Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Hamlett

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 26, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CHRISTOPHER HAMLETT

          RULING ON POST-TRIAL MOTIONS

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         After a five-day trial, a jury found Christopher Hamlett guilty of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor under 18 U.S.C. § § 1591(a)(1), (b)(2), and (c), five counts of unlawful activity under the Travel Act under 18 U.S.C. § § 1952(a)(3)(A) and (b)(1)(i), and two counts of producing child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a). Jury Verdict, ECF No. 305.

         Following the verdict, Mr. Hamlett moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that the United States (the “Government”) failed to prove each element of sex trafficking of a minor and production of child pornography. Motion for Acquittal, ECF No. 341.

         In the alternative, Mr. Hamlett seeks to vacate the jury verdict and set a new trial, arguing that: (1) the Court should have suppressed evidence related to a cell phone officers warrantlessly seized, manipulated, and used to get magistrate approval of a warrant for its contents; (2) the Court should have allowed Mr. Hamlett to impeach Jane Doe with prior evidence of prostitution; (3) the Court should have allowed Mr. Hamlett to introduce mental health impressions of Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) personnel to attack the credibility of Jane Doe and Mary Smith; and (4) the Court should have permitted Elaine Smith, Jane Doe's former foster mother, to testify about her reputation for honesty. Motion for New Trial, ECF No. 343.

         For the following reasons, the Court DENIES both the motion judgment of acquittal and the motion for a new trial.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Pre-Trial Case History

         On February 8, 2018, officers arrested Christopher Hamlett for sex trafficking of a minor under 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)(1). See Affidavit, Complaint, ECF No 1-1 at 9.

         On February 14, 2018, a grand jury returned Christopher Hamlett's indictment, which charged him with one count of sex trafficking of a minor. See Indictment in 3:18-cr-24-AVC, ECF No. 11.

         At the time of Mr. Hamlett's arrest, he alleges that “[p]olice did not, at the time, have a warrant to search Mr. Hamlett or the residence; however, police proceeded to conduct a search contemporaneous with the arrest.” Memorandum in Support of Motion to Suppress Evidence, ECF No. 30 at 2-3. The search uncovered a cellular telephone in Hamlett's front right pocket, which officers seized as evidence because of the belief “that ‘pimps' utilize numerous cellular telephones, many not in their name in order to avoid detection from law enforcement.” Id. at 3.

         After the United States Marshal's Office took custody of Mr. Hamlett, Special Agent Anabela Sharp noticed the front of the cellular phone displayed a photo of Jane Doe and her father. Id. at 2. Detective Lewis subsequently used his phone to call the last known phone number for Jane Doe. Id. at 3. There are different accounts whether the phone rang or vibrated when Detective Lewis called the seized phone, but it became “evident that [Hamlett] was in possession of Jane Doe's cellular phone” at the time of his arrest. Id. at 3.

         On March 16, 2018, the Government applied for a search warrant to the contents of two cell phones in Mr. Hamlett's possession at the time of his arrest. Aff., ECF No. 20-1 at 2. Magistrate Judge Robert Richardson issued the warrant the same day. Warrant, ECF No. 21.

         On March 27, 2018, Hamlett filed a motion to suppress evidence pertaining to “all evidence obtained from the seizure and search of the cellphone ZTW Model Z835, IMEI 86423703548178, seized on February 9, 2019.” Motion to Suppress, ECF No. 29.

         On April 26, 2018, a grand jury returned Christopher Hamlett's superseding indictment, which charged him with two counts of sex trafficking of a minor and five counts of violating the Travel Act by facilitating prostitution. Superseding Indictment, ECF No. 56.

         On June 28, 2018, a grand jury returned Christopher Hamlett's second superseding indictment, which charged him with two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, five counts of violating the Travel Act by facilitating prostitution, and two counts of production of child pornography. Second Superseding Indictment, ECF No. 133.

         On August 10, 2018, Mr. Hamlett moved to transfer the case due to alleged partiality demonstrated during jury selection. Motion to Transfer, ECF No. 192.

         On August 15, 2018, Mr. Hamlett's case was transferred to Judge Bolden. Order of Transfer, ECF No. 194.

         On September 17, 2018, the Government moved in limine to preclude certain evidence. Specifically, the Government moved to precluded evidence of Jane Doe's mental health history, see Motion in Limine to Preclude Evidence of Jane Doe's Health History, ECF No. 231, and to preclude evidence of Jane Doe and Mary Smith's prior sexual history under Federal Rules of Evidence 412, see Motion in Limine to Preclude Evidence Under Federal Rule of Evidence 412 or Evidence of Consent, ECF No. 232.

         On September 26, 2018, the Court held a pretrial conference where the parties argued their cases on the motions in limine. Minute Entry, ECF No. 258.

         On September 27, 2018, the Court denied Mr. Hamlett's motion to suppress evidence related to the seized cell phone because Mr. Hamlett denied ownership of the phone and therefore lacked standing to assert a Fourth Amendment interest in its contents. Ruling and Order on Motion to Suppress, ECF No. 250, at 8-9. Even if Mr. Hamlett could assert standing, the Court found that the officers seized the cell phone incident to a lawful arrest, which did not violate his Fourth Amendment rights. Id. at 9.

         On October 1, 2018, the Court conducted jury selection and empaneled a jury. Minute Entry, ECF No. 262.

         On October 5, 2018, the Court denied without prejudice to renewal at trial the motions in limine related to mental health history and prior sexual conduct under Rule 412. Ruling and Order on Motions in Limine, ECF No. 267.

         B. Trial Proceedings

         On October 9, 2018, the jury trial began. Minute Entry, ECF No. 281.

