An Amityville man who a Suffolk prosecutor said forced an 18-year-old crack cocaine addict into prostitution to repay a debt he claimed she owed was sentenced Tuesday to 8 1⁄3 to 25 years in prison, the maximum punishment.
Davol Graham, 29, a Jamaican native who was convicted by a Suffolk jury of sex trafficking and other crimes, maintained his innocence during his sentencing in a Central Islip courtroom and vowed to appeal his convictions.
“I am ready to go,” Graham told state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho in Central Islip, referring to his intention to ask a higher court to overturn the jury verdict.
As court officers led Graham out of the courtroom, a supporter loudly offered up words of encouragement.
“Stay strong, bro,” the person shouted toward Graham.
“Love you,” Graham shouted back before disappearing behind courtroom doors.
Graham’s attorney, Michael A. Gajdos of Central Islip, said Graham fired his first lawyer for ineffective counsel — an issue Graham plans to raise when he appeals his convictions. Gajdos said that after the victim’s arrest on an unrelated matter, the young woman told an inmate she had fabricated the story, but Graham’s trial attorney did not ask the inmate to testify for Graham.
“There was a deputy sheriff in lockup who had witnessed it,” Gajdos said of the victim’s alleged jailhouse admission, “and who was identified and known to the defense, and who could have been called as a witness.”
The unidentified victim, who was not in court for the sentencing, testified against Graham at his three-week trial.
“She is doing well,” Skorupa said. “It’s a battle every day.”
Graham met the victim, then 18, through a mutual friend in May of 2013, about three months after his release from the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Skorupa said.
“He spent the night with her; plied her with crack,” said Skorupa.
The following morning, Graham told the victim she owed him $1,800 for the drugs he supplied and said she had to perform sex acts on other men for money in order to pay her debt, according to Skorupa. One of the men testified for the prosecution at Graham’s trial.
Over a 10-day period, from May 7, 2013 to May 17, 2013, Skorupa said Graham used threats and intimidation to force the victim to comply.
“When she wanted to go home,” Skorupa said, “he threatened her.”
On May 17, 2013, Graham and the victim were staying at his friend’s house in Lindenhurst, and the victim escaped after waking up and realizing Graham was not with her, the prosecutor said.
First, the victim called an ex-boyfriend to pick her up, then she called for a cab, according to Skorupa. Before the cab arrived, the victim ran out of the house and a man who happened to be driving by picked her up and called 911. Police arrested Graham later that day.
A jury convicted him of two counts of promoting prostitution, two counts of sex trafficking and one count of second-degree unlawful imprisonment. Graham was acquitted of second-degree kidnapping, the most serious charge. He received sentences ranging from one year, up to 15 years, for the other crimes. The sentences, however, run concurrently.
Graham is the first defendant in Suffolk’s history to be convicted of sex trafficking charges after a trial, according to Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office.
Before immigration officials took Graham into custody, he had been arrested more than a dozen times for minor crimes ranging from driving with a suspended license to petit larceny, to attempted coercion, according to public records. He received fines and up to 90 days in jail.
Skorupa said Graham, who had been fighting deportation, was detained by immigration officials for three and a half years. He was released in February 2013, Skorupa said. She did not know Graham’s immigration status or why he was never sent back to Jamaica.
Lou Martinez, an ICE spokesman, did not return calls Tuesday for comment.