A convicted sex trafficker whose victim told hospital personnel in late 2015 that she’d “rather die than keep going back to that man” was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland to 26 years and eight months in federal prison.
Vincent Graham, 35, who is serving a six-year sentence for drug trafficking at the Ulster Correctional Facility in Napanock, New York, in January entered guilty pleas in federal court in Portland to two counts each of sex trafficking of an adult by force, fraud and coercion; distribution of heroin and cocaine; and transporting a victim in interstate commerce with the intent that she engage in prostitution.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ordered that Graham serve the federal sentence concurrently with the drug sentence in New York, according to information posted on the court system’s website.
Graham’s activities came to the attention of law enforcement Dec. 23, 2015, when a victim sought treatment at Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford after Graham assaulted her. She told staff that she had been “living with a man who ‘beats her badly’ and for whom she works ‘selling her body,’” according to court documents.
“She described having been hit in the face and being in pain. She reported that the man for [whom] she works provides her heroin, saying, ‘I’d rather die than keep going back to that man. He’s either going to kill me or I am going to kill myself,’” court documents said.
The victim attended the sentencing but did not speak to the judge, according to Graham’s attorney, Peter Rodway of Portland.
Between July 10 and Aug. 26, 2015, and again from Dec. 8 to 22, 2015, Graham forced the woman to engage in prostitution by either refusing to provide her with drugs, physically abusing her or threatening to kill her, according to court documents. He took the woman, who he met in Biddeford, and another woman to New Hampshire and Massachusetts to work as prostitutes.
In a statement issued Thursday the U.S. attorney’s office quoted what the judge told Graham in imposing the sentence.
“I don’t know how to express how deplorable I think your conduct was,” Woodcock said. “As a man, it’s just unimaginable to me that you would treat a woman this way.”
In addition to prison time, Graham was sentenced to six years of supervised release.
A prosecution motion to order Graham to pay the woman $9,450 in restitution — the amount estimated that the victim would have earned had Graham not taken all the money she received from clients — is pending. A hearing date has not been set.
Graham faced between 15 years and life in federal prison on the most serious charges of sex trafficking by force. Rodway recommended a 15-year sentence but declined to comment on the sentence imposed.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee recommended a sentence of 30 years.
Since entering his guilty pleas in January, Graham has been held without bail while awaiting sentencing in Maine, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Portland. Now that he has been sentenced, Graham will be returned to New York to complete his sentence on drug charges. After that, he will be moved to a federal prison to finish serving the sex trafficking sentence.
U.S. attorney Halsey Frank has made human trafficking prosecutions a priority for his office.
“Our office brings many of these prosecutions and defendants receive lengthy sentences that should make it crystal clear that human trafficking is a despicable crime that will not be tolerated in Maine,” he said Thursday.
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.