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United States v. Biancofiori

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

January 11, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
BENJAMIN BIANCOFIORI, a/k/a “Beanz”, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge United States District Court

         Defendant Benjamin Biancofiori (“Biancofiori”) was indicted for sex trafficking and related obstruction of justice charges. Before the Court are two motions, Biancofiori's Motion to Dismiss Counts I-X of the Indictment [ECF No. 110], and Biancofiori's Motion for a Bill of Particulars [ECF No. 105]. For the reasons stated herein, both Motions are denied.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant Biancofiori is indicted in the Second Superseding Indictment for fifteen counts: ten counts of sex trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a) and/or (b)(1) (Counts I-X) and five counts of obstruction of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(d) (Counts XI-XV). (See, generally, ECF No. 62 (Apr. 20, 2017).) The crux of the allegations is that Biancofiori allegedly facilitated and financially benefited from a sex trafficking venture involving nine different victims from 2007 to 2015, and later attempted to obstruct justice by preventing those victims from contacting or cooperating with law enforcement. See, Id. Biancofiori now moves to dismiss Counts I through X of the indictment (the counts based on violations of the federal sex trafficking statute) on constitutional grounds (see, ECF No. 110) and additionally moves for a bill of particulars (see, ECF No. 105).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Biancofiori's Motion to Dismiss Counts I-X

         Biancofiori argues that the Second Superseding Indictment against him should be dismissed because the Federal Sex Trafficking Statute, see, 18 U.S.C. § 1591, is vague, overbroad, and violates his right to freedom of intimate association. The Court addresses each argument in turn.

         1. The Federal Sex Trafficking Statute Is Not Unconstitutionally Vague

         Biancofiori argues that section 1591 is unconstitutionally vague for two reasons: First, the statute applies to a broad range of activities that are not themselves illegal; and second, the statute requires prospective knowledge regarding how a victim will be treated in the future. A criminal statute may be void for vagueness if it fails to provide “the kind of notice that will enable ordinary people to understand what conduct it prohibits” or if “it may authorize and even encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.” Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41, 56 (1999). A statute is not unconstitutionally vague if the “commonsense meaning” of its terms is clear. United States v. Powell, 423 U.S. 87, 93 (1975) (“[S]training to inject doubt as to the meaning of words where no doubt would be felt by the normal reader is not required by the ‘void for vagueness' doctrine.”).

         The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (“TVPA”) was enacted “to deal with a social ill whose international as well as interstate dimensions have invited federal attention and action.” United States v. Todd, 627 F.3d 329, 330 (9th Cir. 2010). “The statute focuses on those (usually men) who make money out of selling the sexual services of human beings (usually women) they control and treat as their profit-producing property.” Id. at 330-31. Section 1591(a) provides:

(a) Whoever knowingly-
(1) in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, advertises, maintains, patronizes, or solicits by any means a person; or
(2) benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which has engaged in an act described in violation of paragraph (1),
knowing, or, except where the act constituting the violation of paragraph (1) is advertising, in reckless disregard of the fact, that means of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion described in subsection (e)(2), or any combination of such means will be used to cause the person to engage in a commercial sex act, or that the person has not attained the age of 18 years and ...

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