         That same day, Detective Joshua Lewis testified that he first became involved with Hamlett's case in October 2017. October 9, 2018 Trial Transcript, ECF No. 326 at 41:1-3. Detective Lewis began investigating the case because he was tasked with finding Jane Doe, who was missing from DCF and suspected of being involved in sex trafficking. Id. at 42:1-43:3. Detective Lewis testified that he treated the case as a missing person investigation and worked to find her from Jane Doe's Facebook page, which DCF provided. Id. at 43:7-44:2. After unsuccessful efforts to locate Jane Doe, a volunteer outreach group that works on minor sex trafficking sent Detective Lewis screenshots from a cell phone text messaging conversation that included cell phone numbers that led to Mr. Hamlett's Facebook account. Id. at 47:25-50:18.

         Detective Lewis also observed that Hamlett and Jane Doe were Facebook friends. Id. at 52:24-53:1. After locating Hamlett's Facebook account, Lewis input the phone number associated with that account into a forensic software that showed a website with commercial sexual act advertisements. Id. at 53:10-23. Once directed to this page, Detective Lewis recognized a photo of Jane Doe from her Facebook page. Id. at 54:1-6.

         After investigating Christopher Hamlett, Detective Lewis testified that he executed an arrest warrant for Mr. Hamlett on February 8, 2018. Id. at 204:1-15. After the arrest, Detective Lewis patted Mr. Hamlett and discovered a cell phone. Id. at 205:3-7. Detective Lewis testified that Mr. Hamlett stated that the phone belonged to his aunt. Id. at 205:1-16.

         While other officers processed Mr. Hamlett, Detective Lewis noticed that the home screen of the phone recovered during Hamlett's arrest showed Jane Doe and her father. Id. at 206:24- 207:1. After calling the last phone number he had for Jane Doe, Detective Lewis noted that the phone “vibrated and rang, rang in the vibrate mode.” Id. at 207:2-7.

         On October 10, 2018, Jane Doe testified that she started working for Mr. Hamlett in August 2017 and worked for him until after she turned eighteen. October 10, 2018 Trial Transcript, ECF No. 320, at 389:14-390:4. During this work, Mr. Hamlett took care of client communication and would provide Jane Doe with instruction as to the prices of sex services, appointment times, and duration of appointments with each client. Id. at 378:8-387:14. Jane Doe later testified that her work required her to put her “mouth” on a “[m]ale's genital.” Id. at 446:11-24.

         Jane Doe also testified that Mr. Hamlett took pictures of her, where Mr. Hamlett told her to pose. Id. at 371:11-372:10. After Mr. Hamlett took the photographs, he told Jane Doe that “he was going to put it on the website.” Id. at 376:12-15. Jane Doe similarly testified that she saw her pictures and name on a website advertisement that she did not place. Id. at 393:19-394:1.

         Jane Doe testified that she communicated by text with Hamlett when she worked for him and that she had his number saved in her phone. Id. at 403:16-21. Evidence of text messages between Hamlett and Jane Doe were presented in which Hamlett stated, “[y]ou have to pay me or trust it will go bad for you. I put on to this game . . . .” Id. at 423:3-5.

         Separately, Jane Doe testified that she and Mr. Hamlett had sex. Id. at 56:17-57:8.

         During Jane Doe's cross examination, the Court precluded defense counsel from inquiring into whether Jane Doe had taken medication for any mental illness, reasoning that defense counsel had “not connected it to issues of credibility” and that the Court found it “unduly prejudicial.” Id. at 554:3-6.

         On October 11, 2018, Mary Smith testified that she worked for Mr. Hamlett by having sex for money. October 11, 2018 Trial Transcript, ECF No. 328, at 708:15-709:9. Ms. Smith further testified that Hamlett would communicate with clients via text message on her behalf-and that she never communicated with the clients directly. Id. at 710:3-14.

         Mary Smith also testified that Mr. Hamlett took photos of her during the time she worked for him and that she was naked in some photographs. Id. at 715:5-16. Smith testified that she did not know how to post and advertise herself for sex and that she had never done that. Id. at 767:16- 768:21.

         On October 11, 2018, Special Agent Sharp testified that multiple numbers and addresses discovered during the investigation depict subscriber information related to Mr. Hamlett, either as a variation of his name or family members. October 11, 2018 Trial Transcripts, ECF No. 328, at 811:7-831:22. Sharp also testified that multiple advertisements placed on the website used to advertise commercial sex acts related back to the numbers identifying Hamlett as the subscriber. Id. at 832:9-839:3. Sharp further testified that the same device created the user IDs for Green Dot and the website advertisements. Id. at 846:18-847:13.

         On October 12, 2018, at the close of the Government's case, Mr. Hamlett moved for acquittal, which the Court denied. Oral Motion for Acquittal, ECF No. 289; Order Denying Motion for Acquittal, ECF No. 300.

         On the same day, Mr. Hamlett moved to continue the trial, which the Court denied. Oral Motion to Continue Trial, ECF No. 290; Minute Entry, ECF No. 292.

         On October 16, 2018, the jury trial concluded. Minute Entry, ECF No. 297. The same day, the jury returned a guilty verdict as to counts 1-9 and the Court accepted the verdict. Id.

         C. Post-Trial Motions

         On February 13, 2019, Mr. Hamlett moved for acquittal on the two sex trafficking of a minor counts and the two child pornography counts. Motion for Acquittal, ECF No. 341.

         The same day, Mr. Hamlett also moved to vacate the jury verdict and hold a new trial. Motion for New Trial, ECF No. 343.

         On April 12, 2019, the Government filed memorandums in opposition to Mr. Hamlett's motions for acquittal and for a new trial. Memorandum in Opposition re Motion for Acquittal, ECF No. 349; ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.