A San Francisco jury on Wednesday found a man guilty of several felonies in connection with the sexual assault of two female sex workers more than five years ago in the city's Mission District, prosecutors said.
The jury found Oakland resident Edwin Rodriguez, 39, guilty of multiple counts of forcible rape as well as aggravated kidnapping, assault and criminal threats. Rodriguez now faces multiple life sentences, prosecutors said.
The first incident happened on March 16, 2014.
The victim was soliciting herself near 20th and Capp streets when a man driving a Cadillac Escalade pulled up and, after negotiations, she got inside. When the driver took her to a different location, he said he didn't intend on paying her.
The woman tried to escape, but the suspect pushed her into the seat and told her he had a gun.
The suspect then sexually assaulted her, as she cried and pleaded for her life. The suspect also hit her multiple times, prosecutors said.
The suspect then drove the victim back to the area where he initially picked her up. The victim was able to go to a hospital and also reported the assault to police, according to prosecutors.
At the hospital, during a sexual assault examination, medical experts were able to retrieve two condoms from the woman's body and they were submitted for DNA testing.
Weeks later, on May 4, 2014, the same suspect in the Escalade pulled up to a woman soliciting herself near Shotwell and 19th streets.
After negotiating a price, the woman entered the Escalade and the man drove her to the corner of 17th Street and San Bruno Avenue where they got in the back seat, prosecutors said.
When the woman asked for the driver to pay her, he pulled out a large kitchen knife and forced her to perform sex acts, according to prosecutors.
Afterward, the man said he didn't feel comfortable and wanted to move to another location. Prosecutors said he then demanded that the victim get back in the vehicle's front seat and told her, "don't try anything stupid," threatening to shoot and kill her if she didn't comply.
As the suspect drove, the victim opened her door and jumped out of the Escalade, landing on her ankle.
Although she tried to run away, she broke her ankle in the process and stumbled. A good Samaritan, however, saw her and helped her call 911.
Once at the hospital, officers assured the victim she wouldn't be prosecuted for soliciting herself and she was able to provide officers with a description of the suspect.
The victim was able to recall that the suspect had several distinct tattoos on his arm, neck and head. She was also able to provide several details about the suspect's vehicle.
Investigators were able to obtain video surveillance from the intersection where the second victim escaped the suspect. Video footage showed the incident as well as the suspect's distinguishable white Escalade SUV.
Two days later, an officer driving near Shotwell and 24th streets noticed an SUV matching that of the suspect's Escalade.
Officers were able to detain the driver and identified him as Rodriguez. They also noticed he matched the description of the suspect provided by both victims.
Investigators included a mugshot of Rodriguez in a photo lineup of suspects and showed them separately to the victims.
Both victims identified Rodriguez as a suspect.
Additionally, the city's crime lab determined the DNA on the two condoms retrieved from the first victim matched that of Rodriguez, according to prosecutors.
"This case underscores the importance of San Francisco's safety for sex worker policies," District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement. "If we fail to prioritize this population's health and safety they will not come forward and work with law enforcement as witnesses and victims of violence. Ultimately, unreported crimes and criminals pose a threat to everyone's public safety."
According to Gascon's office, because many sex workers don't report crimes out of fear of being arrested, the California legislature is currently considering Senate Bill 233, which calls for a sex worker safety policy similar to San Francisco's, prohibiting the arrest of a sex worker reporting certain crimes like sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, robbery, assault, kidnapping, threats, blackmail, extortion, burglary.