WILLISTON, N.D. – A man charged with human trafficking in Williston pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday as his attorney argued there is no evidence linking him to the sex trade.
Keith A. Graves, 38, is charged in Northwest Judicial District Court with several charges related to forcing women to engage in prostitution in Williston in late July.
Williston police responded to a call July 29 from Wal-Mart, where a distressed female was crying and asking for police, Officer Jon Roggenkamp testified during Friday’s preliminary hearing.
The woman told police Graves picked her up at a bar in Stanley on July 25 and brought her to Williston to engage in prostitution, Roggenkamp testified.
The woman, referred to as Jane Doe 1, told investigators that Graves held a BB gun to her head that looked like a real gun while instructing another woman to inject Jane Doe 1 with what investigators believe is methamphetamine, Roggenkamp testified.
Jane Doe 1 also told police that Graves sexually assaulted her, according to the testimony.
Three women were mentioned during the officer’s testimony.
In addition to human trafficking, a Class A felony, Graves is charged with two Class AA felony counts of gross sexual imposition. Other charges include promoting prostitution, terrorizing, felonious restraint and reckless endangerment.
Defense attorney Daniel El-Dweek argued that the state does not have sufficient evidence to charge Graves with human trafficking and promotion of prostitution.
El-Dweek, filling in for Fargo defense attorney Steven Mottinger, referenced the officer’s testimony that it was Jane Doe 2, not Graves, who instructed Jane Doe 1 about the business of prostitution. While the state alleges that Graves received compensation for the acts of prostitution, El-Dweek said it’s unknown when he received that and how much.
“There is no evidence here today that Mr. Graves did any instruction or had any part to do with the sex trade,” El-Dweek said.
Roggenkamp also testified that Graves provided transportation to the women and placed an online ad for Jane Doe 1.
Judge Paul Jacobson ruled there was enough probable cause to support the charges. A trial date has not been scheduled.
Graves, a sex offender from California who moved to Williston to work as a truck driver, is featured in a documentary “The Overnighters” that opened Friday in New York. The film documents Williston’s Concordia Lutheran Church while it housed workers, a program led by former pastor Jay Reinke. Graves at one time listed the church as his address and Reinke later allowed the man to live in his Williston home.
Police found the BB gun alleged to have been used in the crimes at Reinke’s home on July 31, according to a search warrant filed in court records.