June 3, 2014

U.S. v. Reid - Sixth Circuit Upholds Mann Act Conviction

by The Law Office of Timothy L. Healy

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently rejected defense argument in United States v. Reid that a federal Mann Act conviction was improper.
Tacoma sex crimes defense lawyers know there are highly specific elements prosecutors must prove to secure a conviction under the act, codified in 18 U.S.C. 2421. This is a measure that bars the transport of any person in interstate or foreign commerce for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or any other sexual activity for which the defendant might face a criminal offense.

The U.S. Attorney's manual stipulates that unless the victims are minors, prosecutions under the act should primarily be limited to those engaged in commercial prostitution ventures.

In the Reid case, the alleged victim was a minor. However, the defendant alleged numerous errors at trial, including in the process of jury selection, the admission of certain evidence, the application of sentencing enhancements, and the calculation of his criminal history score.

The appellate court found merit in some of his allegations but in the end found the errors not significant enough to warrant overturning the conviction.

According to court records, the defendant, aged 48, had been an acquaintance of the alleged victim's family since she was a young child. When she was 13, he reportedly began to send her flirtatious text messages, and the pair exchanged numerous phone calls.

The two eventually engaged in a sexual relationship, which occurred in Tennessee. Following the first several encounters, the two went to a hotel room just past the Mississippi border and had sex there.

A few weeks later, the girl reportedly told the defendant she wanted to run away from home. He reportedly encouraged her to leave and told her he would go with her. He picked her up from school, and the pair drove to Nevada, having sex numerous times along the way.

Meanwhile, the girl's family launched a search. Once the pair reached Nevada, the girl left the defendant and called her family. Another family friend went and got the girl and brought her home.

The defendant was subsequently arrested on federal charges, including violation of the Mann Act. He was ultimately convicted of two counts of the crime, one for the trip to Mississippi and one for the trip to Las Vegas. He was sentenced to 16.5 years in prison.

Upon appeal, he argued several errors.

  • He was given only nine peremptory challenges to strike potential jurors, instead of 10.

  • Improper admission of his in-state sexual encounters with the minor.

  • Improper sentencing enhancement due to his alleged "undue influence" on the minor victim.

  • Improper calculation of criminal history score.

The court conceded his first point but contended that in the end the trial was fair and impartial, and therefore there was not enough reason to overturn his conviction. The court further found that the in-state sexual encounters were relevant, even though he wasn't expressly tried on those charges. Justices also rejected the argument that, since he hadn't forced the girl to leave or have sex with him, he did not exercise undue influence. The court pointed out he was 35 years older than the victim and took her thousands of miles away from her family with no way to effectively get home. Finally, the court upheld the enhancements applied to his sentencing, based on prior convictions for possession of cocaine, larceny, and escape from prison.

If you have been arrested for a sex crime in Tacoma, contact Timothy L. Healy at 888-312-3093 - a 24-hour hotline.

Additional Resources:
United States v. Reid, May 20, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

More Blog Entries:
Paroline v. U.S. - Child Pornography Restitution Limited by U.S. Supreme Court, May 9, 2014, Tacoma Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Blog