Rock ‘n roll star Chuck Berry began a two year prison sentence today (February 19, 1962), for violating The Mann Act.
The singer had been accused of transporting a 14-year-old girl across state lines to work as a hatcheck girl in Berry’s Club Bandstand, which he had established as a racially integrated nightclub in St. Louis.
The teen in question was a young native American woman named Janice Escalanti, whom Berry met while on December 1, while playing a show in El Paso, Texas.
Escalanti, who was originally from Yuma, Arizona, was fired after two weeks in the club. She began soliciting sex in a local hotel and After some time, she called the Yuma police seeking a way to get home.
This lead to Berry being accused of violating The Mann Act, since the singer allegedly had sexual relations with the girl in four different states.
Berry was convicted of the charges, but the ruling was overturned, because U.S. District Judge George H. Moore repeatedly asked questions about race during the trial.
When he was put on trial again in October of 1961, Judge Roy W. Harper offered no leniency and sentenced Berry to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine for being “intimate” with Escalanti.
When Chuck Berry was released in 1963, he continued his run of hits with songs like “No Particular Place to Go,” “Nadine,” and “You Never Can Tell.”
Berry also experienced a surge in popularity, thanks to the many white acts influenced by his music during the “British Invasion” of music, which began in early 1963.
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