726 F.3d 880 (7th Cir. 2013), 11-2734, United States v. Stokes

Docket Nº:11-2734
Citation:726 F.3d 880
Opinion Judge:Sykes, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CHARLES TODD STOKES, Defendant-Appellant
Attorney:For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Andrew R. DeVooght, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL. For CHARLES T. STOKES, Defendant - Appellant: Pablo F. DeCastro, Attorney, RASCIA & DECASTRO, Chicago, IL.
Judge Panel:Before MANION, SYKES, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:August 01, 2013
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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726 F.3d 880 (7th Cir. 2013)



CHARLES TODD STOKES, Defendant-Appellant

No. 11-2734

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 1, 2013

Argued March 28, 2012.

Petition for certiorari filed at, 10/24/2013.

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 07 CR 590-1-Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, Judge.


For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Andrew R. DeVooght, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL.

For CHARLES T. STOKES, Defendant - Appellant: Pablo F. DeCastro, Attorney, RASCIA & DECASTRO, Chicago, IL.

Before MANION, SYKES, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.


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Sykes, Circuit Judge.

Charles Todd Stokes was convicted in Florida state court of misdemeanor battery for indecently touching two boys at the elementary school where he was a teacher. A month later, for reasons unknown, Florida authorities permitted him to move to Thailand where he immediately began enticing adolescent and prepubescent boys for sex. This went on for several years until someone tipped off the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (" ICE" ). In a joint operation with the Royal Thai Police, ICE agents searched Stokes's home and recovered a camera, a computer, and several compact discs containing thousands of images of Stokes's sexual activity with Thai boys.

Stokes was extradited to the United States and convicted of traveling in foreign commerce for the purpose of engaging in a sex act with a minor. See 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b). Stokes appeals, raising no fewer than ten claims of error. None are meritorious. We concentrate our efforts on two: a procedural mistake in the extradition process and a challenge to the legality of the search.

The extradition error involves the Rule of Specialty, which holds that a nation securing the return of a person pursuant to an extradition treaty may prosecute the extradited person only for the crime or crimes named in the surrendering country's extradition grant. Thailand surrendered Stokes to face a charge under 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c), which makes it a crime for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place. Prosecutors later shifted gears and prosecuted him for violating 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b), a similar crime but not the one on which Thailand granted extradition. On a request from the American Embassy, however, the Thai foreign ministry waived the Rule of Specialty. This diplomatic action cleared the way for the government to proceed on the substitute charge.

The challenge to the search raises two questions: (1) whether an extraterritorial search of an American citizen by U.S. agents is subject to the Fourth Amendment's implicit warrant requirement and the explicit requirements of the Warrant Clause; and (2) whether the search by ICE agents was reasonable. Following the Second Circuit, we hold that the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement and the Warrant Clause have no extraterritorial application. See In re Terrorist Bombings of U.S. Embassies in E. Afr., 552 F.3d 157, 171 (2d Cir. 2008). But Stokes remains protected by the Amendment's touchstone requirement of reasonableness. See id. at 170 n.7. Because the search was reasonable, the photographic evidence was properly admitted at trial.

I. Background

Stokes was a teacher in the Miami-Dade public schools for more than a decade. On February 25, 2000, he pleaded no contest to a charge of misdemeanor battery for indecently touching two boys who were his students. A Florida court suspended sentence and placed Stokes on probation. As a condition of his probation, Stokes had to surrender his Florida teaching license and was barred from unsupervised contact with minors absent written court permission. Less than a month after his plea and sentencing, Stokes asked for permission to complete his probation in Thailand. For reasons not specified in the record, this request was granted. On March 21, 2000, Stokes moved to Thailand, eventually settling

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in Pattaya, about 200 kilometers south of Bangkok.

Within two weeks of his arrival in Thailand, Stokes began seeking boys for sex. He frequently hired young male prostitutes. He enticed runaways and other boys off the streets to his home to play video games, and once there, he engaged in sexual acts with them. He often photographed these sexual encounters, transferring the images from his camera to a computer and compact discs.

