Long Beach man sentenced to 10 years for drugging and raping tourist

Prosecutors: local bartender used 'couch surfing' website to lure German woman to his West End apartment


A Long Beach man was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday for drugging and raping a tourist who stayed in his West End apartment last year, after prosecutors said he lured the woman through a website that connects travelers with willing hosts.

Dennis Edison, 32, was found guilty by State Supreme Court Justice Robert McDonald in August on felony charges of first-degree rape and sexual abuse after a 10-day trial. Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said Edison’s sentence also includes a 20-year post-release supervision.

According to Singas, last Nov. 24, two female German tourists arrived at Edison’s Long Beach apartment. The women, both 21 at the time, met Edison through couchsurfing.com, and planned on spending several days at his home.

“They believed they would be staying with a fellow traveler, and as tourists, they were excited to be visiting New York and meeting new people,” Singas said at a press conference in Mineola after the sentencing, where she was joined by Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney. “Unbeknownst to them however, they walked into the home of a predator.”

Singas said Edison, who lived on Indiana Avenue, lied about his age on the website, and also misrepresented his location, claiming that he was in New York City. The first night of the tourists’ stay, Edison cooked dinner for the women, “allowing them to let their guard down,” Singas added.

The next day, Edison, a local bartender, prepared cocktails for the women, who had described feeling disoriented afterward. Edison gave the victim another drink after her friend fell asleep, and she became disassociated from her surroundings, according to Singas.

The victim's last memory was being led to a massage table in Edison’s bedroom, Singas said, and she was incapacitated and became unconscious, consistent with effects of GHB — also known as the date-rape drug — which is colorless and odorless. She woke up with her pants on, oil on her legs, and severe pain in her pelvic area, Singas added.

Singas said that forensic evidence confirmed that the unconscious woman was raped by Edison, who had initially denied having sexual contact with her in a recorded conversation.

“She was attempting to piece together what happened,” Singas said. “Through forensic evidence, we know what happened. While she was unconscious, the defendant raped her.”

The women, who spent much of that day vomiting, left the next morning to find new accommodations in Manhattan. The two contacted the German consulate, and reported the crime to the New York and Long Beach police departments. The victim was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where she spoke to Long Beach detectives. Edison was indicted by a Nassau County grand jury, and later arrested at his home by Long Beach police last Dec. 22.

“This was a terrific job by Long Beach [detective] Jose Miguez and [Assistant District Attorney] Emma Slane — they worked extremely hard to get this conviction which involved a victim living in Europe,” Tangney said. “Their quick action in the initial stages of the investigation — and the quick empaneling of a grand jury — took this menace off the streets before the victim went back home and he has been in custody since and will remain in custody for a long time to come.”

Elizabeth Spratt, director of toxicology at the Westchester County Department of Labs and Research, testified at trial that the physical disassociation, pain and vomiting are consistent with ingesting GHB. Edison's attorney, Aaron Goldsmith, told reporters after the sentencing that the sex was consensual.

“There was no objective evidence at trial; this truly was a matter of the complaining witnesses’ testimony versus his defense, so in that respect, that was most of what our defense was at trial,” Goldsmith said. “There was absolutely no evidence through toxicology or through evidence found at the scene that would indicate the presence of illegal substances or foreign matter.”

Goldsmith said Edison plans on appealing the ruling and the sentence, and noted that his client has a long history of working with underprivileged youth, and even saved a drowning boy in Long Beach when no lifeguards were on duty.

“Mr. Edison has a lot of wonderful virtues to his credit despite obviously the offensive nature of the crime he was charged and convicted with,” he said.

Before announcing the sentence, which included orders of protection against Edison for both women, McDonald said he was “struck by the two sides” of Edison. Though noting the man’s many friends, talents and past acts of good works in his community, he said he “did not find [Edison] credible in the least.”

“That side does not erase or forgive what you did that night to the victim,” McDonald told Edison in court. “…By your actions, you shattered the lives of two young women.”

Also during Friday's short court session, Slane, who prosecuted the case, read a letter submitted from the victim, in which the woman expressed the insecurity and trauma she is now forced to live with after being raped last year.

Slane called Edison’s actions cowardly, and said the victim was drugged into a scenario “beyond what somebody could describe as vulnerable.” She added that since the crime, the woman has become “a more closeted version of herself,” and that Edison’s actions “stripped her of her dignity.”

Singas said drug-rape cases are difficult to prosecute because the victim doesn’t have any memory of the crime, and because GHB is untraceable in the bloodstream after six to eight hours.

“I want to caution predators who think that they can get away with something like this because their victims often travel from far away places, that they will be brought to justice, we will investigate, we will prosecute and we will send them to prison,” Singas said.

The Herald will update this story.