Thursday, March 06, 2014

Knowledge of Minor's Age Not Necessary For Sex Trafficking Conviction

US v. Washington: In 2012 Washington met RC, a teenage runaway, in Maryland.  Although she was actually 14 years old, she told Washington she was 19.  He became her pimp, taking her to various states and advertising her availability on the internet.  Washington was arrested as part of a sting operation in Richmond.  He was charged with interstate transportation of a minor to engage in prostitution.  He was found guilty at trial, after the district court instructed the jury that the Government did not need to prove that he had any knowledge of MC's actual age.  At sentencing, the district court imposed a sentence of 240 months in prison, well above the top of the advisory Guideline range

Washington appealed, challenging his conviction and sentence, both of which the Fourth Circuit affirmed.  On the conviction, the court rejected Washington's argument that the district court erred by instructing the jury that he did not have to know MC was a minor in order to convict him.  The court concluded that its prior decision rejecting that argument had not been undermined by a more recent Supreme Court decision (involving identity theft) that expanded the reach of "knowingly" in a criminal statute, a conclusion reached by other Circuits.  As for the sentence, the court concluded that the district court properly considered the Guidelines, the 3553(a) factors, and that the variance itself and its extent were reasonable.

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