Day 8: Jury returns guilty verdict in human trafficking trial - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Day 8: Jury returns guilty verdict in human trafficking trial

Posted: Updated:
BILLINGS, Mont. -

DAY 8 - A federal jury has found Terrance Edwards and Francine Granados guilty on all charges tied to a human trafficking case in in Montana from September 2016.

After 7 days of hearing testimonies from witnesses, experts and the defendant Terrance Edwards, it took the jury less than 3 hours total to come up with a guilty verdict on all charges for defendants Terrance Edwards and Francine Granados

Edwards attorney Palmer Hoovestal says he is extremely disappointed with the jury's verdict.

"We thought there was ample evidence that would create doubt in the government's case. There is a genuine distinction between escort services and prostituition and if you go to different parts of the country like Nevada, Las Vegas; there are escort services all over the place. Anybody who walks down the street in Las Vegas on the strip can see the distinction between that," said Hoovestal. "I just saw a movie where somebody hired an escort to accompany him to a party so it's not a surprise in this country. In any event, the jury has ruled. They made their decision and we have to live with it. So we're going to proceed to sentencing and see what Judge Watters can do for us."

We spoke with alternate juror thirteen after the verdict.

She expressed her disappointment in not being part of the decision making process.

"It's an enormous burden. You want to get it right, you don't want to make the wrong decision. So you want to make sure you're listening and are getting the information and making the right decision," she said.

Alternate juror thirteen says she was not surprised by the guilty verdict, but was surprised this case made it to trial.

"I mean I feel like there was so much evidence that he was guilty that it even went this far," she add. "I feel like it was a no-brainer that he was guilty." 

Sentencing for Edwards is set for June 21st at 9:30 AM. Granados will be sentenced the same day at 1:30 PM.


DAY 7 - Right now the fate of two defendants in the human trafficking case playing out in federal court is now in the hands of the jury.

We had expected this case to drag on as late as Friday, but the defense rested this morning after the government finished cross examination of Edwards on the stand.

Co-defendant Francine Joann Granados was never called.

By early Tuesday afternoon, closing arguments were underway and the jury received their instructions.

Jurors only deliberated for about an hour Tuesday night before being sent home for the day by Judge Susan Watters. 

Once they resume Wednesday morning, they will have to determine whether or not the government met the burden of proof in this case.

Edwards faces the following charges:

  • Counts I, II, and XI -sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion.
  • Counts III through V - transportation of a minor with intent to engage in prostitution.
  • Count VI - obstruction of a sex trafficking investigation.
  • Count VIII - transportation of a person with intent to engage in criminal activity.
  • Count IX -  distribution of marijuana to an individual under 21.
  • Count X - tampering with a witness, victim, or informant.

DAY 6 - After a week of testimony against him, the defendant in the federal sex trafficking trial in Billings takes the stand in his own defense.

Terrance Edwards is trying to convince jurors the charges against him are false and he in no way encouraged the women who worked for him to have sex with other men for money.

Now that the government has rested their case against Terrance Edwards, he's taking the court on a very different journey.

Edwards claimed his escort services are legal and told the women to not engage in sex with clients.

Edwards said he was dating two witnesses at the same time: S.E. and T.F. 

Edwards said in regards to the spitting incidents and physical violence, it happened out of jealousy as he laid out rules for his women not to look at other men.

Edwards said he introduced S.E. to escorting after she told him about her financial situation. He testified he talked to S.E. about how it works within the law to keep his escorting business legal because he did not want to go back to jail.

He stated he was in contact with Anthony Brazington to learn how to obtain a business license. 

Edwards also stated "S.E. is a strong-minded person and says she did what she wanted to do."

Edwards testified when he went to North Dakota, he was under the impression he was meeting a 19-year-old college student.

Once on the road back to Billings, Edwards stated the girls had alcohol in the car, but he told them to pour it out. 

Edwards also argued while the three girls stated he gave them marijuana, he testified he only gave one girl marijuana. 

Shortly after his arrival in Billings, Edwards discovered J.R. was gone and Edwards was arrested shortly after.

Once in jail, Edwards stated he called Francine Joann Granados to try to figure out what was going on. He called the whole ordeal shocking and said he was in a "state of disbelief."


DAY 5 -  Continuing testimony from FBI Special Agent Brandon Walter on the Terrance Edwards case.

