Monday, December 17, 2007

Court Addresses Prior Convictions in Travel With Intent Case

US v. Kelly: Kelly was a long-haul trucker who routinely hauled loads between North Carolina and the Midwest. He frequently stopped at a truck stop in Charleston, West Virginia, where he became associated with a prostitute named Carder. Over the course of several visits, Carder alleged that Kelly wanted her to procure a young girl with which he could have sex. Carder took these allegations to the local police, with whom she was familiar from various legal problems. Eventually, when Kelly stopped in Charleston on a haul, Carder took money from him to procure the child, in a transaction that produced an audio recording. Kelly was arrested and charged with interstate travel with intent to have sex with a minor. At trial, the Government introduced evidence that Kelly had been convicted of attempted rape of a 12 year old in 1984. Meanwhile, Kelly was not allowed to impeach Carder with a prior conviction from Florida for passing a worthless check. Kelly was convicted and sentenced to 63 months in prison.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit upheld Kelly's conviction and sentence. First, the court held that the district court properly admitted Kelly's prior conviction under FRE 414 and that it was not unduly prejudicial under FRE 403. Second, the court held that not allowing Kelly to introduce evidence of Carder's prior conviction, if it was error at all, was harmless given the other myriad ways that Carder was impeached at trial. Third, the court rejected Kelly's argument that the evidence was insufficient to prove that his intent to when he traveled to West Virginia on that particular trip was to have sex with a minor. Finally, the court stepped in line with the rest of the Circuit Courts and held that no actual child victim is necessary to sustain a conviction for interstate travel with intent to have sex with a minor. The court also concluded that Kelly's sentence was reasonable.

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