Though not quite enough to overshadow the Benoit double-murder/suicide, you’ve got to hand it to Hardbody Harrison. I don’t think anyone — even Terry Garvin — has been bold enough to attempt the “it’s not sex slavery, it’s a wrestling school” defense. The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s S.A. Reid fills in some of the gory details.
After deliberating more than two days, a jury found Harrison “Hardbody” Norris guilty of peonage, forced labor, aggravated sexual abuse, sex trafficking and other charges involving five victims and on conspiracy charges involving three others. Jurors acquitted him of charges involving a ninth victim.
The verdict capped a trial in which Norris battled allegations that he used his pro-wrestling company to lure nine vulnerable and poor women into a life of prostitution and slavery at his two Cartersville homes.
The 41-year-old Norris recruited the women from gas stations and other locations. Prosecutors said he used violence, strict military structure and other means to incite fear and maintain control.
Norris, who represented himself with assistance from a court-appointed lawyer, painted himself as a falsely accused Good Samaritan interested only in promoting his business and offering the women, some of whom had been homeless or drug addicts, better lives as professional wrestlers.
“It still ain’t over,” said Lucille Norris, who insisted the allegations and charges against her son were racially motivated. The defendant is African-American, and most of his alleged victims are white.