People v. Sprouse, No. 98SC119.

Docket NºNo. 98SC119.
Citation983 P.2d 771
Case DateJune 14, 1999

983 P.2d 771

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Petitioner,
v.
William Charles SPROUSE, Respondent

No. 98SC119.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc.

June 14, 1999.


983 P.2d 772
Ken Salazar, Attorney General, Barbara McDonnell, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Michael E. McLachlan, Solicitor General, Peter J. Cannici, Assistant Attorney General, Appellate Division, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Petitioner

David F. Vela, Colorado State Public Defender, Joan E. Mounteer, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Respondent.

Justice RICE delivered the Opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari in order to review People v. Sprouse, 962 P.2d 300 (Colo.App. 1997), in which the court of appeals reversed the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal. The defendant appealed the judgment of conviction entered upon a jury verdict finding him guilty of criminal attempt to commit sexual assault on a child.1 Specifically, the defendant asserted that he was entitled to a judgment of acquittal because the prosecution failed to carry its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not entrapped by the Arvada Police Department. The court of appeals agreed with the defendant, reversing the trial court and remanding with directions to vacate the judgment and enter a judgment of acquittal in its place. We conclude that the court of appeals erred in holding that the prosecution's evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to support a finding by the jury that the defendant was predisposed to commit attempted sexual assault on a child. Accordingly, we reverse and remand to that court with directions to consider the defendant's remaining arguments on appeal.

I.

The defendant, William Charles Sprouse (Sprouse), was arrested in a Wheat Ridge motel at the conclusion of an Arvada Police Department "sting" operation designed to identify and investigate potential pedophiles.

Sprouse came under investigation by the Arvada Police Department's Crimes Against Children Unit in November 1994, when he placed a personal advertisement in a legal, sexually explicit publication seeking a "submissive female, ... pretty w/ slim build, 18-40 who craves father figure, spanking, kinky sex." This advertisement caught the attention of a detective who had been monitoring the paper for advertisements placed by individuals indicating an interest in exploiting children. As most sexually explicit publications do not permit individuals to openly state that they are interested in child pornography or other crimes against children, the detectives monitoring these advertisements routinely look for certain "code words" which, in their experience, are used by individuals interested in the sexual exploitation of children. These code words include several phrases used by Sprouse in his personal advertisement, such as "18-40," "slim build,"

983 P.2d 773
"youthful," and "father figure." Consequently, the detectives targeted Sprouse for further investigation

In order to learn more about Sprouse, the detectives sent an application to his Butte, Montana home inviting him to join a fictitious pen-pal organization, known as "PRIVY." This organization offered to match applicants with other individuals who shared their sexual interests. Sprouse returned his PRIVY application in December 1994, indicating numerous sexual interests including: "Greek Culture," "Young Love," "Bondage and Discipline," "Teenagers," and "Masochism." Again, the detectives believed that these responses reflected an interest in child exploitation. Therefore, they sent Sprouse a pen-pal response from "Ann," a fictitious woman in her thirties. "Ann's" application indicated that she not only had sexual interests similar to Sprouse's, but that she was also interested in "Family Sex," "Sexual Awakenings," and "Sexual Education."

Sprouse promptly responded to "Ann," introducing himself and asking "Ann" for further explanation of the items checked on her application form. "Ann" then wrote to Sprouse, explaining that she marked "Young Love," "Sexual Awakenings," and "Sexual Education" on her application with her eleven year-old daughter, "Lisa," in mind. She stated that she was looking for some "T.L.C." for "Lisa," but that she was "very nervous about saying much more as not everyone in society believes as I do."

Sprouse wrote back to "Ann" immediately upon receiving her letter on December 20, 1994. In his letter, he stated:

As I see it you also want Lisa to learn about sex and all of its aspects.... I come to theese [sic] conclusions because you seem to mention that your main concern is Lisa. Also because you marked "Young Love " and "Family Sex" which also means to me that you are also interested in your own pertisapation [sic]. Which I wholey [sic] approve of. If this is what you want then I could very well be the man you are looking for.

Sprouse mailed the letter via Priority Mail and enclosed a money order for "Ann" so that she could afford to send her response to him via Priority Mail as well.

"Ann" wrote back to Sprouse on December 28, 1994. In response to Sprouse's questions regarding her own sexual interests, she stated that what she really wanted was a "special teacher" to give "Lisa" his "undivided and full T.L.C." She also indicated an interest in being present during the "lessons" and asked whether Sprouse had ever "trained" another child.

Sprouse responded in a letter dated December 30, 1994, which opened with the following passage:

I am interested* so you may feel free to open yourself up to me. What we are talking about is against the Law [sic]. But I feel as you do that the time is right for Lisa to learn about sex. Ann and Lisa you can trust me to be discret [sic]. I am not a postal inspecter [sic] or involved with the Law [sic] in any way.... What we are planing [sic] here is a very delicate thing and if I wasn't sure that I'm what you are looking for I wouldn't take the chance.

*(Smiling face in original.) Sprouse also indicated that he had "trained" a fifteen year-old girl before and described the circumstances surrounding this encounter. Sprouse's letter contained a graphic description of the sexual acts which he intended to perform with "Lisa" as part of her training. Finally, Sprouse indicated that he wanted to "get started as soon as possible."

