Court for Montgomery County Case No. 129487
Reed, Shaw Geter, JJ.
Appellant, Marcus Jamal Lindsey, was convicted by a jury in
the Circuit Court for Montgomery County of second-degree
assault and two counts of human trafficking. The court
sentenced appellant to twenty years in prison for one count
of human trafficking, and to concurrent ten-year sentences on
the remaining counts. Appellant presents the following
questions for our review, the first of which we have
1. Was the evidence sufficient to sustain appellant's
conviction for human trafficking for placing or causing
another to be placed in the hotel for
2. Did the circuit court abuse its discretion by instructing
the jury, in response to a jury note, that one count of human
trafficking related to alleged conduct "on or about
March 3, 2016, " rather than "on March 3,
3. Did the circuit court abuse its discretion in refusing to
allow the defense to play recordings of jail telephone calls
4. Did the circuit court err in barring the defense from
introducing evidence that the woman whom appellant allegedly
forced into prostitution was engaging in prostitution while
appellant was in jail?
5. Did the circuit court abuse its discretion by failing to
clearly delineate the elements of human trafficking in the
reasons set forth below, we shall affirm the judgments of the
State alleged that appellant took S.S. to a hotel room
in Rockville, attempted to force her to have sex with
someone, and struck her in the face. S.S. did not testify.
The defense's theory of the case was that S.S. was
appellant's girlfriend, and that she prostituted against
his wishes. With respect to the second-degree assault charge,
appellant admitted that he hit S.S. in the face during an
argument in the hotel room, but claimed that he did so in
Kpela, a housekeeper at the Radisson hotel in Rockville,
testified that on March 3, 2016, she was cleaning the hallway
of the second floor of the hotel when she heard a man and
woman arguing and "struggling" inside room 201. Ms.
It sound - normally when you come in the hotel, what caught
my attention, that part is to have fun, but it was something
like struggling. The male was saying, who are you going to
talk to. The lady was screaming, get away from me, you lied
* * *It
was like, you are a hook - like this embarrasses me - you are
a hook, you deserve it, who are you going to talk to. And it
was back and forth. The lady was screaming, leave me alone,
get away from me, stuff like that.
Ms. Kpela's first instinct was to get help for the
woman. Before going to the front desk to report the
incident, however, she decided to first record the argument
by using her cell phone. The cell phone recording was
played for the jury and admitted into evidence. Sounds of a
struggle can be heard in the recording, and a female voice
saying, "Marcus, stop it. No, no, no. No. No, "
and "He didn't mean anything."
Liuzzi, the catering sales manager at the Radisson, testified
that she was at the front desk of the hotel on March 3, 2016,
when a female guest approached her appearing "very
frightened, " "crying, " and "extremely
upset." Ms. Liuzzi tried to calm the guest down so that
she could figure out what the problem was and get her help if
she needed it. According to Ms. Liuzzi, the guest stated that
"someone had hurt her, " "assaulted her in
some way, " and that "someone was trying to make
her have sex with someone." As Ms. Liuzzi was picking up
the phone to call 911, the guest said, "oh my
god…there he is." The man then began to approach
them, but once he noticed that Ms. Liuzzi was making a phone
call, he walked away. During this time, Ms. Kpela also
approached Ms. Liuzzi at the front desk appearing very upset
and insistent that she needed to speak with Ms. Liuzzi.
Liuzzi called 911, and the 911 recording was played for the
jury and admitted into evidence. In the call, Ms. Liuzzi
stated to the dispatcher that a guest had been "beaten
up" by "[appellant]." On cross-examination,
Ms. Liuzzi acknowledged that she did not state to the 911
dispatcher that the guest had told her that someone had
forced the guest to have sex, because, she explained, her
goal was "just to get the police there as quickly as
City Police Officer Tibbs responded to the Radisson. Upon
arrival, he encountered S.S., whom he observed to have a
bruise on her right eye. S.S. advised Officer Tibbs that she
had no identification, no wallet, and no cell phone.
Montgomery County Police Detective Molly Stone of the Vice
and Intelligence Unit, the lead investigator assigned to the
case, arrived at the Radisson and encountered S.S., whom she
observed had a "swollen mark" under her right eye
and redness on the left side of her face. The hotel folio
records indicated that Kelly Nost had checked-in to the hotel
and signed for the room by providing her address and phone
number. The second page of the hotel folio record contained a
photograph of a driver's license for Cicley Ann
Lindsey-Asmani ("Ms. Asmani"), indicating that she
was the individual who had rented the room. Ms. Asmani is
speaking with S.S. for approximately one hour, Detective
Stone accompanied her to room 201, where S.S. retrieved some
clothing items and commented that appellant had taken other
things from the room. Police photographs of room 201 were
introduced into evidence showing boxes of condoms, condom
wrappers, condoms in the nightstand drawer, a large piece of
braided hair on the floor, a cell phone in a box, a sheet of
paper with a list of phone numbers, and a Verizon phone bill
addressed to Ms. Asmani.
directed Detective Stone to the website, "Backpage.com,
" where the detective located escort advertisements for
S.S. and Ms. Nost by using the phone number that Ms. Nost had
provided to the hotel at check-in. Print-outs of those ads
were introduced into evidence. On cross-examination,
Detective Stone testified that the escort ads for S.S. and
Ms. Nost were associated with the e-mail addresses,
"braman5, or something along those lines, " and
April 1, 2016, appellant was arrested at an extended stay
hotel in Germantown, where he had been staying with S.S.
