After deliberating for 15 hours over two days, an Albemarle County jury ended nearly two weeks of court proceedings Thursday when it found Quincy M. Edwards guilty of trafficking a West Virginia woman who said she was coerced into having sex with as many as 20 men a day in Roanoke, Lynchburg and the Charlottesville area in exchange for habit-maintaining heroin doses.
Edwards, 34, was convicted of 10 counts of commercial sex trafficking and procuring a person for financial gain. He had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of pandering.
The 12-person jury found him not guilty of abduction, use of a firearm in an abduction and extortion.
The jury recommended that Edwards spend 22 years in prison — two years for each trafficking count and two years for receiving money for arranging prostitution.
The West Virginia woman, identified by her initials, T.M., said she moved to Roanoke in an attempt to get away from heroin addiction and prostitution. But she said she became “dopesick” with withdrawal symptoms and sent her girlfriend to find drugs.
The girlfriend returned to their hotel room with Edwards, who identified himself as “Dobetter” and carried a cigar box full of heroin packets. Thus began a month of T.M. being cut off from friends, threatened by Edwards, supervised by his girlfriend and having sex with between a dozen to 20 men a day, prosecutors said.
During the trial, Edwards’ defense attorney argued that T.M. was a consensual sex worker who voluntarily worked with Edwards and his girlfriend. The defense said Edwards even helped T.M. reduce her heroin habit.
His attorney noted that T.M. worked as prostitute in West Virginia, putting free ads on Backpage.com, an internet classified ad site similar to Craigslist but best known for its sex advertisements.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice seized Backpage, and the site’s chief executive officer pleaded guilty to charges of facilitating prostitution and money laundering.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tracci said following the trial that he was pleased with the jury’s verdict. He said he was also grateful for the work of Albemarle police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s investigative division, which jointly investigated the case.
“The victim obtained a measure of justice she deserved, while the defendant received the accountability this case demanded,” said Tracci. “Human trafficking is an affront to human dignity and has no place in our society. All forms of human trafficking, including commercial sex trafficking, will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law by this office.”
A formal sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 4.