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Jones v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

January 4, 2019

JOSHUA ISAIAH JONES
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

          Circuit Court for Prince George's County Case No.: CT16-0883C

          Leahy, Shaw Geter, Kenney, James A., III (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

          OPINION

          SHAW GETER, J.

         Appellant, Joshua Isaiah Jones, was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County of three counts of human trafficking of a minor and one count of receiving the earnings of a prostitute. He was acquitted of conspiracy to engage in human trafficking. The court sentenced appellant to twenty-five years' imprisonment, with all but seven years suspended for one count of human trafficking; a consecutive ten-year suspended sentence for receiving the earnings of a prostitute; and five years' supervised probation. The remaining human trafficking convictions merged for purposes of sentencing.

         Appellant presents the following questions for our review, which we have reordered and rephrased slightly:

1. Did the circuit court abuse its discretion by providing a supplemental jury instruction rather than referring the jury to the written pattern jury instructions already given?
2. Was there insufficient evidence to convict appellant of human trafficking of a minor and receiving the earnings of a prostitute?
3. Did the circuit court err in ordering separate sentences for receiving the earnings of a prostitute and human trafficking of a minor?

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

         BACKGROUND

         On May 4, 2015, Prince George's County Police Detective Antonio Hill searched the website Backpage[1] in his capacity as an undercover detective and retrieved an advertisement that included photographs of a woman's face and body, and a caption that read, in part: "Hello get a taste of Kandy… Out & Incalls." Suspecting that the advertisement was for prostitution, the detective called the number provided and, posing as a prospective client, arranged to meet "Kandy" for a "date." Detective Hill proceeded to the Comfort Inn in College Park accompanied by a team of officers and, when he arrived, Kandy advised him to come to Room 216. The detective entered the hotel room and after a brief negotiation, handed Kandy $200 in exchange for sexual acts. Under the pretext of using the bathroom, the detective opened the door for the arresting officers.

         Kandy reported that she was a juvenile named "R.D."[2] and officers from the Maryland Child Exploitation Task Force took the lead in the investigation. The police obtained a copy of the room rental agreement from hotel staff, which indicated that appellant had checked in that day and had reserved the room for one night. The police convened in the parking lot to wait for appellant, and when he arrived, he was apprehended.

         He was charged by indictment with conspiracy to commit human trafficking, three counts of human trafficking of a minor, and receiving the earnings of a prostitute. At trial, the State alleged that appellant, acting as either a co-conspirator or an accomplice, coordinated with Rashid Mosby and Terra Perry to recruit R.D. to engage in prostitution.

         R.D., a witness for the State, testified that she was seventeen years old and homeless when she saw an advertisement on social media promising that she could earn $30, 000. After corresponding with two or three individuals for several weeks, she was emailed an electronic train ticket to transport her from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. On April 30, 2015, Mosby met R.D. at Union Station, and during the drive to Maryland, he informed her that she was expected "to have sex and give him all the money." Mosby then placed R.D. in a hotel room with a woman who was working as a prostitute. A conflict arose between Mosby and R.D. because she did not accept any "dates" and, on May 2, 2015, after an argument with another woman, she was kicked out of the hotel. Mosby told R.D. to leave with appellant, who then drove her to Target and his house. R.D. testified that she knew appellant by the alias "Caddy" and that she had previously seen him speaking with Mosby at the hotel.

         According to R.D., she was in appellant's one-bedroom apartment for two days. While she was at his house, appellant took her to two "outcalls" and she gave him $200 she received in exchange for intercourse. R.D. testified that she told appellant several times that she wanted to go home, and his response was that she owed him money. On May 4, 2016, appellant drove R.D. to the Comfort Inn and reserved her room, where she was discovered by police.

         The State introduced data extracted from R.D.'s mobile phone using "Cellbrite" technology, including call logs, chat messages, emails, and contact information. A Cellbrite extraction report generated on May 4, 2015, reflected several telephone calls between appellant and R.D. on May 3, 2015 and May 4, 2015. The police also retrieved a message that stated: "If you want to go to Washington, he will bring you there. Okay. Text him now and tell him Caddy told you to call. Okay." Within her contacts, the police identified a telephone number for Mosby that was assigned the contact name "BOSS," while appellant's telephone number was assigned the contact name "BO$$."

         Photographs from the exterior of the hotel were also introduced into evidence, which showed that a vehicle that resembled appellant's Hyundai was in the parking lot when Mosby kicked R.D. out of the hotel. The State also introduced testimony from Amelia Rubenstein, an expert in human trafficking, who explained that "debt bondage" occurs when a human trafficking victim is told that they have a debt and the trafficker forces the victim to work it off. Ms. Rubenstein testified that the debt is usually incurred traveling somewhere, and the victim is never able to repay the debt.

         Appellant, testifying in his defense, acknowledged that he had routinely solicited prostitutes before and claimed that he first encountered R.D. after he contacted the telephone number on her Backpage advertisement and arranged to meet her at a hotel. He said that he purchased a soda and a "Black and Mild" cigar for her, and then left the hotel. He returned, however, when R.D. contacted him and said that an incident had occurred with her companions. Appellant stated that he drove R.D. to Target, gave her money to buy clothes, then took her to Wendy's for a meal; however, she left the restaurant when another man picked her up.

         Appellant denied seeing R.D. on May 3, 2015. He claimed he picked her up from a hotel in College Park on May 4, 2015, and, at her request, drove her to the Comfort Inn. He testified that he reserved the room for her because he believed that R.D. would reimburse him from funds she was expecting from her family. He claimed that when he returned to take R.D. to purchase her train ticket home, he was apprehended. He denied the State's allegation that he had transported or induced R.D. to go any place for purposes of prostitution or had received any money R.D. obtained from prostitution. He also denied any relationship with Mosby or Perry.

         Appellant's brother, Joe Rush, a witness for the defense, testified that appellant lived with him in a two-story townhouse in Greenbelt. Mr. Rush and the mother of his children, Angelia Johnson, both stated that they did not see appellant bring any women into their house on the weekend preceding appellant's arrest and neither recognized a photograph of R.D.

         Additional facts will be included as they become relevant to our discussion, below.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Jury Instructions

         A. Preservation of Grounds for Appeal

         Appellant contends the trial court abused its discretion by giving a "verbal explanation" of the pattern instruction in response to a question posed by the jury during deliberations. Although he acknowledges that defense counsel did not raise any specific objections about the content of the instruction after it was given, appellant now argues the court should have referred the jury back to the pattern criminal jury instructions that had already been provided to the jury verbally and in writing, rather than give a supplemental instruction. The State claims that the issue is not preserved under Md. Rule 4-325(e) because defense counsel did not clearly state the grounds for the ...


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