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United States v. Roach

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

July 24, 2018

SHANE ROACH, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District for the District of New Mexico (D.C. No. 1:15-CR-02732-JAP-1)

          Aric G. Elsenheimer, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Offic Defender for the District of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New M Appellant.

          James R.W. Braun, Assistant United States Attorney (James D. Tierney, Acting United States Attorney, on the brief) Office of the United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Plaintiff - Appellee.

          Before MATHESON, MCKAY, and MCHUGH, Circuit Judges.

          MATHESON, Circuit Judge.

         A jury convicted Shane Roach of coercing D.G. into prostitution in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)(1). Mr. Roach recruited D.G. and, with help from Angela Santillanes, prostituted D.G. to clients. D.G. became scared and reached out for help, leading to Mr. Roach's and Ms. Santillanes's arrests.

         The Government charged Mr. Roach and Ms. Santillanes under § 1591(a)(1), but after Ms. Santillanes agreed to testify against Mr. Roach, it dropped her charge. At trial, Mr. Roach attempted to cross-examine Ms. Santillanes about three topics. The Government successfully objected.

         On appeal, Mr. Roach argues that the district court's rulings preventing cross-examination violated (1) the Confrontation Clause and (2) the Federal Rules of Evidence, and because these errors were not harmless, we must vacate his conviction and remand for a new trial.

         Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm Mr. Roach's conviction because (1) Mr. Roach waived his Confrontation Clause arguments, and (2) any error in limiting his cross-examination under the evidence rules was harmless.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         1. The Prostitution Operation

         In April 2015, Mr. Roach found D.G.'s advertisement on ("Backpage"), a website where prostitutes solicit clients, and offered to be her pimp. On their second in-person meeting, she agreed.

         From May to June 2015, Mr. Roach and Ms. Santillanes managed the prostitution operation, advertising D.G.'s services on Backpage and arranging for her to meet clients in motels and hotels. Clients scheduled an appointment through "Diamond"-Ms. Santillanes's alias-who then would inform Mr. Roach. He would then contact D.G. through a prepaid TracFone he bought for her. The client would meet D.G. in her room, and she would collect payment after the sex act. She saw three to six clients a day. Mr. Roach would then collect the money from her.

         Mr. Roach controlled the enterprise and D.G.'s activities. He chose her rates, selected her clients, and kept the proceeds. D.G. testified that he controlled her contact with others, in part by keeping her identification (e.g., driver's license) and her personal cellphone. In his testimony, Mr. Roach disputed the level of control he had outside of client matters.

         2. The Arrests and Search

         In June 2015, D.G. started to fear that Mr. Roach was going to send her to another pimp. She notified Life Link, an organization that offers "program[s] for victims of human trafficking." ROA, Vol. III at 514. It contacted the Albuquerque Police Department.[1] Police then contacted D.G., and she eventually disclosed her location. The police removed her from her motel room and interviewed her. She divulged Mr. Roach's first name, identified him in an online photograph, and identified his car.

         After further investigation, officers obtained a warrant to track and search Mr. Roach's car and to search his residence. After tracking his car's location, they stopped it, discovered Mr. Roach and Ms. Santillanes inside, and arrested them. Executing the search warrant, law enforcement searched Mr. Roach's Albuquerque apartment and found prepaid gift cards that had been used to purchase advertisements on Backpage.[2]

         B. Procedural Background

         1. First Indictment, Government Deal, and Superseding Indictment

         In July 2015, a grand jury indicted Mr. Roach and Ms. Santillanes on one count of sex trafficking by means of force, threats, fraud, and coercion in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)(1). The Government made a deal with Ms. Santillanes: she agreed to testify against Mr. Roach in exchange for having her charge dismissed. In April 2016, a superseding indictment charged Mr. Roach alone with violating § 1591(a)(1).[3]

         2. Pretrial Motions

         Mr. Roach filed a pretrial motion to cross-examine Ms. Santillanes regarding her dismissed charge. He also filed a set of three pretrial motions to cross-examine Ms. Santillanes about her prior and current involvement in prostitution. The district court granted Mr. Roach's first motion and denied the others.[4]

         3. Trial Testimony

         Mr. Roach's trial spanned four days. This appeal concerns the testimony of three witnesses: D.G., Ms. Santillanes, and Mr. Roach. We provide an overview of their testimony here.[5]

         a. D.G.

         D.G. testified about her initial meeting with Mr. Roach, day-to-day activities working for him, and her escape. She also testified about specific instances when Mr. Roach was controlling and violent, stating that he isolated her from the outside world using violence, intimidation, and threats.

         b. Ms. Santillanes

         Ms. Santillanes corroborated much of D.G.'s testimony. She confirmed that Mr. Roach had been both controlling and violent toward D.G. The district court limited defense counsel's cross-examination on three lines of questioning: (1) the length of Ms. Santillanes's potential sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)(1), (2) lying to her pretrial services officer about residing with her grandparents, and (3) her potential fraud scheme with the prepaid gift cards discovered in Mr. Roach's apartment. Mr. Roach contests these limitations on appeal.

         c. Mr. Roach

         Mr. Roach confirmed that he, Ms. Santillanes, and D.G. had engaged in a commercial prostitution enterprise, but he denied controlling D.G. through violence, intimidation, and threats. He disputed D.G.'s testimony about specific instances of violence and intimidation, but did admit that he hit her at least once. He characterized their professional relationship as consensual and supportive.

         4. The Verdict and Sentence

         The jury found Mr. Roach guilty. The district court imposed a sentence of 180 months in prison. Roach filed this timely appeal.


         On appeal, Mr. Roach argues that the district court improperly barred his cross-examination of Ms. Santillanes on the three topics identified above.

         First, he argues the district court violated the Confrontation Clause because it "limited [his] cross-examination of Ms. Santillanes to such an extent that the jury did not receive sufficient information to make a discriminating appraisal of Ms. Santillanes'[s] motives and bias." Aplt. Br. at 36. We hold that Mr. Roach waived his Confrontation Clause arguments because he failed to raise them below and did not argue plain error on appeal.

         Second, he argues in the alternative that the court abused its discretion under the Federal Rules of Evidence. See Aplt. Reply Br. at 4. But even assuming a rules violation, we hold any error was harmless.

         We therefore affirm Mr. Roach's conviction.[6]

         A. Confrontation Clause

         Mr. Roach not only failed to make a Confrontation Clause argument below, his failure to argue plain error ...

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