Va. upskirting suspect pleads guilty, but then withdraws plea

- Since last summer, we have been following the case of the man who pleaded guilty in Maryland five years ago for putting his bodily fluid in bottles and spraying it on women in stores.

He then turned up in Virginia for new charges of sex crimes. Michael Edwards was in court in Fairfax County on Friday and pleaded guilty -- but then there was a surprising twist.

Edwards has six sexual charges against him in Fairfax County. He made a deal with the commonwealth’s attorney to plead guilty to three of those charges.

A Fairfax County judge sentenced Edwards to three years in jail -- one year for each charge -- and he would have had to serve 18 months of it.

Edwards was about to be booked, but his lawyer surprised everyone by asking the judge if his client appealed, could he stay out of jail on bond? The judge said yes.

Edwards then unexpectedly withdrew his guilty plea and said he would appeal. He gave a DNA sample and then left court. The case will now go to circuit court for trial.

Before that twist while still in sentencing, the prosecution called Edwards a predator who needs to be in jail because he is a threat to society.

The state said the two victims were in court on Friday. Edwards allegedly followed them around Safeway stores and took photos up their skirts. The prosecution said the photos were found on Edwards' phone and the events were caught on store surveillance.

The prosecution said he followed one of the victims out of the store where he exposed his genitals and said to her, “Have you seen this?”

Edwards’ attorney, Jennifer Raino, told the judge that he has already suffered consequences for his actions.

“Mr. Edwards has suffered some social consequences in his personal life,” said Raino. “They are personal in nature and we will not be commenting on his case at all.”

But in court, she was more specific. She said Edwards lost his job as a trainer at a gym. She said he is now doing private fitness training and has had to stop being a professional bodybuilder.

The defense said he has also suffered because he lost all his friends and had to change his Facebook name because he was being harassed.

Edwards has never gone to jail. After pleading guilty in Maryland, a Montgomery County judge did not give him jail time.

The prosecutor in the Fairfax County case told me she was not able to bring up Edwards' criminal past -- the Maryland cases of spraying women in stores -- because it doesn't show up as a conviction in court records.

Edwards is still the lead suspect in a case of a woman who had a man ejaculate on her back as she was walking down the street in September.

The prosecutor and the judge were not expecting what happened on Friday. Essentially, Edwards took back his guilty plea so he didn't have to go straight to jail and could leave on bond. The commonwealth’s attorney said they will continue to pursue this case in circuit court.

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