United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant's Motion for Judgment of
Acquittal/Motion for New Trial. (Doc. 160.) For the following
reasons, Defendant's motion is DENIED.
November 5, 2015, Defendant was charged in a single count
indictment with sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud,
and coercion in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591. (Doc. 4.)
On April 7, 2016, a superseding indictment was filed charging
Defendant with thirteen additional counts related to sex
trafficking. (Doc. 59.) On July 6, 2016, a second superseding
indictment was filed in Defendant's case bringing the
total counts to nineteen. (Doc. 82.) On December 7, 2016, a
third superseding indictment was filed against Defendant
adding a charge for possession of child pornography. (Doc.
clerical errors, an amended third superseding indictment was
filed during trial. (Doc. 144.) In this amended third
superseding indictment, Defendant was charged with 1 count of
sex trafficking of a minor by force, fraud, and coercion in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591, 7 counts of sex
trafficking of a minor under the age of 18 in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 1591, 1 count of sex trafficking of a minor
under the age of 14 in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591, 8
counts of coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in
sexual activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b), 1
count of transportation with intent to engage in criminal
sexual activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a), 1
count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and 1 count of
possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 2252A(a) (5) (B) .
in this case began on March 6, 2017. At trial, the Government
explained that the case began when the FBI received a lead
from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
("NCMEC") . NCMEC informed the FBI that one of the
minor victims in this case-Jane Doe #3-had run away. NCMEC
also provided information to the FBI indicating that various
advertisements which appeared to show Jane Doe #3 had
appeared on the website Backpage.com. At the time,
Backpage.com was used to publish advertisements for
escort services and prostitution.
the course of the investigation into Jane Doe #3's
disappearance, the FBI was led to a Savannah hotel where they
found two other minors, Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2, in the
company of Defendant. Multiple witnesses noted that there was
a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the room and bugs
crawled amidst used condoms, alcohol bottles, and food waste.
While the FBI was interviewing Jane Does #1 and #2, Jane Doe
#3 arrived at the hotel. Jane Doe #3 appeared to be either
high or drunk, and law enforcement had to physically restrain
Jane Doe #3 arrived at the hotel, all three girls were taken
to the hospital where medical personnel examined them. One of
the Jane Does had internal injuries and another had a tampon
and make-up sponges pushed so far inside her vagina she was
unable to remove them without assistance. Each of the Jane
Does had been posted to Backpage.com as available
was arrested at the hotel. The Government obtained search
warrants for Defendant's vehicle and fourteen electronic
devices, including several cell phones, a tablet, and a
mobile hotspot. The Government searched these devices and
found significant digital evidence. This evidence included
Backpage.com advertisements listing various girls as
available for commercial sex. In all of the advertisements
Defendant posted, the girls were wearing lewd and provocative
attire, oftentimes posing in less than bras and panties. In
one advertisement, the girl was clad in absolutely nothing at
all. By linking the advertisements with information available
online and the testimony of the three Jane Does found in the
hotel, the FBI was able to locate five additional minor
victims whom Defendant had posted to Backpage.com
and were identified as Jane Does #4-8 at trial.
involvement in the sex trafficking of minors was not limited
to posting advertisements on Backpage.com. The Jane
Does testified that Defendant also transported some of them
to their various "plays, " was paid to post
prostitution advertisements on Backpage.com, and, in
some cases, had selected the aliases the Jane Does used in
their advertisements. For example, Defendant named Jane Doe
#3-who was thirteen at the time Defendant prostituted
her-"Little Sexy" and noted in her
Backpage.com advertisements that she was "fun
sized." The Government also presented text messages
between Defendant and various Jane Does, receipts for payment
for the posting of Backpage.com advertisements, and
receipts for payment made so that certain
Backpage.com advertisements appeared at the top of
the list when that site was searched.
also pressured and physically assaulted some of the Jane
Does. One Jane Doe testified that she had engaged in sex acts
because Defendant had hit her when she refused to prostitute
herself. Another Jane Doe testified that Defendant had
physically assaulted a Jane Doe by pistol whipping her.
Multiple Jane Does testified that they were afraid of
Defendant because they had often seen him in possession of a
firearm. This testimony was bolstered by evidence showing
that Mcintosh County police pulled Defendant over and found
him to be in possession of a firearm.
jury ultimately found Defendant guilty of nineteen of the
twenty counts charged in the indictment. Defendant now
challenges that verdict. Defendant argues that he was
entitled to a directed verdict on the 8 counts of coercion
and enticement because there was no evidence that Defendant
"persuaded, induced, enticed and coerced [a Jane Doe] to
engage in any sexual activity." (Doc. 160 at 2.)
Defendant argues that he was entitled to a directed verdict
on the eight counts of sex trafficking because the jury
charges and indictment misstated the law, and because the
Government failed to prove that Defendant acted "knowing
and in reckless disregard of the fact that . . . [the Jane
Does] had not attained the age of 18 years."
(Id. at 3.) Finally, Defendant argues that the Court
unfairly admitted prejudicial materials. (Id. at 4.)
Specifically, Defendant objects to the admission of certain
pictures that included child pornography. (Id.) It
is Defendant's argument that the admission of these
pictures tainted the verdict and resulted in the jury basing
their decision on emotion rather than reason. (Id.
considering a motion for acquittal under Federal Rule of
Criminal Procedure 29, the Court views the evidence in the
light most favorable to the verdict. United States v.
Sellers, 871 F.2d 1019, 1021 (11th Cir. 1989). The issue
before the Court is "whether a reasonable jury could
have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable
doubt." Id. (citing United States v.
O'Keefe, 825 F.2d 314, 319 (11th Cir. 1987)).
Essentially, the goal is preventing ...