Bell v. State, 5821

Citation668 P.2d 829
Decision Date09 September 1983
Docket NumberNo. 5821,5821
PartiesWillie B. BELL, Appellant, v. STATE of Alaska, Appellee.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Alaska

Christine Schleuss, Asst. Public Defender, Dana Fabe, Public Defender, Anchorage, for appellant.

W.H. Hawley, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Anchorage, Wilson L. Condon, Atty. Gen., Juneau, for appellee.



BRYNER, Chief Judge.

Willie B. Bell appeals his convictions for promoting prostitution in the first degree in violation of AS 11.66.110(a)(2) and managing a prostitution enterprise in violation of AS 11.66.120(a)(1). He also appeals the sentence imposed. We affirm.

Bell was a twenty-nine-year-old army sergeant when he procured two sixteen-year-old girls, C.R. and M.J., and one fourteen-year-old girl, D.W., for prostitution. C.R. began living with Bell and engaging in prostitution after Bell promised to marry her and to buy her a new car and new clothing. At Bell's direction, D.W. and M.J. worked as prostitutes in May, 1980. On May 22, 1980, Bell assaulted M.J., claiming that she had been drinking instead of "working." Fearing that Bell would harm them, C.R. and M.J. left him and contacted police, who obtained a search warrant to record conversations between M.J., C.R. and Bell. A telephone conversation between Bell and C.R. and a conversation involving Bell, M.J. and C.R. were recorded pursuant to the warrant and used as evidence against Bell.

The indictment returned against Bell charged two counts of promoting prostitution in the first degree, alleging that he induced D.W. to engage in prostitution when she was under the age of sixteen (Count I) (AS 11.66.110(a)(2)), and that he induced C.R. to engage in prostitution by means of force (Count II) (AS 11.66.110(a)(1)). Count III of the indictment, as it went to the jury, alleged that Bell was guilty of attempted promotion of prostitution in the first degree, AS 11.66.110(a)(1) and AS 11.31.100(a), regarding M.J. The indictment also alleged that Bell managed, supervised, controlled or owned a prostitution enterprise other than a house of prostitution in violation of AS 11.66.120(a)(1) (Count IV). Bell was convicted of Counts I and IV. On Count II, Bell was acquitted of the charge but convicted of the lesser-included offense of promoting prostitution in the third degree, AS 11.66.130. On Count III, Bell was found not guilty of the charge but guilty of the lesser-included offense of attempted promotion of prostitution in the third degree, AS 11.66.130 and 11.31.100(a). Bell was not sentenced on Counts II and III. Superior Court Judge Milton M. Souter sentenced Bell to a five-year term with two years suspended on Count I, and a four-year term with three years suspended on Count IV. The sentences for these offenses were to run concurrently. Subsequently, Judge Souter refused to reduce the sentence.

On appeal, Bell argues that: (1) he should have been allowed to present a reasonable mistake of age defense to the charge contained in Count I; (2) a partially inaudible tape recording should not have been admitted into evidence; (3) the search warrant for recording of conversations was improperly issued and executed; (4) supplemental instructions given to the jury were unduly coercive; (5) the sentences imposed by the trial court violated his double jeopardy rights; and (6) Judge Souter gave improper consideration to a letter Bell wrote, while awaiting sentencing, to the fourteen-year-old daughter of another inmate.


Bell asserts that the trial court erred in refusing to give a proposed jury instruction providing for a reasonable mistake of age defense to the charge of inducing a person under the age of sixteen to engage in prostitution in violation of AS 11.66.110(a)(2). 1 Bell argues that AS 11.66.110(b) violates his due process rights under the United States and Alaska constitutions by expressly precluding mistake of age as a defense to the charge of violating AS 11.66.110(a)(2). We find this argument unpersuasive and conclude that the legislature may, consistent with the requirements of constitutional due process, preclude mistake of age from constituting a defense to the crime of promoting prostitution in the first degree.

It is apparent that the legislature considered procurement of a person under sixteen to be an aggravated form of promoting prostitution. The commentary to the Revised Criminal Code, 2 Senate Journal, Supplement No. 47, at 109 (1978), states that by denying a defendant the defense of reasonable mistake as to age, creation of strict liability was intended as to the element of the offense involving age of the victim. 2 Supporting the validity of the legislature's decision in this regard is the supreme court's opinion in Hentzner v. State, 613 P.2d 821 (Alaska 1980), in which the court held:

Where a crime involved may be said to be malum in se, that is, one which reasoning members of society regard as condemnable, awareness of the commission of the act necessarily carries with it an awareness of wrongdoing. In such a case the requirement of criminal intent is met on proof of conscious action, and it would be entirely acceptable to define the word "wilfully" to mean no more than a consciousness of the conduct in question.

