Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. No. 10 CR 16175. The Honorable William G. Lacy, Judge Presiding.
Defendant's convictions for involuntary servitude and trafficking in persons for forced labor or services were upheld on appeal, notwithstanding his contentions that his victims voluntarily worked for him as prostitutes and had opportunities to leave, since the victims' testimony allowed the jury to find that defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of both offenses, especially in view of their testimony concerning his recruitment of them for his prostitution business and the threats he made to prevent them from leaving.
Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Chicago, IL (Alan D. Goldberg, Maria A. Harrigan, Of Counsel), for APPELLANT.
Anita Alvarez, State's Attorney, County of Cook, Chicago, IL (Alan J. Spellberg, Michelle Katz, Mari R. Hatzenbuechler, Of Counsel), for APPELLEE.
PRESIDING JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Simon and Pierce concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] A jury found defendant Troy Bonaparte guilty of two counts of involuntary servitude, three counts of trafficking in persons for forced labor or services, and one count of pandering. Before this court, defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence used against him for his convictions for involuntary servitude and trafficking in persons for forced labor or services. Defendant did not challenge his conviction for pandering in his brief before this court. We hold the jury properly found defendant guilty of involuntary servitude and trafficking in persons for forced labor or services beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.
[¶3] The circuit court sentenced defendant on July 12, 2011. Defendant timely filed his notice of appeal on the day he was sentenced. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to article VI, section 6, of the Illinois Constitution and Illinois Supreme Court Rules 603 and 606, governing appeals from a final judgment of conviction in a criminal case entered below. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 6; Ill. S.Ct. R. 603 (eff. Feb. 6, 2013); R. 606 (eff. Feb. 6, 2013).
[¶5] A jury found defendant guilty of two counts of involuntary servitude, three counts of trafficking in persons for forced labor or services, and one count of pandering. The following evidence was adduced at trial.
[¶6] Brianna Holten testified on behalf of the State. Brianna testified that at the time of the offenses for which defendant was standing trial, she was 19 years old. She grew up in Boyceville, Wisconsin, " a small town" located in the northern section of the state approximately seven hours by car away from Chicago, Illinois. She left high school after her sophomore year, but later obtained a GED. Brianna testified that she had a learning disability. In April of 2010, she came to Chicago by bus to visit a friend. She was unable to reach her friend and stayed at the bus station " maybe a day or two." Brianna testified that at the station she gave all of her money away, including money for her return fare, to someone who told her that she needed money to go and see her children. Besides the person she was coming to see in Chicago, she did not know anyone in Chicago.
[¶7] Eventually, a person named Sleepy offered her a place to stay. At Sleepy's she was confined to a basement and forced to have sex with people. She did not receive any money from these encounters. After approximately one week, Sleepy's friend took her to his cousin's house, where she stayed a " night or two." Brianna met T.J. at this time, who in turn convinced Brianna to " [h]ave sex for money." T.J. gave Brianna half of what she earned, which Brianna saved in order to go back to Wisconsin and help her family.
[¶8] After working for T.J. for several weeks, she met defendant, who called himself " Magnificent." Defendant asked her if she was working and whether he could talk with her. Brianna testified that defendant told her that " he could be better," she could keep half of the money, he would be nice to her, and he would " let [her] have [her] freedom." She agreed to work for him. For a night or two after she met defendant, Brianna had to work on the street for him. When asked what she was supposed to do on the street, Brianna testified that she was to " [s]tand on the corner and wait for someone to stop and get in." She was " hesitant" about working the street because she was not comfortable getting into cars with people she did not know. She told defendant that it was too dangerous for her, but he told her it would only be for a couple of days. Defendant then agreed to " post [her] on the internet." While she worked on the streets, Brianna would have to work at night for " four or five hours." Brianna did not keep the money the clients gave her, but, rather handed it over to defendant as he had instructed her to.
[¶9] Defendant posted a profile of Brianna on the internet site " Backpage[.com]," which included pictures of Brianna and descriptions he had written. Defendant bought clothes for her and paid for the advertisement on Backpage.com. Defendant also bought Brianna a cell phone and posted the number on Backpage.com. Clients called her on the cell phone defendant
provided her. The phone was supposed to be for business purposes only, but she also used it to call her family. Brianna testified that " [s]ometimes [defendant] would get mad if I would talk to them during working hours." When asked what her working hours were, Brianna testified they were " [w]henever he decided when I worked and when I stopped." She was able to speak with her family, but not for long or defendant would become angry. Defendant broke the first phone he had given her after they got into an argument while she was talking to her sister. Defendant threw the phone against the dashboard which cracked the phone's screen. Brianna testified that defendant raised his voice at her " [r]eally often," and stated that defendant " had a short temper," and " would get physical." The first physical altercation occurred a couple of days after she started working for him. Brianna testified:
" We got into an altercation. I don't remember what the argument was about, but I remember saying shut up and he got mad and said I disrespected him and he got in my face. I tried to push him so he would get out of my face, and then he got really mad and hit me."
