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United States v. Lewis

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

April 28, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TIMOTHY DEQUON LEWIS, Defendant.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Before 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.

         BACKGROUND

         On 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. 113.)

         Due to 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) .

         Trial 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.

         During 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 her.

         After 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 for sex.

         Defendant 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.

         Defendant's 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.

         Defendant 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.

         The jury ultimately found Defendant guilty of nineteen of the twenty counts charged in the indictment.[1] 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. at 5.)

         ANALYSIS

         In 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 ...


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