A 26-year-old man has been convicted of teaming up with a fellow longtime criminal and drugging an 18-year-old woman in Duluth, then selling her for sex in hotels in the Chicago area and downtown Minneapolis over a weeklong period.
Ronald Lee, of Brooklyn Park, was found guilty by jurors Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court of sex trafficking and promoting prostitution. Lee, who remains jailed, was acquitted of kidnapping.
When he is sentenced on Jan. 30, Lee faces up to up to 13 years in prison. The county attorney's office said that is 18 months more than what state guidelines call for because jurors also found that "his actions caused bodily harm to the victim."
Doctors found carpet burns and bruising on her body, having been dragged across a hotel room floor, according to police.
Lee's cohort, Edward A. Washington, 29, of Brooklyn Center, was convicted and sentenced in August to 20 years in prison.
Another defendant, Autumn L. Ward, 21, of Duluth, has been charged with one count of promoting prostitution, a felony. Ward has yet to stand trial.
According to prosecutors:
Lee and Washington were in Duluth on Feb. 9, where they met the woman at Ward's home. During the evening, the victim was drugged by the two men and put in a car. She awoke to find Lee raping her in the back seat as they drove to a hotel in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg.
Upon arrival, the teen was advertised on the Backpage.com website and forced to work as a prostitute. They also threatened to kill her and took away her cell phone.
After a couple days, they drove to Minneapolis and occupied rooms downtown at the Hilton, the Hyatt, the Millennium and the Hotel Minneapolis. She was not only forced to have sex with men and turn all of the money over to them, but she also was held down by Washington and Ward and force-fed cocaine through her nose.
On Feb. 16, Washington and Ward left the victim alone in a room at the Hotel Minneapolis, allowing her to flee and find help.
Lee's criminal history in Minnesota covers nearly nine years and includes convictions for motor vehicle theft, selling illicit drugs, illegally possessing a gun and committing a crime while wearing a bulletproof vest.
Washington's criminal history in Minnesota spans his entire adult life and includes convictions for illegal possession of a gun, drug possession, fleeing police, child endangerment, disorderly conduct and forgery.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482