The pen-pal relationship progressed over the course of several months, during which the two exchanged a total of nineteen letters. During this time, the two discussed the specifics of "Lisa's" sexual training and made plans for Sprouse to travel to Colorado. In her letters, "Ann" repeatedly asked Sprouse general questions regarding the methods he would use to train "Lisa." Sprouse responded with graphic accounts of the sexual acts that he planned to engage in with her.

In one letter, "Ann" also informed him that "Lisa" was "so looking forward to meeting [him] and learning that she's getting hard to live with!" "Ann" asked Sprouse to come to Colorado, as her car was not good enough to make the 800 mile drive to Montana. She also pressed Sprouse to tell her about videos

983 P.2d 774
and books that she could show "Lisa" in order to prepare for his visit. Finally, "Ann" repeatedly thanked Sprouse for agreeing to sexually train "Lisa."

In a letter written in early February 1995, Sprouse told "Ann" and "Lisa" that "Lisa's" training "could take up to a month or mabey [sic] longer if she is hard to teach." He went on to state that "[a] crash course on the basics would take two weeks." Finally, in a February 15, 1995 letter to "Lisa," Sprouse wrote:

Honey, if TLC is what you want I give you all that you deserve. I be [sic] very tender with you but I'll also teach you all of what you need to know. You will need to trust me and put your faith in me. Their [sic] are some things you will need to know that will be [awkward] for you at first. Please don't worrie [sic] about them I will show you how to be comfortable with them and you will recieve [sic] the most pleasurable time of your life.

Through these letters and a few phone calls, Sprouse and "Ann," portrayed by Arvada Police Officer Faith Forum, arranged for Sprouse to travel to Colorado for ten days at the end of May and the beginning of June 1995. Sprouse met Officer Forum at a motel in Wheat Ridge. The two had a brief conversation and Sprouse proceeded to the room where "Ann" informed him that "Lisa" would be waiting for him. Sprouse was arrested upon entering the room. After his arrest, Sprouse gave officers permission to search his automobile. In the trunk of his car officers found a box which contained numerous sexual aids and devices as well as a sexually explicit publication that Sprouse had purchased upon arriving in Denver.

Sprouse was charged with attempted sexual assault on a child. At the close of evidence, Sprouse moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that the prosecution did not present sufficient evidence to disprove his defense of entrapment beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, he claimed that the evidence was insufficient because the prosecution's only proof that he was predisposed to sexually assault children was collected after the Arvada Police Department's sting operation began. Sprouse claimed that this type of evidence was insufficient to prove that he was predisposed to committing this crime prior to his contact with the Arvada Police Department. The trial court denied Sprouse's motion, holding that the prosecution had presented "ample evidence to show that the defendant...

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105 practice notes
  • People v. Dunaway, No. 02SC675.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • April 12, 2004
    ...to the prosecution, as sufficient to support a finding of the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." People v. Sprouse, 983 P.2d 771, 777 (Colo.1999). The verdict must ultimately be upheld if there is sufficient evidence to support it. People v. Schoondermark, 699 P.2d 411, 414 Du......
  • People v. Auman, No. 99CA0016.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • September 26, 2002
    ...most favorable to the People, as sufficient to support a finding of the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Sprouse, 983 P.2d 771 1. Defendant first disputes sufficiency of the evidence that she was "in immediate flight from" the burglary because she and Jaehnig d......
  • People v. Kadell, Court of Appeals No. 13CA2021
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • October 5, 2017
    ...to the prosecution, as sufficient to support a finding of the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." People v. Sprouse , 983 P.2d 771, 777 (Colo. 1999). We review the record de novo to decide whether the prosecution met that test. Dempsey v. People , 117 P.3d 800, 807 (Colo. 2005)......
  • People v. Lucero, Court of Appeals No. 13CA1680
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • July 14, 2016
    ...evidence to sustain Lucero's conspiracy conviction and that a judgment of acquittal must be entered on remand. See People v. Sprouse , 983 P.2d 771, 776 (Colo. 1999).¶ 36 Finally, we need not resolve the parties' dispute over whether the Wharton rule applies here. The Wharton rule provides ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
105 cases
  • People v. Dunaway, No. 02SC675.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • April 12, 2004
    ...to the prosecution, as sufficient to support a finding of the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." People v. Sprouse, 983 P.2d 771, 777 (Colo.1999). The verdict must ultimately be upheld if there is sufficient evidence to support it. People v. Schoondermark, 699 P.2d 411, 414 Du......
  • People v. Auman, No. 99CA0016.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • September 26, 2002
    ...most favorable to the People, as sufficient to support a finding of the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Sprouse, 983 P.2d 771 1. Defendant first disputes sufficiency of the evidence that she was "in immediate flight from" the burglary because she and Jaehnig d......
  • People v. Kadell, Court of Appeals No. 13CA2021
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • October 5, 2017
    ...to the prosecution, as sufficient to support a finding of the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." People v. Sprouse , 983 P.2d 771, 777 (Colo. 1999). We review the record de novo to decide whether the prosecution met that test. Dempsey v. People , 117 P.3d 800, 807 (Colo. 2005)......
  • People v. Lucero, Court of Appeals No. 13CA1680
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • July 14, 2016
    ...evidence to sustain Lucero's conspiracy conviction and that a judgment of acquittal must be entered on remand. See People v. Sprouse , 983 P.2d 771, 776 (Colo. 1999).¶ 36 Finally, we need not resolve the parties' dispute over whether the Wharton rule applies here. The Wharton rule provides ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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