FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Daniel R. Domínguez, U.S. District
Patrick Taddei, Attorney, Appellate Section, Criminal
Division, United States Department of Justice, with whom
Leslie R. Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General, Sung-Hee Suh,
Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Rosa E.
Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, Nelson
J. Perez-Sosa, Assistant United States Attorney, and Mariana
E. Bauza Almonte, Assistant United States Attorney, were on
brief, for appellant.
Eleonora C. Marranzini, Assistant Federal Public Defender,
with whom Eric Alexander Vos, Federal Public Defender,
Vivianne M. Marrero, Assistant Federal Public Defender,
Supervisor, Appeals Section, and Liza L. Rosado-Rodriguez,
Research and Writing Specialist, were on brief, for appellee.
Thompson, Dyk, [*] and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
THOMPSON, Circuit Judge.
appeal, we are tasked with deciding whether 18 U.S.C. §
2421(a) - which prohibits transportation of an individual
"in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory
or Possession of the United States" for purposes of
prostitution or other unlawful sexual activity - applies to
transportation that occurs solely within Puerto Rico. Long
ago, we answered this question in the affirmative. See
Crespo v. United States, 151 F.2d 44, 45 (1st Cir.
1945). In a typical case, this would end our inquiry.
this case - arising in the wake of Puerto Rico's
post-Crespo transformation from a United States
territory to the "self-governing Commonwealth" that
it is today, Puerto Rico v. Sánchez Valle,
136 S.Ct. 1863, 1874 (2016) - is far from typical. And,
despite the government's arguments to the contrary, we
conclude that our post-Crespo decision in
Cordova & Simonpietri Insurance Agency Inc. v. Chase
Manhattan Bank N.A., 649 F.2d 36 (1st Cir. 1981), blazed
a trail that we must follow in this case. Applying
Cordova's analytical framework, we hold that
§ 2421(a) does not apply to transportation that occurs
solely within Puerto Rico. Accordingly, we affirm the
district court's dismissal of the indictment.
the Case Got Here
two-count indictment in this case alleges that, on two
separate occasions, the defendant, Edwin Maldonado-Burgos
(Maldonado), transported an eighteen-year-old woman with a
severe mental disability within Puerto Rico with the intent
to engage in sexual activity that was criminal under Puerto
Rico law. Maldonado moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing
that transportation occurring solely within Puerto Rico does
not violate § 2421(a). The district court agreed and
dismissed the indictment. The government timely
case presents us with a question of statutory interpretation,
which we review de novo. See United States v. Place,
693 F.3d 219, 227 (1st Cir. 2012). We start with the
statutory text. See United States v. Godin, 534 F.3d
51, 56 (1st Cir. 2008). Section 2421(a) punishes
"[w]hoever knowingly transports any individual in
interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory or
Possession of the United States, with intent that such
individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity
for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense,
or attempts to do so." Because neither § 2421(a)
nor any other provision of the Mann Act explicitly mentions
Puerto Rico, we are called upon to decide whether Puerto Rico
is a "Territory or Possession of the United States"
under § 2421(a).
tackling the merits of this interpretation controversy, we
first briefly recount the evolution of the relationship
between the United States and Puerto Rico. In 1898,
following the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico became a
territory of the United States. Sánchez
Valle, 136 S.Ct. at 1868. Over the years, Congress
gradually increased Puerto Rico's autonomy over its local
affairs, id., but "Congress retained major
elements of sovereignty" over the island,
Cordova, 649 F.2d at 39.
in 1950, Congress passed legislation - which later became
part of the Federal Relations Act (FRA), see Act of
July 3, 1950, Pub. L. 81-600, § 4, 64 Stat. 319
(codified at 48 U.S.C. §§ 731b-731e) - that
authorized the people of Puerto Rico to adopt a constitution.
See Sánchez Valle, 136 S.Ct. at 1868;
Examining Bd. of Eng'rs, Architects, & Surveyors
v. Flores de Otero, 426 U.S. 572, 592-94 (1976). Two
years later, the Puerto Rico Constitution became law when it
received congressional approval. Act of July 3, 1952, Pub. L.
No. 82-447, 66 Stat. 327; see Cordova, 649 F.2d at
40. The clear congressional purpose behind "the 1950 and
1952 legislation was to accord to Puerto Rico the degree of
autonomy and independence normally associated with States of
the Union." Examining Bd., 426 U.S. at 594.
