Updated: 12:11 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 22, 2007 | Posted: 5:34 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007

Wrestler Hardbody Harrison Guilty In Sex Slave Trial

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Harrison "Hardbody" Norris, Jr.

ATLANTA —

A federal jury found former pro wrestler "Hardbody Harrison" guilty of multiple counts of sex trafficking and forced labor Wednesday in a scheme to force women into prostitution.

Prosecutors said the former wrestler, whose real name is Harrison Norris, forced women into prostitution, holding them prisoner at two homes he owned in Cartersville.

Norris, 41, acted as his own attorney during his trial in federal court.

He was convicted of charges including conspiracy, witness tampering, aggravated sexual abuse, forced labor, and sex trafficking involving eight women.

The jury acquitted him of all charges involving a ninth woman, but could be sentenced to up to life in prison when is sentenced Feb. 28.

The case was handled by federal prosecutors because the suspects transported the women on interstate highways, provided them with condoms that were manufactured outside Georgia and used mobile phones.

Norris claimed he was just training the women to be professional wrestlers. He said many of them arrived on drugs and left in the best shape of their lives.

During a two-week trial, prosecutors portrayed him as a predator who used his wrestling business to lure poor and vulnerable women into prostitution and forced labor.

"I think the jury's verdict vindicates the rights of the victims who were brave enough to come forward and confront this man who abused them," Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Coppedge said.

Witnesses testified that Norris, a former Army sergeant and veteran of the Persian Gulf War, imposed a strict military structure, with each of the women assigned to a squad overseen by an "enforcer."

One witness testified that Norris beat or threatened them to keep control and that he threatened to throw one through a hotel window when she would not engage in sex with two customers.

In addition to forcing the victims to work as prostitutes, Norris made them work in and around his houses, requiring them to haul trees, lay sod and paint, according to testimony.

Norris wrestled for the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling organization in the 1990s.

In 2000, after leaving WCW, Norris, who is black, joined other wrestlers in a lawsuit against the company and its parent, Turner Sports. The lawsuit alleged racial discrimination, saying WCW cast nonwhite wrestlers in unflattering stereotypical roles.

Norris settled out of court for a sum his family said was upward of $1 million.

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