Montgomery County Police Detective Nicholas Jerman of the
Vice and Intelligence Unit interviewed S.S. at the hotel.
Detective Jerman testified that S.S. informed him that she
had posted her own ads on Backpage.com using the e-mails,
"firstname.lastname@example.org." According to the
detective, when he asked S.S. if appellant had told her to
post the ads, she replied, "He never forces me to do
anything. He don't even want me to do this, so I mean I
can take the blame." Detective Jerman further testified
that it is common for prostitutes to take the blame for their
mother testified that she and her husband adopted S.S. when
she was three-years-old, and that S.S. had not lived with
them since she was sixteen-years-old. She testified that she
had previously assisted with her daughter's placement in
a group home, but that she had not spoken to her daughter in
over three months, and that she did not know her
daughter's current whereabouts.
Asmani and Nicole Lindsey, appellant's sister, each
testified that S.S. and appellant had been dating, and that
S.S. was the cousin of appellant's children's mother.
Ms. Asmani testified that she rented the room at the Radisson
so that appellant could be close to the hospital where his
son was being delivered because appellant was homeless and he
needed a place to so that "he can get cleaned up, go
visit his son." Ms. Asmani did not visit the hotel room
that she rented for appellant.
appellant's arrest in this case, Ms. Asmani continued to
communicate with S.S., and allowed S.S. to live with her for
approximately one week. The defense introduced copies of text
messages between Ms. Asmani and S.S. in which Ms. Asmani
asked S.S. why she lied to police by telling them that
appellant had forced her to prostitute. S.S. responded by
text message, saying that she had acted "out of the
heat" of a "moment of anger" because she was
mad that Ms. Nost was there and that she was
"influencing him too much."
testified that he brought S.S. to the Radisson hotel with him
to be near the hospital where his son was being delivered.
Appellant stated that S.S. was his girlfriend, that she was a
prostitute, and that he had brought her to the hotel for
"his reason." He stated that Ms. Nost was also a
prostitute, and that S.S. had invited her to the hotel room,
and that although he knew that both women had engaged in
prostitution in the hotel room, he was not present in the
room when they did so. According to appellant, the physical
altercation between him and S.S. at the Radisson on March 3,
2016, was precipitated by a sexual encounter on the previous
day involving himself, S.S., and Ms. Nost, during which S.S.
was unhappy that he was not showing her enough attention.
Appellant admitted that on March 3, 2016, he hit S.S. in the
face after she had "yanked" his hair. Appellant
acknowledged that he grabbed S.S. to keep her from leaving
the room, but stated that it was not because he was forcing
her to engage in prostitution. He explained that he was
trying to keep her from calling the police because he had
outstanding warrants for a probation violation, and he feared
that he would be arrested if the police were called.
cross-examination, appellant acknowledged that in the weeks
leading up to March 3, 2016, he and S.S. stayed at ten
different hotels in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area,
for one or two nights on average. Appellant explained that he
did this because he was homeless. Appellant had received a
tax refund that he used to stay in these hotels, and he
booked the hotels online to take advantage of discounted
prices. In response to the prosecutor's question as to
whether S.S.'s escort ad was posted on Backpage.com
during the two-week time period prior to March 3, 2016,
appellant responded that it was not posted the "entire
time, " explaining:
[W]hen my tax money had run out, that's when she said we
start sleeping in stairwells, and stuff like that. So, she
was like she's not going to live like that, and she, I
guess she just started [prostituting].
was aware that S.S. was posted as an escort on Backpage.com
on March 3, 2016. Appellant admitted that
"email@example.com" is his e-mail
account, but stated that S.S. had access to his e-mail
account because their electronic devices were linked to the
same iCloud account.
was aware that S.S. was engaged in prostitution in the
Radisson hotel room. He testified that he did not make S.S.
prostitute, he did not receive any money or financial benefit
from her prostitution, and he did not place her in the
Radisson for prostitution. He stated that he "didn't
like her doing it, " and "didn't want her doing
it at all" because he "didn't want to be
involved with it."
shall provide additional facts as necessitated by our
discussion of the issues presented.
contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his
conviction for human trafficking by "knowingly
harboring, taking, placing or causing another to be placed in
any place for prostitution" under Maryland Code, Section
11-303(a)(1)(ii) of the Criminal Law Article
("C.L."). Specifically, appellant claims that the
evidence failed to show that he "harbored" S.S. in
the hotel for the purpose of prostitution. According to
appellant, the evidence "overwhelmingly
established" that S.S. was at the hotel
"voluntarily, and for purposes unrelated to
prostitution." The State responds that the evidence was
sufficient to show that appellant brought S.S. to the hotel
room for the purpose of prostitution. Appellant does not
challenge the sufficiency of the evidence as to his
convictions for human trafficking by force under CL §
11-303(b)(2) and for second-degree assault.
review a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to
determine "'whether, after viewing the evidence in
the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational
trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the
crime beyond a reasonable doubt.'" Grimm v.
