faced four counts of compelling prostitution and five counts of promoting prostitution, but was convicted on one charge in each case as part of his plea agreement, Hoppe said.
    In addition to 1Â1/2; years in prison, Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia required Smith to register as a sex offender and face three years of post-prison supervision, Hoppe said.
    Smith faced three counts of promoting prostitution and three counts of compelling prostitution in one case, and two counts of promoting prostitution and one count of compelling prostitution in the other, court records show.
    Smith's alleged partner in crime, Rebecca Jean Eilenberger, 49, also of the 1600 block of Hollyhock Drive, faces two counts of promoting prostitution — to which she has entered pleas of not guilty, court records show. She is scheduled to amend her pleas on March 25, Hoppe said.
    A Medford police spokesperson said a two-month investigation into the couple's exploits started in September after a woman called a friend to say she was being held against her will in an area hotel. Investigators believed something suspicious was occurring, but Smith, Eilenberger and the woman told investigators it was a misunderstanding.
    Police weren't so sure. They left their business cards and asked the woman to call if she ever needed help. Weeks later, she reached out to Medford Police Department Detective Jim Williams and told him she had been brought from California to engage in sexual acts for payments that went to Smith.
    In November, a Jackson County grand jury indicted Smith and Eilenberger and police arrested them on warrants at their Hollyhock Drive home, court records show.
    Police said mental and physical abuse are used to put fear into women who are used as prostitutes by pimps. In recent years, law enforcement has largely shifted its focus to investigating pimps rather than arresting women working as prostitutes, police said.
    Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr.
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