Brianna testified that defendant hit her in the face " two or three times" during that incident. Her face became bruised. When asked whether she had been hit before, Brianna testified that she had been physically abused by her father. After defendant hit her, she told him she was leaving. Brianna testified that defendant told her " [h]e was sorry and he wouldn't let his anger and aggression happen again." She believed him and so she continued to work for him. A couple of weeks later, however, Brianna and defendant began getting into arguments.
[¶10] Brianna testified that in a night, the least amount of money she would make would be $500, whereas the most amount of money she would make was " [a] couple thousand maybe." Brianna testified that if defendant thought she was not making enough money, defendant become angry and hit her. Defendant mostly hit her in the face. She estimated that defendant physically abused her four or five times a month. Defendant gave her several rules she had to follow, the first of which was to make money. She also had to " [k]eep the other girls in line, take their calls." She testified the other girls would come and go, but that one particular girl, Jessica, stayed for a couple of weeks prior to defendant's arrest. Brianna testified that she never called the police when defendant became physically abusive toward her because she feared that defendant would hurt her. She explained that she did not call the police because she lived with defendant and she worried that the police might take " too long or something." She answered " Yeah," when asked if defendant ever drew blood from her face. She recalled that she bled from her mouth and nose after an argument in a hotel. While she was bleeding, defendant told her " not to make a mess." He did not call an ambulance or take her to the hospital. She did not call the police when she was alone outside of defendant's presence because she " didn't want to take a risk in hurting myself." She then clarified that it was " [n]ot really me hurting myself but take a risk he walk in by the time I called." She thought that he would hurt her. She did try once to leave defendant, and had her bags packed and was ready to go, but defendant convinced her to talk to him in a bathroom. He told her he did not want her to go. While in the bathroom, he slapped her in the face. She did not end up leaving. Brianna testified that defendant never paid her, but did take her shopping for " [c]lothes, bras, panties, [and to] get our nails done." Defendant would
also always buy toiletries and condoms. Brianna always insisted that her clients wore condoms, but defendant advertised that she would do " bareback," which she described as sex " [w]ithout a condom." She did not mind that defendant advertised as such, as long as she did not " have to do it." She told defendant this, which he was " all right with," because defendant thought of it as a way to attract clients.
[¶11] On two occasions, Brianna traveled with defendant to her home in Wisconsin for a pending court case. Defendant brought her to her mother's house. Brianna testified that on both occasions, defendant instructed her " [t]o stay the night and call him right away after court and he would come pick [her] up." Brianna told her sister that defendant had been physically abusive to her. She testified that she returned to Chicago with defendant because she feared that he would " get physical" with her. She testified further that she " didn't want him -- the chance something would happen to [her] family, so [she] would always agree" to return to Chicago with him. She testified that she was making a lot of money, the most out of all the girls, for defendant at that time. She did not believe that her family could help her. Defendant always told her that he " cared" about her and that he could eventually see them dating each other in the future.
[¶12] Brianna testified that once Jessica arrived she felt better. She testified that they " hit it off right away" and that they " got along." Prior to Jessica's arrival, Brianna testified that working for defendant " was hard," but that it improved with Jessica's arrival because defendant " wasn't always yelling at" her. With the exception of the incident in the bathroom, defendant no longer became physical with her after Jessica came. Defendant would still yell at her and Jessica though.
[¶13] On August 17, 2010, Brianna was at the Super 8 motel on Touhy Avenue and Elmhurst Road. Defendant rented two rooms, one where they slept and one for " working." If clients came at the same time, the room they slept in would be used for working and defendant would go to his car or the lobby. On that date, Jessica took a phone call for her in response to an advertisement on Backpage.com. Brianna unknowingly agreed to have sex in exchange for money with an undercover police officer. After the officer told her that she would be arrested, she initially refused to speak with him because defendant had told her not to talk to a police officer if stopped or to reveal who he was. Jessica convinced her to talk. The police officers indicated to her that defendant had been placed under arrest. After going to the police station, she went back to Wisconsin. She testified that the State paid for her food, lodging, and travel expenses in exchange for her testimony.
[¶14] The State entered into evidence an exhibit showing Brianna's advertisement on Backpage.com. Brianna testified the photographs in the exhibit were of her, but that defendant had written the text contained in the advertisement. The State also entered into evidence Brianna's notebook containing phone numbers of her clients. She explained the documentation procedure she used in the notebook, stating:
" The clients would call on your cell phone and you would write it down, try to get the first name, what time they want to come, how much, how long they want to spend with you and how much."
Brianna testified that the notebook insured that she did not " overbook" herself. She was not the only person who wrote in the notebook, Jessica and ...