Agent Walter launched his investigation after witness 8 also known as J.R. phoned for help from the Rodeway Inn in Billings. 

His testimony directly relating to the tampering charges against co-defendant Francine Granados.

Prosecutors played more phone recordings from Edwards to Granados.

In the recordings, Edwards instructed Granados to reach out to several of the witnesses through Facebook messages.

During this time, agent Walter received a phone call from J.R. stating she received social media messages from Edwards who was in jail

Agent Walter contacted Granados and instructed her to stop contacting J.R. and others or she could be charged with witness tampering. 

Agent Walter testified Granados became upset with him.

J.R. contacted agent Walter a second time about the messages continuing.

Agent Walter stated Granados told him she had not been in contact with the Edwards.

Agent Walter then revealed he had been listening to their phone conversations and again told her to stop.

The defense called A.T. 

A.T testified she met Edwards through a mutual friend, Anthony Brazington.

A.T said Edwards and J.R. picked her up in Moses Lake, Washington and transported her to Billings.

A.T testified Edwards told her she would be making extra money by providing escort services.

At one point, Edwards told her "It's just a date, don't be falling into a trap," referencing to what J.R. was doing.

Later in the evening, a man came to their hotel.

A.T was under the impression she and J.R. would be providing escort services to the man.

A.T testified J.R. engaged in sexual activity with the caller while she watched.

After the man left, A.T said she took cocaine then left the hotel on her own.

Afterwards, A.T. says went to the crisis center and then took a Greyhound bus home to Washington.
 


DAY 4 - Today more witness testimony shined a light on how three young girls were allegedly brought into the fold by the defendant Terrance Edwards.

Once again, Edwards addressed the court before jurors arrived.

Edwards stated one voicemail remained missing from evidence, which he feels would exonerate him.

Prosecutors stated every call obtained by the defendant has been produced.

From there, testimony got underway... With jurors hearing from three underage girls allegedly transported from North Dakota to Billings by Edwards.

The three juveniles testified Edwards gave them marijuana to smoke in the car.

The father of one of the juveniles also testified on the stand today angrily addressing Edwards stating, "how do you teach a 14-year-old to make paper?"

"Paper" is a slang term for money.

The father stated once his daughter returned to North Dakota, she refused to go into detail about what happened to her.

He said to this day, he still doesn't know what truly happened. 

FBI Special Agent Jason Kennedy, Forensic Digital Examiner Joan Runs-Through and FBI Special Agent Matthew Salacinski took the stand today detailing how they used forensic technology to track Edwards phone and computer.

FBI Special Agent Brandon Walter testified on how Edwards spoke to multiple girls through different platforms such as Facebook and Meetme.com.

Edwards proposed different ways to make money telling girls they could make $100,000 in four months.

Prosecutors also played a phone call Edwards made to co-defendant Francine Joann Granados while he was incarcerated in the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, asking her if transporting underage girls was illegal.


DAY 3 - The woman, who helped end a human trafficking operation with a phone call, took the stand in federal court Wednesday.

This was the person who said she met Terrance Edwards in Missoula and was then taken to Salt Lake City to perform sex acts before being brought back to Billings.

Four witnesses took the stand before lunch – three were victims and the other was 28-year-old Anthony Brazington. Brazington testified he met Edwards while in jail in 2010. Brazington was jailed and convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit prostitution. He stated that he and Edwards reconnected in 2016.

During a time when the men were together, Brazington testified one of his call girls phoned from Washington asking for help. Brazington said Edwards offered him money to convince the underage girl to go with Edwards.

The star witness of the day was the woman recovered from the Rodeway Inn in Billings on September 21, 2016. We will identify her as Victim 7.

Victim 7 was solemn as she testified how she met Edwards on meetme.com. She said she and Edwards traveled from Missoula to Billings to Salt Lake City. She explained how she felt she was a robot under Edwards' control; she said she engaged in sex acts on six to eight dates the first night.

Victim 7 testified Edwards physically assaulted her when he caught her looking at another man.

Once she and Edwards left Salt Lake City, they traveled to Washington to pick up the young girl who had called Brazington for help. All three then returned to Billings.

Victim 7 said while she was staying at the Rodeway Inn, Edwards left to travel to North Dakota to pick up more girls. She said after Edwards left, the girl from Washington left the hotel on her own.

Victim 7 says that's when she used the phone Edwards left behind to call a friend for help. Police arrived at Rodeway Inn a short time later.

