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United States v. Haines

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 14, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Sha-Ron Haines, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and Submitted January 17, 2019 San Francisco, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, No. 2:14-cr-00264-APG-VCF-2 Andrew P. Gordon, District Judge, Presiding

          Karen A. Connolly (argued), Karen A. Connolly, Ltd., Las Vegas, Nevada, for Defendant-Appellant.

          Vijay Shanker (argued), United States Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Appellate Section, Washington D.C., for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before: J. Clifford Wallace and Michelle T. Friedland, Circuit Judges, and Lynn S. Adelman, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Criminal Law

         The panel affirmed the district court's judgment in a case in which the defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor, sex trafficking of a minor, conspiracy to transport a minor to engage in prostitution, and transporting a minor to engage in prostitution.

         At trial, the defendant sought to question minor J.C. about her prior prostitution activities (which apparently did not involve a pimp), arguing that this evidence was relevant to, among other things, whether he recruited or encouraged her to engage in prostitution on this occasion. The panel held that the district court did not err by excluding the testimony under Fed.R.Evid. 412, the "rape shield" rule. The panel rejected the defendant's contention that evidence of J.C.'s prior prostitution activities should have been admitted under the exception in Rule 412(b)(1)(C) for "evidence whose exclusion would violate [his] constitutional rights"-here, his due process right to present a complete defense and his Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses. The panel saw no reason to depart from persuasive authorities holding that a defense such as the one the defendant sought to present-that he had no intent to, and did not, pimp out J.C.-triggers the exception. The panel also held that the applicability of Rule 412 should not depend on the alleged victim's desire to testify. The panel concluded that even if the district court misapplied Rule 412, any error would be harmless. The panel held that the defendant's arguments that the government opened the door to testimony about J.C.'s prior activities lacked merit.

         The panel addressed other arguments in a separate memorandum disposition.

          OPINION

          ADELMAN, DISTRICT JUDGE:

         Sha-Ron Haines appeals his convictions for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor, sex trafficking of a minor, conspiracy to transport a minor to engage in prostitution, and transporting a minor to engage in prostitution. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We affirm.

         I.

         The government alleged that Haines and his friend Tyral King transported two minor females, J.C. (age 15) and A.S. (age 17), from Nevada to California to prostitute them, with J.C. working for Haines and A.S. working for King. The girls found "dates" by walking a "track" where men picked up prostitutes and through ads posted on a website called "Backpage.com." King and Haines would drop the girls off at their dates and return to pick them up afterwards.

         J.C. initially cooperated with the government's investigation, albeit reluctantly. She testified before the grand jury that ultimately indicted Haines and King that she worked for Haines and gave him the money she earned from prostitution. Prior to trial, however, her account changed. J.C. then claimed that she initially implicated Haines due to pressure from the investigating detective to testify in exchange for release from juvenile detention. This change may have been prompted by a jailhouse ...


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