Accused Sexual Predator Remains Free in Va. After Surprise Move in Court - NBC4 Washington

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Accused Sexual Predator Remains Free in Va. After Surprise Move in Court

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Northern Virginia bureau chief Julie Carey explains why a man repeatedly accused of sex crimes is not in jail. (Published Friday, Jan. 8, 2016)

    A Northern Virginia man who previously pleaded guilty to squirting semen from a bottle onto women in stores is free after he pleaded no contest on Friday to several sex offenses and then changed his mind.

    Michael Wayne Edwards was arrested in September on charges he tried to take photos up the skirts of female shoppers at a Safeway store on South Lakes Drive in Reston, Virginia. He also was charged with exposing himself to one victim.

    Friday in Fairfax County General District Court, Edwards pleaded no contest to two counts of unlawful filming and one count of indecent exposure. But when the judge sentenced him to 18 months in jail, Edwards reversed course and opted to appeal the case to Circuit Court. The judge accepted Edwards' request to remain free on an appeal bond.

    As he left court, Edwards refused to answer questions.

    His attorney said the allegations have cost the former fitness trainer his job, his friends and made him the subject of persecution.

    "Mr. Edwards has suffered some social consequences in his personal life. They are personal in nature and we will not be commenting on his case at all," said Jennifer Raimo, his defense attorney.

    This is not the first time Edwards has been accused of bizarre attacks on women. He pleaded guilty in 2011 to squirting semen on one woman in a Giant grocery store and another woman at a Michael's craft store, both in Gaithersburg, Maryland in 2010.

    He was sentenced with three years in prison but received a suspended sentence and was placed on probation.

    At the time, his lawyer said he was a church-goer who would see a therapist.

    Then, in August 2015, Edwards became a suspect again in Fairfax County. At the time, he was working as a personal trainer at Fusion 360, a gym near the Safeway.

    Prosecutors told the judge Edwards could be seen on surveillance video trailing female shoppers through the grocery store's aisles, using his cellphone to take "upskirt" photos.

    He followed one victim into the parking lot, asked her "Have you seen this?" and then exposed himself, she told police.

    The two Safeway victims appeared in court Friday as Edwards entered the no-contest plea and then reversed course. The prosecutor said they wished to stay anonymous.

    A search warrant affidavit reveals Edwards also is a suspect in an attack Sept. 8 in which he also is accused of using his bodily fluids.

    A 44-year-old woman told police she got off a bus at the Stone Road Park and Ride and began to walk home. She felt something touch her back and then felt something wet. When she turned around, a man was holding his hands over his genital area, court documents say. Edwards lives just blocks from the Park & Ride. He has not been charged with that crime.