LARGO — Prosecutors plan to move ahead with more cases against what they say was a human trafficking and forced prostitution ring, even though a jury has acquitted one man.
"We're looking forward and we're still going to proceed," Assistant State Attorney Della Connolly said, adding that "I very much believe in my victims."
Colin Anthony Dyer, 37, was found not guilty of sexual battery and human trafficking. Prosecutors said he had raped a woman who worked as a dancer at the Vegas Showgirls strip club and who testified that she was expected to work as a prostitute inside private "VIP rooms" there.
Juror Victor Rendon of Largo said jurors felt three dancers made inconsistent statements, hurting their credibility.
For example, one dancer initially told police Dyer had grabbed her by the arm but testified this week that he choked her as well. Another apparently testified incorrectly about a double-locked door in an apartment where she said she was held. It was hard to believe one woman, who said she had been dancing in strip clubs since age 15, when she said she did not know how to tell the difference between a circumcised and uncircumcised penis, he said.
"None of them struck us as being really credible," he said.
Deciding about the human trafficking charges was more difficult than the sexual battery, Rendon said, because most jurors believed something improper did occur.
He also said Dyer, who testified in his own defense, did not seem fully knowledgeable about the scheme, which prosecutors said was mostly orchestrated by another man, Kenyatta Cornelous, who is awaiting trial. "I thought he was a dupe in the whole thing," Rendon said about Dyer.
Defense attorney Bryant Camareno said he believed the witnesses appeared to have embellished their stories.
Vegas Showgirls manager Jason Byers said in an interview that prostitution is not allowed at the club and denied the dancers' allegations. Asked why they would testify about prostitution, he said, "I think they were coerced into what they were supposed to say."
The case was watched by some Stetson University College of Law students who, by coincidence, were in the final days of a course on human trafficking. Professor Luz Nagle said several students who went to watch the case told her they were "shocked" by the outcome."
"I think that the students learned that this an evolving field in the law," she said.
Three more cases are pending, including the one against Cornelous.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.