Following her testimony, prosecutors played back voicemail messages left on the phone by Edwards after he discovered she had left the hotel. In the messages, Edwards sounded concerned for her safety and told her "they weren't through yet."

Following Victim 7's testimony, two of her friends were called to the stand. 

The first witness, a 27-year-old woman, tearfully described the drastic change Victim 7 underwent after coming home. She stated Victim 7 started doing drugs and eventually "lost everything including her daughter." The witness stated Victim 7 had a 2-year-old daughter and signed her daughter's parental rights to her parents. 

The second witness, a 27-year-old man, stated the victim dropped off her baby to stay with him while the victim said she was going to North Dakota. Victim 7 told him she was going there for job training. He finally contacted police after the victim phoned him for help several days later.


DAY 2 - It was an emotional day of testimony as jurors learned more about three women forced into selling their bodies for money.

Victim 2 is a 23-year-old female from Missoula. 

She first met Edwards at a gas station back in April of 2016.

She testified that Edwards asked her about different ways she made money

Eventually, that conversation led to an ad being posted on backpage.com.

Victim 2 says she went on her first date at a bar called the Pressbox in Missoula.

She detailed how she had a drink with the caller and they went back to his place where she gave him a massage. There was no sexual activity. The evening ended with victim 2 receiving $150.

Victim 2 then went on her second date that evening. That date went differently with victim 2 testifying that she engaged in sexual activity with the caller. 

Victim 2 says she gave all of her earnings from those dates to Edwards.

Victim 2 explained that Edwards monitored her calls to weed out people who sounded suspicious.

Victim 2 also detailed physical and emotional abuse she suffered from Edwards. In one incident she says Edwards spit in her mouth and made her swallow his spit. This was an act to show Edwards that she was loyal to him.

Victim 2 also stated that Edwards bit her and hit her in the face when she looked at other men an act he called "reckless eyeballing".

Victim 3 detailed her experience with alcohol abuse, crediting how Edward's helped her sober up.

Victim 4 recalled her experience of how Edwards took her to Billings. She said she was under the impression they were in Billings to sell drugs.

Victim 4 said she engaged in more than 10 commercial sex acts while in Billings. 

During recess, KULR-8 spoke with Victim 1. She says this ordeal is a hard burden for her to carry, she refuses to speak to anybody about her ordeal in fear her name and story will get out.

Testimony will continue Wednesday morning.


DAY 1 - Sixteen months after an alleged human trafficking operation was uncovered in the Billings area, the federal trial is underway.

Two people are being tried together; the co-defendants are Terrance Edwards and Francine Granados. Granados is also technically a victim in this case.

There are twelve jurors and one alternate making up this jury – ten women and three men. The case is expected to last up to 8 days.

After jury selection, opening statements from federal prosecutors detailed witness testimony of how Edwards allegedly coaxed women into posing for explicit photos and then used those photos to solicit sex through backpage.com and eroticmugshots.com. Prosecutors said they will also explain how Edwards allegedly recruited three teenage girls in North Dakota and transported them back to Billings.

The defense argued there is a "critical distinction" between escort services and sex services. They claim Edwards was only involved in escort services, which is lawful and doesn't involve sexual activity. 

Prosecutors called a 26-year-old woman from Missoula as their first witness. The woman, who we will identify as Victim 1, testified she first met Terrence Edwards back in 2010. She said a week after they met, he proposed the idea of commercial sex to her. 

Victim 1 said after his arrest, he ordered her to reach out to certain people on Facebook. She said she obtained Edwards' Facebook password from co-defendant Francine Granados. According to her testimony, she was instructed by Edwards to contact two other witnesses and tell them to get in touch with Edwards' attorney.

The co-defendant in this case, Francine Granados, faces just one charge. Granados is accused of intimidation and threatening one of the victims to keep that person from testifying.

Testimony starts at 8:30 Tuesday morning.  Make sure to stay with KULR-8 as we follow this case.

  • MontanaMore>>

  • Keystone XL developer plans to start construction in 2019

    Keystone XL developer plans to start construction in 2019

    Monday, September 24 2018 12:53 PM EDT2018-09-24 16:53:15 GMT

    The developer of the Keystone XL oil pipeline says it plans to start construction next year, after the U.S. State Department concluded major environmental damage from a leak is unlikely and could quickly be mitigated.

