895 F.3d 410 (5th Cir. 2018), 17-30065, United States v. Smith
|Citation:||895 F.3d 410|
|Opinion Judge:||PATRICK E. HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judge:|
|Party Name:||UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee v. Tyrone Larry SMITH, also known as Marques Stewart, also known as Tyrone Letron Smith, also known as Tyrone Latron Smith, also known as Tyrone L. Smith, also known as Troy Green, also known as Antoine Lavell Franklin, also known as Michael Mummadd, also known as Taz; Lacoya Washington, Defendants-...|
|Attorney:||Camille Ann Domingue, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorneys Office, Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette, Francesco Valentini, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Appellate Section, Washington, for Plaintiff-Appellee. Joseph Samuel Woodley, Sr., Esq., Pettiette, Armand, Dunkelma...|
|Judge Panel:||Before HIGGINBOTHAM, JONES, and GRAVES, Circuit Judges. EDITH H. JONES, Circuit Judge, concurring and dissenting:|
|Case Date:||July 13, 2018|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit|
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Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana
Camille Ann Domingue, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorneys Office, Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette, Francesco Valentini, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Appellate Section, Washington, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Joseph Samuel Woodley, Sr., Esq., Pettiette, Armand, Dunkelman, Woodley, Byrd & Cromwell, L.L.P., Shreveport, for Defendant-Appellant Tyrone Larry Smith.
Joseph Walter Greenwald, Jr., Esq., Greenwald Law Firm, L.L.C., Shreveport, for Defendant-Appellant Lacoya Washington.
Before HIGGINBOTHAM, JONES, and GRAVES, Circuit Judges.
PATRICK E. HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judge:
Defendants Tyrone Smith and Lacoya Washington were convicted of sex trafficking
involving a fourteen-year-old girl. On appeal, Washington challenges the sufficiency of the evidence against her, the denial of her motion for severance, and the reasonableness of her sentence. Finding no error, we AFFIRM her conviction. Smith challenges the sufficiency of the evidence against him, the denial of his motion to suppress, and the denial of his motion to reassert his right to counsel. We find that the district court erred in denying Smiths motion for counsel. We REVERSE his convictions.
In the summer of 2015, Tyrone Smith resided with Lacoya Washington and her four children at Washingtons apartment in Shreveport, Louisiana. During this time, Smith met B.R., a fourteen-year-old from Texas, on the dating website Plenty of Fish. The relationship moved to texting and telephone calls. B.R. told Smith that she was nineteen. Smith suggested that B.R. come to Louisiana and live with him, and B.R. agreed.
In June 2015, B.R. took a Greyhound bus to Shreveport. B.R. testified that Washington picked her up at the bus station and the two met Smith at the apartment. Shortly after her arrival, Smith told B.R. "theres someone outside waiting and you pretty much need to go to the car, have sex with him, get money, and come inside." B.R. testified that when she objected, Smith told her that if she refused, she would "get in trouble for it." She said that after the incident Smith told her "[t]his is what youre going to be doing from now on. You better be okay with it." Smith arranged similar "car dates" three or four times.
Smith later instructed B.R. to take photographs on his cell phone, some of which he sent to Washington. Smith used the photographs to create an online advertisement for prostitution on the website Backpage.com. He paid for the ad with a prepaid gift card bought with Washingtons money. Smith used Washingtons email address and his phone number. B.R. claimed that Smith and Washington collaborated on the text of the ad. The next day, Smith posted a second ad using his own email address.
B.R. testified that when men responded to the ad, Smith or Washington told her what to charge. B.R. estimated that she had sex with six men who responded to the ad. She testified that Washington or Washingtons boyfriend drove her to the motels to meet the men. Washington also paid for the motel rooms, using money that Smith gave her from customers. B.R. testified that after a customer left, they would "keep [the room] for the night" and "drink [and] do coke." Washington provided the cocaine.
On July 6, Smith and B.R. got into a fight because she had locked him out of the hotel room. Smith slapped B.R. and told Washington to leave the room. The fight continued. B.R. said she wanted to leave and locked herself in the bathroom. Smith entered the bathroom and hit B.R. approximately three times with a closed fist. He then got his gun, threatened suicide, and pointed the gun at B.R. The two eventually "calmed down" and went to sleep.
On July 7, Shreveport Police Department Officer Miles discovered the online ads, suspected that B.R. was a minor, and arranged a sting operation. Miles called the listed number to set up a meeting. When they arrived at the hotel, SPD officers detained B.R., who told them that she was a minor, that Smith was her pimp, and that he had beaten her. Officers searched the room and found Smiths telephone, the prepaid gift card, and a loaded gun.
Officers learned that the room was rented under Washingtons name, located her, and took her into custody where she made a statement. Washington told the police she believed B.R. continued to engage in prostitution because she was afraid of Smith. Officers also located Smith, who provided a statement where he admitted that he had met B.R. online and that he knew she was having sex with adult men in Shreveport.
Smith and Washington were charged with sex trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)(1) & (b)(1)-(2). Smith was also charged with interstate prostitution by coercion or enticement under 18 U.S.C. § 2242. Smith and Washington were jointly tried in a three-day bench trial. As explained in more detail below, Smith proceeded pro se. Washington was represented by counsel.
Both were convicted as charged. Smith received a 384-month sentence for Count 1 and a concurrent 240-month sentence for Count 2. Washington was sentenced to 292 months.
On appeal, Washington challenges the sufficiency of the evidence against her, the district courts denial of her motion for severance, and the reasonableness and constitutionality of her sentence.
Washington argues that the government provided insufficient evidence that she intentionally assisted or participated in trafficking B.R.1 She admits that she participated in a series of "otherwise innocent conduct" including renting the hotel rooms, driving Smith and B.R. to hotels, and socializing with them. She further concedes that "at some point she became aware of what was going on and did nothing to stop it," but argues that "failure to protect B.R. is not equivalent to intentionally assisting in the crime."
"When a defendant challenges a bench-trial conviction on sufficiency-of-the-evidence grounds, we focus on whether the finding of guilt is supported by substantial evidence, i.e., evidence sufficient to justify the trial judge, as the trier of fact, in concluding beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. "2 In doing so, "[w]e should not weigh evidence, nor should [we] determine the credibility of witnesses. "3 Instead, "we must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the
government and defer to all reasonable inferences by the trial court. "4
The record is replete with evidence of Washingtons involvement. At trial, the government presented evidence that Washington permitted Smith to use her money and email address to post an online prostitution advertisement. Washington allegedly approved the ads text and some of the photographs. According to B.R., Washington told her how much to charge customers, drove her to meet clients, and obtained the hotel rooms. Washington denied many of these claims at trial; however, the trial court made clear that it found Washingtons innocent explanations "noncredible," and there is ample evidence supporting her knowing involvement.
Washington also contends that the district court erred in trying her alongside Smith. We review the denial of a motion to sever for abuse of discretion.5 "The threshold for finding such discretion to have been abused ... is especially high when the trial is to be to the court rather than a jury."6 "[T]he defendant bears the burden of showing specific and compelling prejudice that resulted in an unfair trial, and such prejudice must be of a type against which the trial court was unable to afford protection. "7 Washington "is entitled to reversal ... only if [s]he identifies specific events during trial and demonstrates that these events caused [her] substantial prejudice."8
Before trial, Washington filed a motion for severance, arguing that her involvement in the crime was "minimal" and expressing concern that she "risk[ed] being punished for the alleged acts of Mr. Smith." The trial court originally granted this motion, and reconsidered its ruling after the parties later agreed to a bench trial. Upon reconsideration, the district court found that severance was "no longer...
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