BILLINGS -- Before sending the jury out to deliberate Tuesday, defense attorneys told jurors that the man accused of trafficking women for sex in Montana operated a legal escort business that satisfied clients’ desires for threes C’s: Communication, connection and companionship.
Prosecutors told jurors to add “conman” as the fourth “C” to Terrance Edwards’ business model. Edwards is on trial in U.S. District Court in Billings on 10 prostitution-related charges.
His co-defendant, Francine Joanna Granados, is charged with tampering with a witness for allegedly sending messages to one woman in an attempt to stop her from disclosing Edwards’ criminal actions.
The defense claims this case is a matter of toeing the legal line between escorts and prostitutes. “He explicitly told these women not to have sex,” said Palmer Hoovestal, the attorney representing Edwards.
Prosecutors argued that Edwards crossed that line many times, by coercing and intimating three women into selling their bodies for his own personal gain. “They may have agreed or acquiesced, by they never consented,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Xeno Baucus in his closing argument on Tuesday.
Baucus added that Edwards would have done the same to three teenage girls if one of his adult victims hadn't contacted police.
The defense told jurors that the alleged victims in this case should have some accountability. “As soon as the door closes, Edwards has no control over what happens,” said Hoovestal.
Hoovestal showed jurors text messages from one of the women to Edwards sent days before he was arrested. “I ain’t about to do you wrong, I’m in this for the long haul,” said the woman’s text message. “I came for the money, staying for the lifestyle and you.”
Shortly thereafter, the woman called her mother, who contacted police and reported that her daughter had been kidnapped and forced into prostitution.
“Two days ago you were in this program 100 percent,” said the defense attorney for Grandados. “Now you were kidnapped?”
The jury will return Wednesday to continue deliberations.