Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a woman was sentenced to 50 years in state prison today after being convicted at trial of first-degree human trafficking and other charges for forcing a girl, 17, to engage in prostitution at hotels in Mercer County.
Ashley Gardener, 32, of Trenton was sentenced to 50 years in state prison, including 20 years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Darlene J. Pereksta. Gardener was convicted by a Mercer County jury on Oct. 24, 2019 of conspiracy (1st degree), human trafficking (1st degree), facilitating human trafficking (2nddegree), promoting prostitution of a minor (1st degree), promoting organized street crime (1st degree), and endangering the welfare of a child (2nd degree).
Officials said she was sentenced to 25 years in prison with 20 years of parole ineligibility on the first-degree human trafficking charge, consecutive to 25 years in prison on the first-degree promoting organized street crime charge.
According to officials, Gardener received concurrent sentences of 15 years, eight years, and eight years, respectively, on the charges of promoting prostitution of a minor, facilitating human trafficking, and endangering the welfare of a child.
She will be required to register under Megan’s Law and will be subject to parole supervision for life.
Deputy Attorneys General Katherine Morris and James Ruberton tried the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, Human Trafficking Unit. The lead detective was Detective Rodrick Jones of the New Jersey State Police, supervised by Detective Sgt. John Cipot.
Officials said Gardener and co-defendant Breon Mickens, 28, of Trenton, were charged in an investigation by the New Jersey State Police and Division of Criminal Justice, assisted by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, Lawrence Police Department, New Jersey Department of Children and Families, and U.S. Marshals Service New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force.
Mickens pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy and was sentenced to five years in prison in November 2019.
The investigation began when the victim escaped from a hotel where she was forced by Gardener and Mickens to engage in prostitution.
“This prosecution reflects our commitment to ensure that human traffickers like Gardener face justice,” said Attorney General Grewal. “These offenders prey on vulnerable victims, forcing them into a life of sexual slavery.
We will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners at all levels, as well as victim advocates, to raise awareness about human trafficking, rescue victims, and apprehend those responsible for these terrible crimes.”