    The developer of the Keystone XL oil pipeline says it plans to start construction next year, after the U.S. State Department concluded major environmental damage from a leak is unlikely and could quickly be mitigated.

  • Animal cruelty charges filed after drug raid in Polson

    Animal cruelty charges filed after drug raid in Polson

    Monday, September 24 2018 12:39 PM EDT2018-09-24 16:39:08 GMT

    One woman is facing six counts of animal cruelty after a drug raid in Polson. In total nine people were arrested.

    One woman is facing six counts of animal cruelty after a drug raid in Polson. In total nine people were arrested.

  • Missoula Rocks spreads happiness one rock at a time

    Missoula Rocks spreads happiness one rock at a time

    Monday, September 24 2018 11:14 AM EDT2018-09-24 15:14:26 GMT

    There are all kinds of complicated ways to spread kindness and creativity, but sometimes it's as easy as mixing up a little paint and decorating a rock.  

    There are all kinds of complicated ways to spread kindness and creativity, but sometimes it's as easy as mixing up a little paint and decorating a rock.  

  • Most Popular

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Man leads authorities in car chase in Billings

    Man leads authorities in car chase in Billings

    Monday, September 24 2018 5:43 AM EDT2018-09-24 09:43:44 GMT

    One man leads authorities in a pursuit earlier this evening in Billings. Sergeant Berk with the Yellowstone County Sheriff's office said the man was driving a white Jeep Grand Cherokee and was asked to pull over for reckless driving on Jellison road.

    One man leads authorities in a pursuit earlier this evening in Billings. Sergeant Berk with the Yellowstone County Sheriff's office said the man was driving a white Jeep Grand Cherokee and was asked to pull over for reckless driving on Jellison road.

  • One person killed in fatal crash on West Wicks Ln

    One person killed in fatal crash on West Wicks Ln

    Sunday, September 23 2018 10:39 AM EDT2018-09-23 14:39:09 GMT

    A 20-year-old female was confirmed deceased on the scene from injuries sustained in the crash.  The two vehicles collided head-on.

    A 20-year-old female was confirmed deceased on the scene from injuries sustained in the crash.  The two vehicles collided head-on.

  • Investigation underway after two bodies found near Cascade

    Investigation underway after two bodies found near Cascade

    Sunday, September 23 2018 8:00 PM EDT2018-09-24 00:00:42 GMT
    Monday, September 24 2018 5:52 AM EDT2018-09-24 09:52:40 GMT

    Right now an investigation is underway after two bodies were found near Cascade, MT.

    Right now an investigation is underway after two bodies were found near Cascade, MT.

  • New misconduct accusations roil Kavanaugh nomination

    New misconduct accusations roil Kavanaugh nomination

    Monday, September 24 2018 7:16 AM EDT2018-09-24 11:16:06 GMT
    WASHINGTON (AP) - A second allegation of sexual misconduct has emerged against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a development that has further imperiled his nomination to the Supreme Court. It has also forced the White House and Senate Republicans onto the defensive and fueled calls from Democrats to postpone further action on his confirmation.   The new accusation landed late Sunday in a report from The New Yorker, just a few hours after negotiators had reached an agreement to hold an ext...
    WASHINGTON (AP) - A second allegation of sexual misconduct has emerged against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a development that has further imperiled his nomination to the Supreme Court. It has also forced the White House and Senate Republicans onto the defensive and fueled calls from Democrats to postpone further action on his confirmation.   The new accusation landed late Sunday in a report from The New Yorker, just a few hours after negotiators had reached an agreement to hold an ext...
  • House fire under investigation in Billings, three pets rescued

    House fire under investigation in Billings, three pets rescued

    Monday, September 24 2018 10:58 AM EDT2018-09-24 14:58:31 GMT
    A morning house fire is under investigation in Billings, after three pets were rescued from inside. The flames were reported at a home on N. Church St. just after 8 a.m. Monday morning. Authorities say most of the problem came from the attic. No one was inside when the flames broke out. The fire is under control, and crews were clearing smoke. There is visible damage to the attic, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
    A morning house fire is under investigation in Billings, after three pets were rescued from inside. The flames were reported at a home on N. Church St. just after 8 a.m. Monday morning. Authorities say most of the problem came from the attic. No one was inside when the flames broke out. The fire is under control, and crews were clearing smoke. There is visible damage to the attic, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Powered by Frankly
Copyright - All content © 2001 - 2018. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.