Pimp and panderer, maybe. Human trafficker, no.

After a four-day preliminary hearing with testimony from three admitted former prostitutes, Judge Kelly Neel dismissed a human trafficking charge against Arcata resident Javier Ruiz-Keyes, saying there was not enough evidence to show he had crossed the line from pimping to trafficking.


Under California law, pimping is receiving the earnings of a prostitute. Pandering is persuading a person to become or remain a prostitute. And human trafficking involves depriving another person of their personal liberty, or violating their personal liberty. It was alleged Ruiz-Keyes used force or fear to accomplish deprivation of liberty.

Neel said she struggled with whether to hold Ruiz-Keyes to answer for the more-serious charge, “but what the Court doesn’t have is ongoing deprivation of (the women’s) liberty.”

Neel also didn’t find that Ruiz-Keyes used force or fear to control the women working for him.

Ruiz-Keyes was held to answer for pimping and pandering Jane Doe III, a 24-year-old Eureka woman who worked for him as a prostitute for several months in Pomona. He also was held to answer on one count of pimping Jane Doe I, a 24-year-old Arcata resident and the mother of his 3-year-old child. All charges relating to Jane Doe II, Ruiz-Keyes’s current girlfriend, were dismissed.

Public Defender Luke Brownfield, representing Ruiz-Keyes, said outside court that Ruiz could be sentenced to prison for 8 years and 8 months if convicted of two counts of pimping and one count of pandering. A conviction for human trafficking can mean decades in prison.

The main victim in the case, Jane Doe III, testified that while working for Ruiz-Keyes in Pomona she had sex with 400 men. The highest daily number was 20, with each John paying from $100 to $500. Doe III claimed Ruiz-Keyes kept all the money, even though he had told her any amount over $500 a day would be hers.

According to testimoney, Jane Doe III was a homeless drug addict who had just overdosed and nearly died when Ruiz-Keyes sent her a bus ticket to Pomona, where he was living. She just wanted to get out of Humboldt County, where she feared she was going to die. She knew Ruiz-Keyes only casually, having met him on a couple of occasions in Eureka.

Under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Schaffer, Doe III said she had no idea what to expect when she got to Pomona. Within minutes of her arrival, she said, she was in a motel room with her first John.

“I let people make decisions for me,” she said. “I felt worthless.”

She was “very very vulnerable” and very afraid.

“I thought there was love; I thought there was friendship,” she said of Ruiz-Keyes. “But I didn’t mean anything to him.”

Despite that, “I wanted to do anything to not be back on the streets. I was terrified.”

Doe III claimed that when she didn’t bring in enough money “he would put hands on me. He would hit me.”

But she stayed.

“I didn’t have anybody to run to except for him. He was all I had.”

Doe III glared at Ruiz-Keyes during much of her testimony.

Public Defender Brownfield pointed out that she had left Ruiz-Keyes several times. But she always called him and asked him to pick her up.

“He wouldn’t have done anything to stop you (leaving),” Brownfield said.

“Yes, he would have.”

Doe III eventually came back to Humboldt but stayed in contact with Ruiz-Keyes until he was arrested.

“In a way I still have love for Javier,” she said. “He was always there for me.”

Such was the case with both other alleged victims.

Jane Doe I, the mother of Ruiz-Keyes’s daughter, acknowledged she still loves him and would do anything to protect him. And she did.

On the witness stand Doe I was shown print-out after print-out of text messages between her and Ruiz-Keyes, discussing money and their business.

She had the same response to reading each of them.

“I don’t remember.”

She said “I don’t remember” so many times, Schaffer finally asked whether she’d suffered a brain injury.

Although it was evident Ruiz-Keyes was pimping Doe I, Judge Neel said she saw no evidence he was threatening her or forcing her to do anything.

When Ruiz-Keyes was arrested in May on drug-trafficking charges, Does I and II combined resources to post his bail.

As for Doe II, the current girlfriend, she and Ruiz-Keyes had been living together in low-income housing in Arcata.

Doe II, 31, testified she dabbled in prostitution some years ago but hasn’t been paid for sex in eight years.

In the past weeks since Ruiz-Keyes was arrested on the sex charges, Doe II has had his “name and description” tattooed on her neck. She said she and Ruiz-Keyes often talked about their future — buying a house, having children. Doe I also thought she and Ruiz-Keyes had a future.

Schaffer questioned Doe II sharply about her claim that she was out of the sex business. Why? Because her photo and description were posted online on a pay-for-sex website. The contact number was that of Ruiz-Keyes.

Shown the ad, Doe I acted shocked. “That’s my photo!”

District Attorney’s investigator Alan Aubuchon testified he found “over 400” ads featuring the three alleged victims in this case. Some of the red lingerie Doe II wore in the ad photos was found in her bedroom closet when Ruiz-Keyes was arrested earlier this month.

But in her ruling, Judge Neel pointed out that although there may have been ads, there was no evidence at all that Doe II engaged in prostitution as a result.

Ruiz-Keyes is still being held without bail. He will be arraigned Sept. 12 on the pimping and pandering charges.

Ruiz-Keyes has two other cases pending — one for carrying a loaded firearm and another for trafficking cocaine.