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Coleman v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

April 26, 2018

ARTHUR COLEMAN
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

          Circuit Court for Howard County Case No. 13-K-16-056934

          Wright, Kehoe, Battaglia, Lynne A. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

          OPINION

          BATTAGLIA, J.

         Arthur Coleman, appellant, was convicted, after a jury trial in the Circuit Court for Howard County, of seven counts of criminal conduct related to the human trafficking of two minors. Specifically, Coleman was convicted of: two counts of transporting a minor for the purpose of prostitution; two counts of attempted transport of a minor for the purpose of prostitution; one count of receiving consideration to place a minor in a place with the intent of causing the minor to prostitute; one count of benefitting financially from taking a minor to a hotel for prostitution; and one count of persuading a minor to leave her home or the custody of her parent or guardian for the purpose of prostitution.

         The court sentenced Coleman to a total term of 50 years in prison: 20 years for each count of transporting a minor for the purpose of prostitution, to be served consecutively; 15 years for receiving consideration to place a minor in a place with the intent of prostitution, to be served concurrently with the first transporting conviction; 20 years in prison for benefitting financially from taking a minor to a hotel for prostitution, to be served concurrently with the first transporting conviction; and 10 years in prison for persuading a minor to leave her home or the custody of her parent or guardian for the purpose of prostitution, to be served consecutively to the first two convictions for transporting. The court merged, for sentencing purposes, each of the two convictions for attempted transport of a minor into each of the transporting of a minor convictions. Coleman presents the following questions for our review:

1. Was there sufficient evidence to sustain Coleman's conviction for Count 8, persuading a minor from her home to engage in prostitution on July 22, 2016?
2. Assuming there was sufficient evidence to sustain Coleman's conviction for Count 8, was it appropriate to impose a separate sentence for that offense?

         For the reasons set forth below, we shall affirm the judgments of the circuit court.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         According to the evidence adduced at trial, in July of 2016, Howard County Police Detective Kalle James-Wintjen of the Vice and Narcotics Unit, became aware that A.M., a thirteen-year-old female, who had been in the custody of the Howard County Department of Social Services, and had run away, was engaged in prostitution. Detective James-Wintjen searched various social media websites in an attempt to locate A.M., and eventually located a profile that the Detective believed belonged to A.M. on the social media website named, Tagged, [1] as well as postings related to her on Backpage.com.[2] On July 21, 2017, the Detective, working in an undercover capacity and posing as a young female, used a false Tagged account to contact A.M., claiming that she, like A.M., was also interested in prostitution.

         The Detective agreed on July 22, 2017 to meet A.M. that night and join her in going to a "party" in Elkridge to engage in prostitution. A.M. arrived at the agreed-upon location in a car driven by Coleman. B.T., a sixteen-year-old female, who was also the subject of a missing child investigation, was also inside the car.

         Coleman was arrested and his car searched. Police recovered his phone from the car, and took possession of A.M.'s phone from her. Coleman's phone contained a contact list that identified certain contacts as "clients, " and others as "workers." Coleman's contact information for A.M. identified her as "Worker [A.M.]" and included her photograph.

         Evidence adduced at trial also showed that Coleman had sent A.M. text messages between July 14, 2016 and July 22, 2016, identifying himself as "the dude that throw[s] parties, " asking A.M. if she was "available for [a] party, " did she "want to make some money, " and would she be willing to participate in a "freak party, " which he told her was not for "shy girls" because, as he explained, it was a party in which everyone has sex in one room at the same time. Additional text messages from the same time period revealed that Coleman had promised A.M. that he would "spoil" her, pay for her to have her hair done, give her "all the big moves" to make lots of money, and that he wanted her to be his "little partner" in their prostitution venture.

         On July 22, 2016, Coleman also texted A.M. that he was hosting a party that night, according to evidence adduced at trial. He instructed A.M. to bring other "girls" with her to the party and told her that he would pick them up and bring them to the party that night.

         The State also introduced into evidence two ads posted on Backpage.com dated July 22, 2016 that had been associated with an e-mail address that was identified with Coleman's cell phone. The postings, titled "Saturday Night Adult Freak Party, Tattoo Party, " included A.M.'s photograph, and advertised a party of fifteen girls with a $30.00 entry fee. In his statement to police, which was introduced at trial, Coleman further acknowledged that on July 22, 2016, he had picked up A.M. from Baltimore to take her to a party, but he denied that he knew the location of the party or that he was hosting the party.

         As aforementioned, Coleman was convicted of persuading a minor to leave her home or the custody of her parent or guardian for the purpose of prostitution, as well as other charges. Coleman noted a timely appeal.

         DISCUSSION

         I.

         Sufficiency of the Evidence

         Coleman was convicted of violating Section 11-305 of the Criminal Law Article of the Maryland Code (2002, 2012 ...


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