MAYS LANDING — A judge ruled to detain a Mays Landing man accused of holding three women captive and forcing them into prostitution after he appeared in court Monday.
El Joshua, 36, appeared before Judge Patricia Wild for his detention hearing and first appearance.
Wild ruled the state had adequate probable cause to continue with their case alleging Joshua had held three adult women in his Pearce Road home and used violence to make them engage in prostitution and domestic servitude. Assistant Prosecutor Erika Halayko said Joshua supplied the women with heroin and used coercion to get them to perform sexual acts. One woman escaped through a window of the house and alerted authorities to Joshua’s operation.
Despite Assistant Deputy Public Defender Kate Weigel’s warnings, Joshua made an attempt to address the court.
Wild stopped Joshua short from bringing up matters in the case, but he then turned to his attorney and voiced his frustration with his treatment in court, loud enough for Wild to hear.
“Because if a white lady say something, then I’m automatically guilty,” Joshua said.
Wild decided to address Joshua’s claim before allowing his testimony to proceed.
“People come into my courtroom every day of all races creeds and colors and nobody in this courtroom is permitted to treat anybody with any disrespect and disregard based upon sex, based upon gender, based upon their choice of religion they represent, based upon any gender issues and certainly not any racial issues,” she said.
Wild also said that she did not know the races of the three victims.
“And I really don’t want to know because, frankly, it doesn’t make a difference to me,” she said.
She further advised Joshua against testifying and cautioned him that speaking to the court would also mean that Halayko would be allowed to pose questions to him that he could not refuse.
“It’s my advice to you, Mr. Joshua, that you sit down and let your attorney speak for you,” Wild said. “But I’m giving you the opportunity, if you wish to do so, to say what you want to say.”
Joshua declined to continue speaking.
“I respect your concern, and you have to trust your attorney and take her advice,” Wild said.
He was charged Thursday with five counts of human trafficking, two counts of criminal restraint and one count of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
Joshua’s attorney argued against the information in the affidavit of probable cause, calling into question the credibility of the victims and witnesses.
Weigel said their behavior was inconsistent with people being held against their will.
“There was nobody in the house who was forcing or physically threatening these women,” Weigel said.
She also questioned the credibility of the women, further saying that one was on parole and two had lived in halfway houses.
The state attorney argued that Joshua should be detained because he posed a danger to the three victims and the Atlantic County community.
Weigel argued against detention, saying that Joshua was not a danger to the women because he worked six days a week as a gas station employee, cleaner and landscaper and had signed up for truck-driving school.
Wild ruled that Joshua would be held until the next court appearance, tentatively scheduled for March 25.