Troy Henry had a goblet that said “Pimp” on it. He wore a bracelet that said “One more ho.” In photos, he held piles of cash in his hands and mouth.
In Alexandria Circuit Court on Tuesday, prosecutors used those flashy accessories to help convict Henry, 36, of Orlando, Fla., on charges of racketeering, profiting off prostitution and taking, persuading, encouraging or causing a person to enter a bawdy place (the term in Virginia law for any place where prostitution occurs).
Several times in 2010 and 2011, prosecutors said, Henry brought or directed women from Florida to the Alexandria area for the purposes of prostitution. Two women testified that they had worked as prostitutes in several hotels not far from the courthouse, including the Crowne Plaza, the Holiday Inn and the Lorien Hotel and Spa in Old Town. But most of the business, one woman testified, was done out of a Red Roof Inn on Route 1, just outside the city.
Both Amber Miller, 24, and Cynthia Orr, 23, testified that while Henry was sometimes kind to them, he could also be physically abusive. Miller had a long, tumultuous relationship with the defendant that began when she was 19 and lasted two years, she said. At one point they were engaged to be married. “I was just young and dumb,” she testified.
She left, she said, after Henry hit her so hard she blacked out and then threatened her with a gun, telling her “I should just kill you.” Saving up money from tips and skimming off her earnings, she fled during an Alexandria trip back to her home town of Phoenix.
“Any human being that does not have to live in the life of misery and woe these prostitutes lived through should be thankful,” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Porter in his closing arguments. To punish the prostitutes, he said, would be as pointless as cutting the head off a weed: “You’ve got to try to get to the root of the problem.”
Public defender Jasmin Mize argued that the two women chose to become prostitutes and were putting on a show to avoid punishment themselves: “They’ll tell you what you want to hear.” Miller, she told the jury, “is a player and is playing you.”
Orr and Miller testified that they had exchanged sex for money before and after meeting Henry. Miller testified that she posted her own ads online, helped other prostitutes do the same, and transported them to Virginia as Henry’s “bottom girl” or lead prostitute. She acknowledged on the stand that she engaged in prostitution as recently as last week.
“This is not a tale of misery and woe,” Mize said. “This is a tale about choice, about choices that two people made that have nothing to do with Mr. Henry.”
After the verdict, Miller said she was “relieved” that Henry would be in prison for a long time.
“I am scarred from him,” she said. Her criminal record, she said, got her thrown out of college and made it hard for her to find legal work. “I feel like I’m in a dead end,” she said.
The jury recommended a sentence of 27 years and a $39,000 fine. Henry, who is already serving a 131 / 2-year sentence in Florida for credit card fraud and identity theft, will be formally sentenced Jan. 23.