Martin Gerding of Lewiston, left, and his attorney, Richard Charest, listen to Assistant District Attorney Nathan Walsh in Eighth District Court in Lewiston on Wednesday. Gerding was arrested last week on a charge of aggravated sex trafficking. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — A local man who police said propositioned an undercover cop to act as her pimp appeared in court Wednesday.

Martin Gerding, 35, of 90 Ash St. was arrested last week on a charge of aggravated sex trafficking, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Detective Thomas Murphy wrote in an affidavit that Gerding had boasted to an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute at Horton and Ash streets one night in September that he provides protection for some of the prostitutes in the area. He said he had two “girls” working the streets. He said he wasn’t afraid to get physical with some or “put a gun in someone,” according to the affidavit.

He provided tips to the undercover officer how to work the “Johns” and how to avoid going to jail, police said in the affidavit. Their conversation was recorded on the officer’s cellphone. Police had been conducting a sting operation targeting customers who engaged prostitutes in an effort to crack down on human and sex trafficking.

Police said a local woman who admitted to working as a prostitute told an officer last year that she made money on the street for herself and Gerding, the man to whom she was engaged to marry. They used the money to support their drug habits, she had said.

Four days after Gerding had approached the undercover officer, the woman who claimed to be his fiancee was working on the street in a location where Gerding could watch her. She was later brought to the police station where she spoke with an advocate for victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

Afterward, she told police that she met Gerding on the streets after getting involved in drugs and losing custody of her children. After she moved in with him, he “convinced her to start prostituting to pay for their drug habit,” according to the affidavit.

Gerding “set up the rules she had to follow, including the lowest price she was to accept for certain acts,” according to the affidavit. He would “get mad at her if she came back with anything less than $20,” she told police. He also set time limits on the length of the “dates.”

Gerding would take the proceeds from the transactions and buy drugs they would both use, she said, according to the affidavit. Gerding would get mad and make her go out on “dates” even if she didn’t want to, she said.

During another interview with police, the woman said Gerding sometimes physically assaulted her when she refused to turn over the money she had earned as a prostitute. Once in July, after being paid $20, Gerding “pushed her to the ground, injuring her knee, when he tried to take the money from her.” After that, she was afraid to refuse to engage in prostitution, she said.

Eighth District Court Judge Rick Lawrence set cash bail for Gerding at $15,000 or $30,000 worth of real estate.

Assistant District Attorney Nathan Walsh had argued for $25,000 cash bail.

Richard Charest, Gerding’s attorney, Wednesday asked for $500 cash bail.

Walsh said Gerding had prior convictions for felony theft and domestic violence assault.

Charest said Gerding hadn’t been convicted of a violent crime.

Gerding, whose only means of income is a monthly Social Security check, couldn’t afford a high cash bail, Charest said.

Although Gerding didn’t enter a formal plea, he denied the charge.

Through Charest, Gerding said he had been dating and had lived for many months with the woman he is accused of trafficking.

“Anything she did was on her own,” Charest said. “He certainly didn’t compel her to do anything.”

Because the charge is a felony, Gerding didn’t enter a plea Wednesday. All felony charges must be handed up by a grand jury.

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