Reflecting this purpose, the Puerto Rico Constitution
"created a new political entity, the Commonwealth of
Puerto Rico, " Sánchez Valle, 136 S.Ct.
at 1869 - "a distinctive, indeed exceptional, status,
" id. at 1874. See id. ("Congress
in 1952 'relinquished its control over [the
Commonwealth's] local affairs[, ] grant[ing] Puerto Rico
a measure of autonomy comparable to that possessed by the
States.'" (quoting Examining Bd., 426 U.S.
parties dispute the role that this history should play in our
analysis of whether § 2421(a) applies to transportation
that occurs wholly within Puerto Rico. We begin by discussing
the competing precedent that each side urges is applicable to
government insists that our decision in Crespo
controls. In that case, the defendant was charged with
violating the predecessor to § 2421(a) by transporting
women "from one place to another in Puerto Rico"
for purposes of prostitution. Crespo, 151 F.2d at
45. The defendant argued that Congress could not have
intended to reach intra-Puerto Rico transportation and
thereby "intervene in matters of interest only to the
people of Puerto Rico." Id. We disagreed,
holding that § 2421(a)'s predecessor "applie[d]
to transportation wholly within Puerto Rico."
Id. This result, we reasoned, was compelled by both
the "express terms" of the statute - which covered
"transportation 'in any territory'" - and
the clear statement of congressional purpose reflected in the
committee reports accompanying the passage of the Mann Act,
which provided that the Act was
applicable to the District of Columbia, the territories and
possessions of the United States, including the Panama Canal
Zone, without regard to the crossing of district,
territorial, or state lines, and appl[ied] within the
territories to the same extent as [it] appl[ied] in cases
outside of the territories in interstate or foreign commerce.
Id. (quoting S. Rep. No. 61-886, at 2 (1910); H.R.
Rep. No. 61-47, at 2 (1909)).
counters that Crespo - which was decided several
years before the adoption of the Puerto Rico Constitution -
does not govern the analysis. Instead, he argues that our
later decision in Cordova sets forth the legal
framework that controls this case. In that case, the
plaintiffs were an insurance broker and its president who
arranged the procurement of insurance policies for automobile
dealers in Puerto Rico. Cordova, 649 F.2d at 37. In
an attempt to cut out the middlemen, the insurance company
that issued the policies agreed with a bank that was the
ultimate beneficiary of the policies to cancel the policies
and reissue them without using the plaintiffs' brokerage
services. Id. The plaintiffs responded by filing an
antitrust action against the insurance company and the bank.
Id. at 37-38.
appeal from the dismissal of the plaintiffs' complaint,
we were confronted with the issue of whether, for purposes of
the Sherman Act, we must treat Puerto Rico like a state or a
territory. Id. at 38. The Sherman Act treats
territories differently than states: section 3 of that Act
reaches agreements "in restraint of trade or commerce in
any Territory of the United States, " 15 U.S.C. §
3(a); however, the Act's reach is less expansive when it
comes to the states, covering only agreements "in
restraint of trade or commerce among the several states,
" id. § 1. See Cordova, 649 F.2d
at 36. In 1937, prior to the adoption of the Puerto Rico
Constitution, the Supreme Court had held that the term
territory in § 3 of the Act did include Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico v. Shell Co., 302 U.S. 253, 259 (1937).
notwithstanding Shell Co., we held in
Cordova that § 3 no longer applied to Puerto
Rico. 649 F.2d at 42, 44. In an opinion authored by
then-Judge Breyer, we framed the particularized inquiry as
follows: "whether the Sherman Act's framers, if
aware of Puerto Rico's current constitutional status,
would have intended it to be treated as a 'state' or
'territory' under the Act." Id. at 39.
And, after reviewing the events culminating in the adoption
of the Puerto Rico Constitution and explaining that this
history evidenced "a general [c]ongressional intent to
grant Puerto Rico state-like autonomy, " we announced
that, in order for a statute to treat Puerto Rico as a
territory after the island adopted its constitution,
"there would have to be specific evidence or clear
policy reasons embedded in a particular statute to
demonstrate a statutory intent to intervene more extensively
into the local affairs of post-Constitutional Puerto Rico
than into the local affairs of a state." Id. at
42. Seeing no such evidence or policy reasons, we concluded
that "it is fair to assume that the framers of the
Sherman Act, had they been aware of the FRA and subsequent
Constitutional developments, would have intended that Puerto
Rico be treated as a 'state' under the Act, once
Commonwealth status was achieved." Id.
sketched the contours of the historical and legal landscape,
we now turn to the question of whether § 2421(a) ...