Massachusetts Appellate Court Affirms Lower Court Decision in Trafficking and Prostitution Case

  1. In a recent Massachusetts appellate court opinion regarding an appeal claiming insufficient evidence to support the conviction, the court upheld the trial court decision, affirming the conviction. At trial, the defendant and the co-defendant were convicted on various charges arising from the operation of a series of brothels in North Reading, Quincy, Boston, and Cambridge. On appeal, the defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the information provided in support of a search warrant application was inadequate to establish a nexus between the alleged crimes and his home and cell phone.

Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, in January 2017, law enforcement began to investigate five different residences located in North Reading, Boston, Quincy, and Cambridge, where they believed illegal sexual services were being provided. Police located the apartments through advertisements for massage services on the website Backpage, and then contacted the leasing offices for those units. The defendant’s name was on the rental agreements for both the North Reading and Cambridge apartments as well as one of the Quincy apartments. The defendant also paid monthly rent for the apartments, using a check with his name and home address on it. On January 2, 2017, law enforcement officers stopped the defendant after observing him make an illegal U-turn. The defendant told police officers that he was coming from his primary residence to check the mail and empty the trash for his secondary residence. In the dumpster, the officers found a trash bag with used condoms, condom packaging, and small cards explaining how to use condoms in multiple languages.

For the next three months, the police watched the three locations, watching the defendant deliver groceries, and many men entering the buildings and leaving after several hours. The police interviewed several of the men after they left the apartments and the men admitted that they had gone to the apartments in response to advertisements knowing that sexual services were being offered. Officers obtained and simultaneously executed a warrant to search the five locations. At each location, condoms, ledgers, and other evidence were discovered on site. The defendant was charged and convicted of various charges stemming from operating brothels.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant made two claims, (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, (2) that the search of his home was not supported by probable cause, violating the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and (3) that there were evidentiary issues at trial. On the first claim, the appeals court admits that neither the mere presence at the scene of a crime nor association with a person involved in the crime is sufficient to convict a defendant under a joint venture theory. The court points out, however, that in this case, the evidence in the record points to much more than that. The appellate court decision found that the defendant’s actions were more than sufficient for a reasonable jury to infer that the defendant was both aware of and actively engaged in the crime at hand. On the second issue, the court ruled that the defendant’s extensive involvement in the running of the brothel and the investigation undertaken by law enforcement made the searches sufficiently supported. On the defendant’s third issue, the court held that there was no abuse of discretion by the trial court, affirming the trial court decision in full.

Have You Been Charged with a Crime in Massachusetts?

If you have recently been arrested or charged with a Massachusetts sex crime, call Attorney Patrick J. Murphy to see how he can help. Attorney Murphy is a dedicated criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling all types of serious cases. He understands the state’s complex criminal statutes and uses his advanced knowledge to defend his clients at every stage of the legal process. To learn more about how Attorney Murphy can help you, call 617-367-0450 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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