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State v. Murray

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

March 14, 2018



          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Anne M. Wallis Jennifer C. Voss


          Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Hans J. Liljeberg, and Marion F. Edwards, Judge Pro Tempore


         Defendant appeals his convictions and sentences for two counts of pandering. For the following reasons, we affirm


         Defendant was charged by bill of information with two counts of pandering, in violation of La. R.S. 14:84. He was arraigned and pleaded not guilty. Defendant filed motions to suppress the evidence, which were denied after a hearing. Thereafter, defendant withdrew his not guilty pleas and pleaded guilty as charged under State v. Crosby, 338 So.2d 584 (La. 1976). The trial judge sentenced him to imprisonment at hard labor for four years on each count, to run consecutively. Defendant appeals.

         Because defendant pleaded guilty, the underlying facts were not fully developed at a trial. Nevertheless, the State alleged in the bill of information that on or between March 31, 2016 and June 7, 2016 (count one), and on or between March 11, 2016 and June 7, 2016 (count two), defendant, in Jefferson Parish, violated La. R.S. 14:84 in that he did entice, place, persuade, encourage, or cause the entrance of any person into the practice of prostitution, either by force, threats, promises, or by any other device or scheme, and/or maintain a place where prostitution is habitually practiced, and/or transport any person from one place to another for the purpose of promoting the practice of prostitution. The State later indicated that count one involved J.D. and count two involved E.R.[1]

         Testimony from the motion to suppress hearing and evidence in the record reveals that the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office ("JPSO") was conducting an investigation into human trafficking and prostitution, among other things. Detective William Meetze of the JPSO vice crime squad testified that he was working undercover and set up a "date" with a certain female, J.D., at the Super 8 Motel in Metairie, Louisiana. After meeting with her at the motel, Detective Meetze arrested J.D. for prostitution. According to Detective Meetze, he advised J.D. of her rights, and J.D. said she understood her rights and wanted to make a statement. J.D., who had visible injuries to her facial area, arm, and ear, told the detective that she had suffered violence at the hands of defendant, that defendant had been her "pimp" for about four years, and that he forced her into prostitution. After J.D. positively identified defendant in a photographic lineup, officers located defendant at the Sleep Inn Hotel and arrested him.[2]


         In his sole assignment of error on appeal, defendant argues that the trial judge erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence. He contends that the officer erroneously arrested him and searched his hotel room without a warrant. Defendant asserts that he gave no consent to search the room, and there were no exigent circumstances such as destruction of evidence to justify the warrantless search of these items. Defendant maintains that even though the electronic items were in plain view, they were not clearly contraband.

         Defendant further maintains that the search warrants issued for the electronic items seized were defective. He claims that in the sworn affidavit, the officer omitted key items of material fact designed to mislead the commissioner in order to justify a search of the improperly seized electronic items. Defendant argues that the officer omitted important facts from the application, including that J.D. had a lengthy criminal history of prostitution and that the Super 8 motel room had not been rented to defendant but was rented to a Hispanic male the day before the police arrested defendant.

          At the hearing on the motion to suppress evidence on March 24, 2017, Detective Meetze and Sergeant Keith Locascio of the JPSO testified. During their testimony, four applications for search and seizure warrants were admitted into evidence. Each application contains the same narrative of the events in this matter as follows: [3]

On Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 members of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Vice Squad were conducting an investigation into the illegal escort services providing prostitution on the Eastbank of Jefferson Parish.
Detective William Meetze searched the internet websites that are popular for prostitution advertisements. Detective Meetze located an escort/prostitute from the website. Members of the Vice Squad are familiar with this website as they have utilized this website and conducted numerous investigations into illegal prostitution in the past. Detective Meetze utilized the phone number in the advertisement (251-263-xxxx) and while in an undercover capacity, called the phone number. Detective Meetze spoke with a female subject, who identified herself as "Sophia", and requested an incall (a service where the customer/client goes to the escort/prostitute). "Sophia" advised Detective Meetze to proceed to the Super 8 Motel, located at 2421 Clearview Parkway in Metairie and to call her back once he arrived.
Upon arrival, Detective Meetze re-established contact with "Sophia" via the phone number in the advertisement. Upon making contact with "Sophia", she advised Detective Meetze to come to room 224.
Detective Meetze arrived at room 224 and was met by a white female who introduced herself as "Sophia" and invited him in. Upon seeing "Sophia", Detective Meetze immediately noticed "Sophia" to have several bruises to her right eye/facial area and her chin. Detective Meetze also noticed that "Sophia" caked makeup on these areas in an attempt to conceal the bruises. Once inside room 224, "Sophia" solicited Detective Meetze for sexual intercourse in exchange for $120.00 in U.S. Currency. After giving the code alerting cover detectives that a crime had been committed, detectives placed "Sophia" under arrest, advised her of her rights, and identified her as J.D., W/F 11/09/1995. Detectives checked the hotel room and located a white colored Apple iPhone phone, Model A1453, Serial Number F2LRC1E3FFDN, Phone Number (504) 777-xxxx, on the nightstand. J.D. freely advised that the Samsung flip phone is the cell phone that she uses to make all her dates with, including the date made with Detective Meetze. J.D. also advised that the phone number that Detective Meetze called is through a phone application known as "Sideline."
J.D. indicated that she wished to cooperate with detectives and advised that she was brought to the New Orleans area by her pimp. J.D. then identified her pimp as Julius Murray, B/M 8/11/1981, and advised that he forces her to conduct prostitution dates which he receives all of the proceeds from the dates. J.D. stated that she was tired of being beaten by Murray and displayed additional bruises to her arms, behind her left ear, and in her left ear. J.D. relayed that she met Murray approximately four years ago when he recruited her for prostitution. J.D. explained that Murray promised her lots of money and material things and allowed her to keep most of the money made in the beginning but that things changed shortly thereafter. J.D. said that she was then forced into prostitution and that Murray was never content with her, which would result in Murray being violent with her by physically abusing her and threatening her while displaying a handgun at times.
J.D. advised that she and Murray came to New Orleans and on March 31st, 2016 Murray rented a room at the Sleep Inn and Suites, located at 4601 N I10 Service Road in Metairie. J.D. advised that Murray posted advertisements on in the escort section. Once a client would call, Murray would direct her on how to fix her hair and what to wear. J.D. said that if a white guy would arrive driving a nice car, she would be required to get as much money from him as possible, by raising the price of the date or asking for a tip. J.D. advised that she had several dates while at the Sleep Inn and ...

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