This conduct continued undetected for several years. With the exception of a three-week trip to the United States from December 25, 2001 to January 14, 2002, Stokes resided continuously in Thailand from March 21, 2000, until his arrest on July 28, 2006. He supported himself by teaching English. In December 2002 ICE agents based in Thailand received a tip that Stokes had been fired from a teaching job in Bangkok for indecently touching male students. The agents opened an investigation and learned that Stokes had been fired from another teaching job at a different school based on similar allegations. This prompted ICE to request assistance from the Royal Thai Police in Pattaya.

Thai Police assigned narcotics officers to the investigation because surveillance was anticipated and the narcotics officers worked in plain clothes. The Thai officers eventually obtained a warrant authorizing a search of Stokes's home " to locate and seize any illegal items and narcotics ... of which possession is considered illegal, or which was illegally obtained, or which has been used or is intended to be used to commit a crime." Because this was a sex-crimes investigation, the inclusion of narcotics among the objects of the search was an obvious anomaly probably attributable to the presence of the local narcotics officers on the joint law-enforcement team.

Early in the morning of October 9, 2003, ICE agents and the Royal Thai Police executed the warrant at Stokes's home. Stokes was not there when they arrived, so they waited for him before entering. Once the search was underway, the officers recovered a digital camera, multiple compact discs, and a computer. Together, these items contained more than 6,000 images of Stokes's sexual activity with adolescent and prepubescent Thai boys.

Despite the voluminous evidence of serious crimes, Stokes was not arrested until July 28, 2006, almost three years after the search. It took another year to return him to the United States. On July 26, 2007, Thailand granted an extradition request from the United States and returned Stokes to Miami to face a charge of violating 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c), which makes it a crime for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to travel in foreign commerce and engage in illicit sexual conduct. But that particular subsection of § 2423 was enacted after Stokes traveled to Thailand and therefore did not apply to his conduct. Federal prosecutors in Miami soon realized their mistake and dropped the charge. Stokes was transferred to the Northern District of Illinois and indicted on three counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 2251A(b)(2)(A), a child-trafficking statute.1 Prosecutors dismissed these charges as well and eventually indicted Stokes on a single count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b), which at the relevant time prohibited traveling in interstate or foreign

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commerce for the purpose of engaging in a sexual act with a person under 18. See 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b) (effective Oct. 30, 1998 to Nov. 2, 2002).

Stokes moved to suppress the evidence recovered in the search of his home in Thailand. In a comprehensive opinion, the district court denied the motion. United States v. Stokes, 710 F.Supp.2d 689 (N.D.Ill. 2009). The judge first held that the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement and Warrant Clause do not apply overseas. Id. at 699-700. Next, after considering all the circumstances, the judge found that the search was reasonable. Id. at 701-02. Finally, the judge held that even if the search violated the Fourth Amendment, ICE agents relied in good faith on Thai legal authorities. Id. at 702-03.

After a flurry of additional defense motions, all unsuccessful, the case was tried to a jury. The government introduced testimony from the ICE agents involved in the investigation and two Thai boys who were sexually assaulted by Stokes. One of the victims was a street kid nicknamed " Ice," who was 11 years old when Stokes first enticed him to his home with a promise of video games and a place to sleep. " Ice" testified that Stokes subjected him to various sex acts and gave him money. He recalled approximately 20 such sexual encounters with Stokes. The other victim was a runaway nicknamed " Note," who also was 11 when he first accepted Stokes's invitation to accompany him home. " Note" testified to a similar pattern of sexual abuse by Stokes.

Finally, the government introduced a representative sample of the more than 6,000 photographic images recovered during the search of Stokes's home. The photographs depicted Stokes engaged in various sex acts with Thai boys, including " Ice" and " Note." An ICE agent testified that approximately 70 different boys appear in the images, 60 of whom appeared to be under 16. Of those, 30 appeared to be under the age of 12, and the youngest looked to be about 7. Several hundred of these photos were transferred from Stokes's camera to compact discs in the months immediately before and after Stokes's brief trip to the United States and return to Thailand in December 2001 to January 2002.


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