Greeley man sentenced to 248 years in capstone of sweeping human trafficking case
The drawing is of a woman’s face, framed against the rush of her hair in the background. A dollar bill is stretched across her mouth, gagging her like duct tape. A single tear trickles down her right cheek.
Weld District Attorney’s Office prosecutors showed that sketch at the sentencing hearing of Paul Burman, 33, Wednesday. In August, a jury convicted Burman, also known as “Haylo,” of 32 counts relating to his trafficking and prostituting of women and underage girls in northern Colorado and Nebraska. Weld District Judge Julie Hoskins on Wednesday sentenced him to 248 years in prison, which prosecutors say is longest sentence ever in Colorado in a human trafficking case.
The sketch was drawn by one of his victims.
“(Burman) told her money was more important than her voice, and more important than her bodily integrity,” Weld Deputy District Attorney Tamara Love said. “Because of his love of money, her voice was taken away.”
Burman was convicted after a 13-day trial. That trial delved into his career as a human trafficker and a pimp, stretching from October 2012 to April 2014. He was arrested in December 2014 after a massive investigation conducted by the Greeley Police Department, the FBI’s Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force and the Colorado State Patrol.
That investigation began when one of Burman’s victims, in rehab, told her story to authorities. The investigation took police to the hellish depths of the American human trafficking underworld, and gradually Burman’s mode of operation emerged.
According to police reports, Burman usually began by messaging girls — often teenagers — through social media and offering them a chance to earn money. They would agree to meet up with them, he would give them drugs or alcohol, then arrange for them to have sex with his customers. According to witnesses, it was often with multiple customers in a night. He would keep the money and keep his victims in servitude, even going so far as forcing one girl to get a tattoo with the phrase “money over bitches.” Clark said Burman also fostered drug addiction in the girls he prostituted, and used it as a way to control them, but he had other methods, too. He threatened violence, and once he beat and sexually assaulted a girl who didn’t earn enough money and talked back to him.
Another of his victims, who spoke before prosecutors showed the sketch, said Burman had turned her life into a “running nightmare.”
“He forced me to do things that were unbelievable,” said the woman, whose name The Tribune will not print because she is a victim of sexual assault. “He literally put a price tag on my body. I felt like no one could ever love me. Sometimes I still wake up screaming.”
His threats didn’t stop with his victims.
“Burman attempted to make contact with me,” said the lead investigator on the case, whose name The Tribune will not print because of concerns about her safety if her name were to be widely disseminated. “Local police officers had to guard my residence. Because of Paul Burman, my child still has nightmares and is unable to sleep alone.”
Burman also was convicted of tampering with a witness, a charge added when he learned police and prosecutors were moving against him. While being held in the Weld County Jail, he asked one of his acquaintances to Google how to make a witness non-credible in court.
“He provided a choose-your-own adventure book on how to tamper with a witness,” said Weld Deputy District Attorney Arynn Clark. “It thoughtfully went with coded instructions on what to do.”
At Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Jerry Manzer, Burman’s attorney, emphasized his client’s tortured past. It included an impoverished childhood, devoid of a father figure, which was also marred by drug abuse, suicide and a stint in foster care. Burman was so poor growing up he and his sister had to steal to feed themselves, Manzer said.
“It’s important to remember that we’re dealing with a human being who stands before you a damaged human being,” Manzer said.
Burman said much the same thing in a lengthy letter he penned to Hoskins while in jail, and he claimed he’d changed.
“I denounce and despise the person that I was,” he said Wednesday. “I plead with you to please give me hope. I don’t want to die in prison, Judge Hoskins. I know what you heard, but I also believe you know what you didn’t hear.”
Hoskins said that didn’t change the court’s job, and she handed down the heaviest sentence possible, exactly as prosecutors asked.
“Sentencing (Burman) to the maximum time in prison would send a very clear message that our children are not for sale,” Clark said.
After the two-hour hearing, a crowd gathered in the lobby of the courthouse. A knot of people formed around the victim who spoke early in the hearing.
She is now married to someone she loves, she said. After the sentencing, she was laughing and smiling.
“This is my day,” she told the crowd.
*This article has been changed to reflect the following corrections: quotes from Arynn Clark were previously attributed to Tamara Love, and quotes from Tamara Love were previously attributed to Arynn Clark.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.