State, 447 Md. 482, 494-95 (2016) (quoting Cox v.
State, 421 Md. 630, 656-57 (2011)); accord Jackson
v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979). In applying that
test, "[w]e defer to the fact finder's opportunity
to assess the credibility of witnesses, weigh the evidence,
and resolve conflicts in the evidence." Neal v.
State, 191 Md.App. 297, 314 (2010) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). And, importantly, we defer
to any reasonable inferences a jury could have drawn in
reaching its verdict, and determine whether there is
sufficient evidence to support those inferences. State v.
Mayers, 417 Md. 449, 466 (2010).
Court does not "inquire into and measure the weight of
the evidence to ascertain whether the State has proved its
case beyond a reasonable doubt, but merely ascertains whether
there is any relevant evidence, properly before the jury,
legally sufficient to sustain a conviction." Morgan
v. State, 134 Md.App. 113, 126 (2000) (quoting State
v. Devers, 260 Md. 360, 371 (1971)). Importantly,
"it is not the function or duty of the appellate court
to undertake a review of the record that would amount to, in
essence, a retrial of the case." Mayers, 417
Md. at 466 (quoting State v. Albrecht, 336 Md. 475,
challenges his conviction for human trafficking under CL
§ 11-303(a)(1)(ii) which states that "[a] person
may not knowingly…place, cause to be placed, or harbor
another in any place for prostitution[.]"
"Prostitution" is defined as "the performance
of a sexual act, sexual contact, or vaginal intercourse for
hire." C.L. § 11-301(c).
acknowledged that he "brought [S.S.]" to the hotel
"for his reason, " and that S.S. was engaged in
prostitution in the hotel room. Ms. Kpela testified that she
heard a woman screaming in room 201 "leave me alone, get
away from me, " and the response, "you deserve it,
who are you going to talk to?" Immediately thereafter,
S.S. was observed to be visibly shaken as she sought help
from the staff in the hotel lobby. Photographs of the hotel
room showed boxes of condoms, condoms in the nightstand,
condom wrappers on the floor, and a list of phone numbers.
documentary evidence showed that although Ms. Asmani rented
the hotel room, it was Ms. Nost who checked-in to the hotel
for appellant. Detective Stone's investigation revealed
that the phone number that Ms. Nost provided at check-in was
the same phone number associated with S.S.'s Backpage.com
account advertising "escort" or prostitution
services. Moreover, S.S.'s Backpage.com account was
connected to the email address,
"firstname.lastname@example.org, " which e-mail
appellant acknowledged to be his. Appellant stated that he
was aware that S.S. had posted an escort ad on Backpage.com
on March 3, 2016.
explanation for his presence at the Radisson, and his denial
of any involvement in S.S.'s prostitution during his stay
there, was for the jury to consider and weigh against the
other evidence in the case. As we have stated before,
"we must give great deference to the trier of facts'
opportunity to assess the credibility of witnesses, weigh the
evidence, and resolve conflicts in the evidence[.]"
Pinkney v. State, 151 Md.App. 311, 329 (2003);
see also Kamara v. State, 184 Md.App. 59, 79 (2009)
(quoting Draco v. State, 46 Md.App. 622, 628 (1980)
("The credibility of the witnesses at trial is of course
for the trier of fact[, and] the trier of fact is under no
obligation to believe even uncontradicted explanations or
denials of an accused")); see also Turner v.
State, 192 Md.App. 45, 81 (2010) (citation omitted)
(observing that the jury is "free to discount or
disregard totally [a defendant's] account of the
upon the verdicts in this case, it is apparent that the jury
did not credit appellant's testimony. We conclude that
the evidence was sufficient to sustain appellant's
conviction for human trafficking by placing or harboring S.S.
in the hotel for prostitution.
During its deliberations, the jury sent the trial judge a
With regards to the Human Trafficking - Force charge, is this
charge limited to - on the day of the incident? Or, is it
over the time of [appellant] and [S.S.]'s relation?
response to the jury note, the following discussion ensued
among the parties and the court:
COURT: [T]he answer is that [appellant] is charged with, all
three charges are alleged to have occurred on March 3rd,
2016. So I'm inclined to respond to this question by
advising the jury that [appellant] is alleged ...