Id. at 826. See also Wheeler v. State, 659 P.2d 1241, 1254 n. 18 (Alaska App.1983).

Bell correctly states the well-recognized rule in this jurisdiction that criminal intent is a necessary ingredient of criminal liability and that one charged with criminal conduct must have an awareness or consciousness of wrongdoing. Speidel v. State, 460 P.2d 77, 78 (Alaska 1969). In Speidel, the awareness of wrongdoing was in the context of a larceny-type crime, for which courts have historically required a specific intent to wrongfully deprive. In Alex v. State, 484 P.2d 677 (Alaska 1971), the supreme court discussed the intent required for non-larceny crimes:

However, as applied to crimes generally, what is imperative, is that an accused's act be other than simply inadvertent or neglectful. What is essential is not an awareness that a given conduct is a "wrongdoing" in the sense that it is proscribed by law, but rather, an awareness that one is committing the specific acts which are defined by law as a "wrongdoing." It is, however, no defense that one was not aware that his acts were wrong in the sense that they were proscribed by law. So long as one acts intentionally, with cognizance of his behavior, he acts with the requisite awareness of wrongdoing.

Id. at 681-82. 3

We believe this language is applicable to Bell's actions, since he was consciously committing the acts proscribed by law. As an element of this offense, Bell was required to be aware that he was procuring women to engage in acts of prostitution. Indeed, the jurors in this case were instructed that they must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt

that the defendant engaged in conduct which caused or induced [D.W.] to engage in prostitution; [and] that the defendant engaged in said conduct with the specific intent to cause or induce [D.W.] to engage in prostitution.

Thus, while Bell was not required to know the age of those whom he procured, this is not to say that the offense did not require mens rea or a culpable mental state.

We also note that AS 11.66.110(b) is in accord with the common law view that there should be no exculpation for mistake where, if the facts had been as the actor believed them to be, his conduct would still be illegal or immoral. 4 As Bell recognizes on appeal, his conduct would still have been illegal even if D.W. had been sixteen or over. AS 11.66.130(a)(2). 5 Moreover, although it might be arguable that the offense of prostitution should be considered a malum prohibitum crime, we think it manifest that promoting prostitution is an offense "which reasoning members of society regard as condemnable," and thus, is malum in se. Hentzner v. State, 613 P.2d at 826. Accordingly, there can be little doubt that Hentzner 's basic requirement of an awareness or consciousness of wrongdoing is satisfied, despite the fact that AS 11.66.110(b) precludes mistake of age as a defense to the offense of promoting prostitution in the first degree.

In continuing to press his claim that AS 11.66.110(b) imposes an unconstitutional standard, Bell relies upon State v. Guest, 583 P.2d 836 (Alaska 1978), in which the supreme court upheld a trial court's decision to instruct the jury on a defense of reasonable mistake of age in a statutory rape case. Following the reasoning of Speidel and Alex, the court stated that an intent requirement must be read into former AS 11.15.120 to save it from unconstitutionality. To refuse a defense of mistake of age in a statutory rape case, according to the Guest court, would be to impose significant criminal liability without any criminal mental element. Id. at 839.

Bell relies most heavily upon the following language in Guest:

It has been urged in other jurisdictions that where an offender is aware he is committing an act of fornication he therefore has sufficient criminal intent to justify a conviction for statutory rape because what was done would have been unlawful under the facts as he thought them to be. We reject this view. While it is true that under such circumstances a mistake of fact does not serve as a complete defense, we believe that it should serve to reduce the offense to that which the offender would have been guilty of had he not been mistaken. Thus, if an accused had a reasonable belief that the person with whom he had sexual intercourse was sixteen years of age or older, he may not be convicted of statutory rape. If, however, he did not have a reasonable belief that the victim was eighteen years of age or older, he may still be criminally liable for contribution to the delinquency of a minor.

Id. (citations and footnotes omitted). The court cited in support of its position section 2.04(2) of the Model...

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2 cases
  • Com. v. Heck
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • April 4, 1985
    ...knowledge of the nature and consequences of one's actions even though the precise age of the victim may not be known. Cf. Bell v. State, 668 P.2d 829 (Alk.App.1983) (rejecting reasonable-belief defense to promoting prostitution of a minor because intent to promote prostitution present). The......
  • Ford v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nevada
    • September 29, 2011
    ...was inducing persuading, encouraging, enticing, or inveigling a female person to become a prostitute.”). See also Bell v. State, 668 P.2d 829, 833 (Alaska Ct.App.1983) (jury instruction required that the defendant have “the specific intent to cause or induce [D.W.] to engage in prostitution......

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