THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF VIRGINIA BEACH Leslie L.
Kristin Paulding 7 Cities Law, on brief), for appellant.
Rosemary V. Bourne, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Mark
R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges O'Brien, Russell and Retired Judge
GRACE O'BRIEN JUDGE
a bench trial, Jeffrey Nigel Carr ("appellant") was
convicted of sex trafficking, in violation of Code §
18.2-357.1(A), conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, in
violation of Code §§ 18.2-22 and
18.2-357.1(A), abduction, in violation of Code §
18.2-47(A), conspiracy to commit abduction, in violation of
Code §§ 18.2-22 and 18.2-47(A), and use of a
firearm in the commission of abduction, in violation of Code
§ 18.2-53.1. Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence finding him guilty of the offenses. Finding no
error, we affirm.
well-established legal principles, we consider the facts in
the light most favorable to the prevailing party, the
Commonwealth. Riner v. Commonwealth, 268 Va. 296,
303, 601 S.E.2d 555, 558 (2004). So viewed, the evidence
established that in September 2015, the victim
("R.S."), a homeless 24-year-old heroin addict, met
Justin McQuitty in North Carolina where they had sex and used
heroin together. R.S. subsequently accompanied McQuitty to a
hotel in Chesapeake, Virginia, and they were joined by some
of McQuitty's friends, including appellant. After a
discussion about how the group could earn money, a third man,
Alonzo McClenny, suggested that R.S. and another woman could
post prostitution advertisements online at Backpage. McQuitty
and McClenny told R.S. that she needed to make money because
she "couldn't live for free." McClenny showed
R.S. how to post photographs of herself on Backpage, and he
created her first advertisement. R.S. continued posting
advertisements, engaged in prostitution, and gave all money
she received to McQuitty. He provided her with heroin.
some time, the group relocated to a Red Roof Inn in Virginia
Beach and rented two rooms facing each other, using the
proceeds from R.S.'s prostitution. R.S. and McQuitty
stayed in one room that R.S. also used for prostitution
appointments, and the rest of the group, including appellant,
slept in the second room. When a prostitution appointment was
scheduled, R.S. advised the group to leave her room and stay
in the second room. The group remained at the Red Roof Inn
for "[q]uite a few days."
September 16, R.S. left the hotel after a dispute with other
members of the group. She rented a room at a hotel next door,
America's Best Value Inn. The second day she was there,
R.S. called the other woman in the group ("T.") and
asked her to bring some clothes to the hotel. T. came to
R.S.'s room accompanied by another man, Brandon Bethel.
R.S. was suffering from heroin withdrawal, so McQuitty
brought her some heroin and left Bethel "to keep an eye
on [her]." Bethel and McQuitty pressured R.S. to post a
prostitution advertisement, and reminded her that she had not
made any money that day.
approximately 11:00 p.m., McQuitty returned to R.S.'s
room with McClenny and appellant. The men berated R.S.,
called her a "liar and a junkie," and accused her
of "giving [her] money to somebody else." During
this confrontation, McClenny was holding a black handgun by
his side. Appellant, who was pacing back and forth in an
agitated state, told the other men that R.S. was lying and
"they needed to slam-dunk on [her] ass." R.S.
testified that "slam-dunk" refers to
informed the men that she "wasn't going to work for
them anymore and [she] was done with it all and that [she]
didn't need them" and "could do it on [her]
own." At that point, McClenny brought the gun to
R.S.'s head and told her that "the only way [she]
was leaving was either with [McQuitty] or in a body
bag." R.S. testified she interpreted this statement to
mean that the men would kill her if she did not leave with
them. McClenny told the other men to gather R.S.'s bags.
R.S. returned to the Red Roof Inn, surrounded by the four
men. Appellant carried some of her belongings.
they got back to the Red Roof Inn, R.S. continued taking
prostitution appointments. She testified that she did not
want to engage in prostitution, but she understood that was
"what was supposed to happen" and
"[t]hat's what [she] was there for." She felt
that returning to prostitution was necessary "to stay
alive" because the men had threatened her.
first appointment robbed her. When she told Bethel, he
responded that "it was going to be really bad for [her]
. . . if [she] didn't have that money" and that she
would be pistol-whipped if she did not do what she was told.
Because she was afraid of the consequences, R.S. left in the
middle of the night after everyone was asleep.
stayed with a former roommate in Chesapeake for a few days
and warned him that the people she was with were
"vindictive and violent," had guns, and were
"the type of people you wouldn't involve with the
police." However, R.S. subsequently reunited with
McQuitty and continued to use heroin and engage in
prostitution. Appellant stayed with them at their hotel, and
they used R.S.'s prostitution earnings to rent the hotel
this time, an investigator from the Dare County ( N.C. )
Sheriff's Office received information that a young woman
was being held against her will and forced to commit acts of
prostitution. The investigator coordinated with members of
the Virginia Beach Police Department, who arrested McQuitty
at a hotel in Virginia Beach. R.S., who was with McQuitty,
told the police that she feared McClenny and indicated that
appellant may be with McClenny because he "rides around
with him a lot." A police officer found appellant and
McClenny in a car together in Virginia Beach.
trial, Detective Ryan Chabot of the Virginia Beach Police
Department Special Investigations Unit testified as an expert
in the field of human trafficking operations and sex worker
victimizations. He stated that in the approximately five
hundred human trafficking cases he had investigated,
approximately half of the victims were drug addicts. He also
explained that sex traffickers often rent two hotel rooms:
one for prostitution appointments, and the other as a place