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State v. Lampley

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

November 2, 2018


          On Appeal from the 19th Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Trial Court No. 07-14-1125 Honorable Trudy M. White, Judge Presiding.

          Hillar C. Moore, III District Attorney Cristopher J.M. Casler Assistant District Attorney Baton Rouge, LA Attorneys for Appellee, State of Louisiana.

          Holli Ann Herrle-Castillo LA Appellate Project Marrero, LA Attorney for Defendant -Appellant, Carlos Lampley.

          Carlos Lampley Lafayette, LA In Proper Person.


          HIGGINBOTHAM, J.

         The defendant, Carlos Lampley, was charged by an amended grand jury indictment on count one with trafficking of children for sexual purposes, a violation of La. R.S. 14:46.3, and on counts two, three, and four with human trafficking, violations of La. R.S. l4;46.2.[1] The defendant pled not guilty on all counts, and proceeded to trial by jury. Prior to the verdict, the trial court granted the defendant's motion to quash as to count four. The jury found the defendant guilty as charged on counts one and two, and guilty of the responsive offense of attempted human trafficking on count three, in violation of La. R.S. 14:27 and La. R.S. l4;46.2.[2]

         The defendant was sentenced on count one to fifteen years imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence; on count two to twenty years imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence; and on count three to five years imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The trial court ordered that all three sentences be served consecutively. The trial court denied the defendant's motion to reconsider sentence. The defendant now appeals, assigning error in a counseled brief to the sufficiency of the evidence and the constitutionality of the sentences, and assigning error in a pro se brief to the State introducing other crimes evidence without a hearing pursuant to State v. Prieur, 277 So.2d 126 (La. 1973), the State failing to disclose evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), and the State misrepresenting its burden of proof during voir dire.


         On June 21, 2012, the FBI, the Louisiana State Police, the East Baton Rouge Sheriffs Office, and the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) conducted a multi-agency operation targeting prostitution and human trafficking in Baton Rouge, organized by FBI Special Agent Taneka Blacknell.[3] As a result of the operation, the defendant was arrested on that date. The operation took place at the Crestwood Suites Hotels in Baton Rouge, and targets were developed from the website Backpage as well as other websites. Further, under their procedure, an undercover agent was used to contact suspected prostitutes to arrange a date and, after an agreement for sex was negotiated, the police would enter the hotel room and make an arrest.

         On the date noted above, June 21, 2012, an undercover agent negotiated a sex act with a sixteen-year-old high school student, then the agent gave an audible signal for the officers to enter the room. While at the hotel, the officers made contact with the defendant who was at the hotel with another female. The officers detained, separated, and questioned the defendant and the female. The officer conducted a search of the defendant and discovered he had a hotel key for Room 326.[4] The defendant gave the officers consent to search the hotel room, and in doing so, they discovered a bag of alprazolam pills. Once the defendant was confronted regarding the pills, he denied that Room 326 was his room, indicating that Room 240 was his room. The officers then went to Room 240, where they located two other females, a substantial amount of paperwork[5] bearing the defendant's name, and a DVD. The room was not registered in the defendant's name, and he did not have a key to the room on his person. The defendant was placed under arrest for possession of drugs, solicitation for prostitution, and human trafficking.

         M.P., the victim on count one (trafficking of children for sexual purposes), testified that her date of birth is January 14, 1994.[6] According to the indictment, the offense was committed "[o]n or about July 2011 to October 19, 2011[.]" M.P. first met the defendant at a studio in Baton Rouge. Although she was seventeen years old at the time, she told the defendant she was eighteen years old. After the initial meeting with the defendant, she became interested in the life that he described to her, and began participating in "dates." Her first date was obtained as a result of a "backpage" ad that one of the girls posted on her behalf. M.P. specifically described the date as her going to a room with the "trick" and having sex with him. She received payment in exchange for the sex and was told to go pay her "Daddy," the defendant. She went on more dates and eventually began working the "track," which consisted of her riding around to pick someone, preferably a New Orleans tourist, and attempting to obtain their personal information, including pin numbers. In addition to stealing pin numbers, on some occasions she performed sexual acts while working the track. Whenever she would obtain money, she would give it to the defendant. When she obtained credit cards and pin numbers, she would go to an ATM to check the balance on the card, retrieve funds, and then go to Walmart to purchase money orders to give to the defendant.

