A Portsmouth man convicted of aiding a prostitution ring in the Albemarle County and Charlottesville area will spend two years behind bars.
Douglas Meredith, 24, had a bench trial in January for charges of abduction and assisting a commercial sex-trafficking operation. After pleading not guilty to each, Judge Catherine Hammon convicted Meredith of the sex-trafficking charge but acquitted him of the abduction charge.
Evidence presented at trial established that Meredith had been working with others in a prostitution ring that utilized hotels and motels around Central Virginia. County prosecutors have not said how many other individuals were involved or whether any of them have been indicted.
At the trial, a woman testified that she agreed to take part in the prostitution ring after a falling out with her adoptive mother in August 2014. Her enthusiasm diminished quickly, she said, after the people involved took her ID and cellphone and subsequently refused to return them. For the next 12 days, she was taken to multiple locations to perform sex acts for money, all of which were kept by the higher-ups in the operation, she testified.
The woman escaped the ring on Aug. 23, she testified. Meredith was apprehended the following day at a motel in Albemarle.
Mike Hallahan, Meredith’s defense attorney, contended that the woman’s claims only were coming from her dissatisfaction with the financial arrangements of the deal and that she could have left the situation or alerted authorities at any time. He added that Meredith never received any compensation for his actions within the prostitution ring and that the sex trafficking charge was unwarranted.
Hammon ultimately agreed that there was not enough evidence to support the woman’s abduction claim and acquitted Meredith of the charge, sparing him from its 20-to-life sentence.
Hammon gave Meredith the maximum 10-year sentence for the sex-trafficking charge at his hearing Wednesday but suspended eight years of the sentence, given the circumstances of the case.
Prosecutor Robert Tracci said that because commercial sex trafficking is a relatively new offense in Virginia, the state’s sentencing commission has no established sentencing guidelines for it. He added that the investigation into the prostitution ring is ongoing.