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United States v. Parks

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 3, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
RYAN RUSSELL PARKS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are the following motions filed by Defendant Ryan Parks (“Defendant”): Motion for Disclosure of Rule 404 and 609 Evidence, (ECF No. 26), Motion to Suppress Tangible and Derivative Evidence from the Search Warrants, (ECF No. 49), Motion for Severance, (ECF No. 51), and Motion to Suppress Tangible and Derivative Evidence from the Arrest Warrant, (ECF No. 63). For the reasons discussed herein, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendant's Motion for Disclosure of Rule 404 and 609 Evidence, (ECF No. 26), and DENIES Defendants' other motions. (ECF Nos. 49, 51, 63.)

         I.BACKGROUND

         Defendant is named in a four-count superseding indictment charging him with three counts of Sex Trafficking of a Minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a), (b)(2), and (c) and one count of Use of Interstate Facilities to Promote an Enterprise Involving a Prostitution Offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1594(d). (ECF No. 43.) The following facts were derived from Defendant's briefs and testimony adduced during the June 26, 2019 pretrial motions hearing.

         On November 21, 2017, Baltimore County, Maryland law enforcement officers responded to a report that a missing juvenile, A.Z., was located at a hotel in Baltimore County. (ECF No. 49-1 at 2.) Officers recovered A.Z. and placed her in a juvenile facility. (Id.) Maryland State Police Officer Christopher Heid (“Cpl. Heid”) and Detective Chad Lettau (“Det. Lettau”) then conducted a forensic interview of A.Z., in which she stated that she met Defendant through social media platforms Tagged.com and Facebook, initially only knowing him as “Dineoro, ” and that he discussed with her making money through prostitution by placing ads on Backpage.com. (See id.) A.Z. further stated that Defendant arranged for her to come to Baltimore, took pictures of her for prostitution ads, and instructed her on how to communicate with her prostitution “dates.” (See id.) A.Z. alleged that Defendant initially took most of the money she earned from her “dates.” (See id.)

         While Cpl. Heid continued to interview A.Z., Det. Lettau searched Tagged.com and Facebook for the name “Dinero.” Det. Lettau informed Cpl. Heid that he was not able to find anyone on Tagged.com with that name. Det. Lettau continued to search Facebook for the name “Dinero” and eventually discovered Defendant's Facebook profile page. Det. Lettau showed the profile picture from Defendant's page to A.Z. and she identified the man in the picture as “Dinero.”[1]

         On December 18, 2017, a Baltimore County Court Commissioner issued an arrest warrant for Defendant for Human Trafficking and various prostitution offenses. (Id. at 2-3.) On January 10, 2018, Maryland State Police arrested Defendant and seized his cell phone, which was on his person at the time of his arrest. (Id. at 3.)

         Following their interview with A.Z., officers interviewed another witness, Y.J., who was currently in the custody of Baltimore County Department of Corrections. (Id.) Y.J. stated that Defendant was a pimp who had females working for him as prostitutes. (See id.) She also identified A.Z. from the Backpage.com ads. (Id.)

         Defendant was subsequently indicted in federal court and his state charges were dismissed. (See ECF No. 53 at 10.) Following the state charge dismissal, Cpl. Heid and FBI Special Agent Patrick Winn took Defendant into federal custody. (See id.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “The burden of proof is on the party who seeks to suppress the evidence.” United States v. Hunter, 63 F.Supp.3d 614, 619 (E.D. Va. 2104) (citing United States v. Dickerson, 655 F.2d 559, 561 (4th Cir. 1981)). If the defendant provides a basis for the motion to suppress, the burden shifts to the prosecution to prove the challenged evidence's admissibility by a preponderance of the evidence. See id.; see also United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 177 n.14 (1974). During a pretrial hearing on a motion to suppress, “the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given the evidence, together with the inferences, deductions and conclusions to be drawn from the evidence, are all matters to be determined by the trial judge.” Hunter, 63 F.Supp.3d at 619 (quoting United States v. McKneely, 6 F.3d 1447, 1452-53 (10th Cir. 1993)) (internal citation omitted); see also Columbus-Am. Disc. Grp. v. Atl. Mut. Ins. Co., 56 F.3d 556, 567 (4th Cir. 1995) (“[I]n the usual case, the factfinder is in a better position to make judgments about the reliability of some forms of evidence than a reviewing body acting solely on the basis of a written record of that evidence. Evaluation of the credibility of a live witness is the most obvious example.” (quoting Concrete Pipe & Prods. of Cal., Inc. v. Constr. Laborers Pension Trust for S. Cal., 508 U.S. 602, 623 (1993))).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. 404(b) Evidence

         Defendant requests that the Court enter an Order directing the Government to disclose its intention to use any evidence of crimes, wrongs or acts allegedly committed by Defendant and/or any unindicted co-conspirator, or any other information under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) or 609. (ECF No. 26.) In response, the Government moves to admit the following evidence under Rule 404(b):

(1) That the defendant had sexual intercourse with minors under the age of 18; (2) that the defendant obstructed justice by telling a minor victim to delete evidence on her phone, attempting to remove or conceal the “chip” within the phone, and attempting to destroy the phone by banging it hard enough to damage the device; (3) that the defendant physically assaulted Y.J. and had a No-Contact order against him at the time he trafficked Y.J.; (4) that the defendant committed other, uncharged sex trafficking crimes, including trafficking Y.J. in the months before his prostitution enterprise began in February of 2017 and that another victim of his, A.T., was a minor at the time he trafficked her; and (5) that the defendant regularly provided marijuana to, and smoked marijuana with, the victims working for him in his prostitution enterprise.

(ECF No. 53 at 16-17.) In reply, Defendants seeks to exclude this evidence. (ECF No. 62 at 1-6.)

         Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) provides the following:

Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.

         Rule 404(b) is “an ‘inclusionary rule' which ‘admits all evidence of other crimes relevant to an issue in a trial except that which tends to prove only criminal disposition.'” United States v. Mark, 943 F.2d 444, 447 (4th Cir. 1991) (quoting United States v. Masters, 622 F.2d 83, 85 (4th Cir. 1980))). “To be admissible under Rule 404(b), prior bad acts evidence . . . must be relevant to an issue other than character, . . . necessary to prove an element of the crime charged, . . . [and] reliable.” United States v. Blauvelt, 638 F.3d 281, 292 (4th Cir. 2011). Further, the “probative value [of the evidence] must not be substantially outweighed by its prejudicial nature.” Id.; see also Fed. R. Crim. P. 403 (“The court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of . . . prejudice . . . .”). The Court will address each piece of evidence the Government seeks to admit separately.

         1. Defendant's Sexual Contact with Minors

         As stated above, the Government seeks to admit evidence that Defendant had sex with at least two of the minor victims, A.Z. and S.W. The Government argues that this evidence is intrinsic to its case-in-chief, is intertwined with the charges, and is therefore outside of the scope of 404(b). (ECF No. 53 at 20.) The Government further argues that this evidence is admissible under 404(b) as it is probative of Defendant's knowledge that the victims were underage as he had a reasonable opportunity to observe them unclothed. (See Id. at 21.)

         “Evidence of uncharged conduct is intrinsic to the charged offense and not barred by Rule 404(b) if it ‘arose out of the same series of transactions as the charged offense, or if [it] is necessary to complete the story of the crime on trial.”' United States v. Siegel, 536 F.3d 306, 316 (4th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted). Evidence is also intrinsic if it is “necessary to provide context relevant to the criminal charges.” United States v. Basham, 561 F.3d 302, 326 (4th Cir. 2009). Intrinsic evidence must also ...


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