         M.J., the victim on count two (human trafficking when the services include commercial sexual activity), confirmed that her date of birth is August 26, 1987. She further testified that she was a prostitute for the defendant. According to the indictment, the offense was committed "[o]n or about January 2008 [.]" M.J. first met the defendant in 2007, through a female who indicated that she needed help getting away from a male who she was staying with at the time. After prostituting for another pimp who would beat her, M.J. began working for the defendant instead. All of the money that she obtained from "tricks" was given to the defendant. M.J. considered herself as one of the defendant's higher earners. She testified that $90, 000 was the most amount of money she ever made for the defendant in one night. She confirmed that if she ever failed to do something that she was supposed to do, the defendant would punish her by hitting her, withholding food, or raping her.

         K.W., the victim on count three (attempted human trafficking when the services include commercial sexual activity), testified that her date of birth is July 30, 1996.[7] According to the indictment, the offense was committed "[o]n or about June 21, 2OI2[.]" At trial, K.W. denied that she was ever solicited by the defendant to work as a prostitute, but stated that she and D.J., her close childhood friend that she referred to as "her sister," met the defendant at a hotel. K.W. recalled giving a pretrial interview to FBI Agent Blacknell, but did not recall the content of the interview. According to Agent Blacknell, during her pretrial interview of K.W. on August 2, 2012, K.W. confirmed that she and D.J. met the defendant at a hotel, and he described the concepts of pimping and prostitution and proposed that she participate in such acts, but she refused.


         In counseled assignment of error number one, the defendant argues that because no rational juror should have found the State proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the convictions should be reversed. As to count one, the defendant contends that there are several things that cast doubt on the credibility of M.P., the victim on count one. First, he notes that M.P. lied about her age, a factor in the offense charged and the sentencing. Second, he contends that while incarcerated, M.P. wrote a letter to M.J., the victim on count two, stating that their stories needed to be consistent and encouraged M.J. to relay a fabricated story. The defendant further argues that the likelihood of M.P. being willing to lie to get out of trouble was further made evident by the fact that Agent Blacknell assisted her in having her criminal charges in New Orleans dismissed. Finally, the defendant asserts that M.P. was further motivated to lie because she did not have a relationship with the defendant, despite being admittedly in love with him.

         As to count two, the defendant argues that M.J.'s story lacked credibility. He contends that despite the fact that she worked as a stripper in a strip club and had a "sugar daddy," she testified that she had no idea that pimps existed. In claiming that M.J.'s testimony was inconsistent with the "essence and purpose of a sugar daddy," the defendant contends that M.J. testified that her so-called "sugar daddy" did not pay her rent and that she could not recall how he helped her get an apartment. Further, the defendant notes that M.J. testified that she was not allowed to visit her mother in Baton Rouge, though she was allowed to travel to at least twelve cities across the United States. He claims that M.J. worked with M.P. in developing a plan to concoct a story and that M.J., like M.P., would say whatever was necessary to minimize her own culpability. Finally, the defendant notes that Agent Blacknell helped M.J. with traffic tickets, which he argues could be seen as a reward for cooperating with the government.

         As to count three, the defendant argues that while he was found guilty of attempted human trafficking, the testimony of the victim K. W. did not establish any of the elements of human trafficking. The defendant notes that K.W. stated that he never solicited her for prostitution, that she did not recall him asking to be her pimp, and that she never saw the defendant ask her friend D.J. to serve as her pimp. He notes that Agent Blacknell's prior interview of K. W. was not recorded, and contends that the agent's interpretation of the interview was not reliable because it was possible that K. W. did not understand certain aspects of the questioning. In that regard, he notes that K.W. indicated at trial that she was unsure of the meaning of solicitation. He further contends that Agent Blacknell may have misinterpreted or skewed her answers.

         In addition to arguing that the credibility of the victims is at issue, the defendant argues that there was no evidence to corroborate the crimes. He specifically contends that there was nothing linking him to any stolen credit cards, and nothing to prove that he received any money from the victims or was benefiting from the work they claimed they were doing. Finally, the defendant claims that he had a legitimate reason for being around prostitutes. In that regard, he notes that he filed proper paperwork to form several limited liability companies to create movies and write a book.

         A conviction based on insufficient evidence cannot stand as it violates Due Process. See U.S. Const, amend. XIV; La. Const, art. I, § 2. The constitutional standard for testing the sufficiency of the evidence, as enunciated in Jackson v. Virginia,443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), requires that a conviction be based on proof sufficient for any rational trier of fact, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, to find the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. See La. Code Crim. P. art. 821(B); State v. Ordodi, 2006-0207 (La. 11/29/06), 946 So.2d 654, 660. In conducting this review, we also must be expressly mindful of Louisiana's circumstantial evidence test, which states in part, "assuming every fact to be proved that the evidence tends to prove," every reasonable hypothesis of ...

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