United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON POST-TRIAL MOTIONS
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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.
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.
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.
following reasons, the Court DENIES both the
motion judgment of acquittal and the motion for a new trial.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Pre-Trial Case History
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
August 10, 2018, Mr. Hamlett moved to transfer the case due
to alleged partiality demonstrated during jury selection.
Motion to Transfer, ECF No. 192.
August 15, 2018, Mr. Hamlett's case was transferred to
Judge Bolden. Order of Transfer, ECF No. 194.
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.
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.
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.
October 1, 2018, the Court conducted jury selection and
empaneled a jury. Minute Entry, ECF No. 262.
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.
October 9, 2018, the jury trial began. Minute Entry, ECF No.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Jane Doe testified that she and Mr. Hamlett had sex.
Id. at 56:17-57:8.
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.
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.
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-
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
same day, Mr. Hamlett also moved to vacate the jury verdict
and hold a new trial. Motion for New Trial, ECF No. 343.
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; ...