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United States v. Key

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 8, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Plaintiff,
v.
DAJUAN KEY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Virginia M. Kendall United States District Court Judge

         On October 8, 2013, a special grand jury indicted Defendant DaJuan Key with a charge for one count of knowingly transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent that the minor engage in prostitution in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a). (Dkt. No. 16).

         Key moved to suppress evidence acquired from warrantless searches of his motel room and rental car on September 10, 2014. (See Dkt. Nos. 47, 48). After holding a suppression hearing, the Court denied Key's motion to suppress evidence recovered from his rental car and granted his motion to suppress evidence recovered from his motel room with regards to his cellphones and a notebook, while admitting prepaid credit cards, a computer tablet, and cash. (Dkt. No. 99). The Government later moved for the Court to reconsider the suppression of Key's cellphone, while Key moved to suppress his post-arrest statements. (Dkt. No. 104).

         On January 22, 2016, in the interest of justice, the Court exercised its discretion and granted both parties' requests to consider suppression issues that each failed to raise. (Dkt. No. 117). The Court ordered a hearing on both issues to be held on January 26, 2016. (Id.). After carefully considering the evidence presented at the second suppression hearing, the Court vacated its previous order suppressing Key's cellphone and granted Key's motion to suppress all of his post-arrest statements. (See Dkt. No. 145).

         Following a four-day trial, at which the post-arrest statement was not used against him, a jury convicted Key on the sole count of the Indictment. (See Dkt. No. 158). After the trial, through counsel, Key filed a motion for acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(b) or, alternatively, a new trial under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33(a), arguing that the Court erred in a number of its decisions regarding suppression, jury instructions, and other evidentiary matters. (See Dkt. No. 167). On April 27, 2016, Key requested to proceed pro se. After questioning Key and thoroughly advising him of his rights, the Court found that he knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to have an attorney and allowed him to proceed pro se with the understanding that he would not be entitled to a third appointed attorney. (Dkt. No. 181). Key filed pro se a supplemental motion for judgment of acquittal (Dkt. No. 173) and a motion to reconsider the motion to suppress (Dkt. No. 174).[1] On October 21, 2016, the Court denied Key's motion for acquittal or new trial filed by his prior counsel (Dkt. No. 167), Key's pro se supplemental motion for judgment of acquittal (Dkt. No. 173), and Key's pro se motion to reconsider the motion to suppress (Dkt. No. 174). (See Dkt. No. 220).

         Key has since filed three additional post-trial pro se motions. On July 20, 2016, Key filed a motion for new trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel and supplemental motion for acquittal, arguing that defense counsel Heather Winslow failed to strike false testimony by Dache Clayton and that the Government failed to prove his actual knowledge of April's prostitution beyond a reasonable doubt. [200] That same day, the Court ordered any remaining post-trial motions to be filed on or before August 29, 2016. (Dkt. No. 197). On August 29, 2016, Key filed a motion to reconsider the motion to suppress and a motion for new trial, arguing that newly discovered evidence in the police records calls into question whether any of the cellphones entered into evidence belonged to him. [210] On September 14, 2016 - after the court-ordered deadline - Key filed a supplemental motion for the motion to reconsider the motion to suppress. [216] On September 16, 2016, the Court ordered that no further post-trial motions would be accepted, but out of an abundance of fairness to Key, said that it would consider the 9/14/2016 motion to reconsider the motion to suppress because the motion had already been presented in another form. (Dkt. No. 218).

         The Court now considers Key's Motion for a Judgment of Acquittal or In the Alternative for New Trial [200], Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Suppress and Motion for New Trial [210], and Supplemental Motion for the Motion to Reconsider the Motion to Suppress. [216] For the following reasons, all three of these motions are denied.

         I. Ample Evidence in the Record Supports the Jury Finding Key Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

         A motion for judgment of acquittal challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a conviction against a defendant. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29. A defendant faces “a nearly insurmountable hurdle” in contending that the jury had insufficient evidence to convict him. See United States v. Miller, 782 F.3d 793, 797 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing United States v. Torres-Chavez, 744 F.3d 988, 993 (7th Cir. 2014)). Once convicted, the Court reviews the evidence presented to the jury in the light most favorable to the Government and makes all reasonable inferences in the Government's favor. See United States v. Cejas, 761 F.3d 717, 726 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing United States v. Larkins, 83 F.3d 162, 165 (7th Cir. 1996)). The Court may overturn the jury's guilty verdict “only if the record is devoid of evidence from which a reasonable jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” United States v. Jones, 713 F.3d 336, 340 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting United States v. Stevenson, 680 F.3d 854, 855-56 (7th Cir. 2012). The jury must weigh the evidence and assess the witnesses' credibility, and courts do not “second-guess the jury's assessment of the evidence.” See United States v. Rollins, 544 F.3d 820, 835 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Key was convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a), which provides in pertinent part that:

A person who knowingly transports an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years in interstate . . . commerce . . ., with intent that the individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 10 years or for life.

18 U.S.C. § 2423(a). Key alleges that the Government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted knowingly because the Government did not show that he had “actual knowledge” of April engaging in sexual activity for money. [200] Key argues that the record fails to show that he and April talked about her engaging in sexual activity for money. [Id.]

         However, as this Court determined on Key's prior motion for acquittal, the Government presented sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Key possessed specific intent. (See Dkt. No. 220, at 3-8). The full discussion of the evidence has already been presented in the prior order. A summary of that evidence includes the testimony of the minor victim, April, and the testimony of Dache Crayton. Both testified that Key drove April from Wisconsin to Illinois. (Trial Tr. 156:21-24; 227:19-22). Crayton testified that she had been prostituted by Key and that Key found girls for his prostitution ring through backpage.com, a website used to advertise sex in exchange for money according to April. (Trial Tr. 127:17-25; 128:1-13; 225:14-25). She also testified that Key contacted her based on a backpage.com advertisement and that she sent him a photo of her after he requested one. (Trial Tr. 129:11-24).

         April also testified that, once in Illinois, Key told April that Crayton “did the same thing [April] did” (i.e., posted advertisements on backpage.com to prostitute, according to April). (Trial Tr. 141:12-14). Key concedes in his motion that the record includes this fact. [200] April further testified that she did not want to go down to Illinois, but she stayed because she was in the middle of nowhere and did not have enough money or contacts to leave. (Trial Tr. 142:23-25; 143:1-8). After assessing the credibility of April and Crayton, a reasonable jury could weigh this evidence, along with the totality of the record, to ...


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