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United States v. Houston

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

May 19, 2017

ALVIN HOUSTON, JR., a/k/a/ Chip, Defendant, Appellee, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
SHAWNA CALHOUN, Defendant, Appellee.


          Syrie D. Fried on brief for appellant Houston.

          Jeffrey W. Langholtz on brief for appellant Calhoun.

          Renée M. Bunker, Assistant United States Attorney, and Thomas E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.

          Before Lynch, Circuit Judge, Souter, Associate Justice, [*] and Baldock, Circuit Judge. [**]

          BALDOCK, Circuit Judge.

         Defendants Alvin Houston, Jr., and Shawna Calhoun pleaded guilty to charges of transporting Minor A from Maine to Massachusetts and back to Maine over an eight-day period with the intent that Minor A engage in prostitution. See 18 U.S.C. § 2421. The district court sentenced each Defendant to 108 months' imprisonment. In these consolidated appeals, Houston asserts the district court erroneously applied sentencing enhancements for undue influence and computer use, U.S.S.G. §§ 2G1.3(b)(2)(B) & (b)(3)(B), and the government breached the terms of a proffer agreement in its sentencing memorandum. Calhoun argues the district court failed to adequately weigh the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors when fashioning her sentence. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and concluding that all these claims lack merit, we affirm.


         When, as here, a sentencing appeal follows a guilty plea, we obtain the facts from the change-of-plea colloquy, the unchallenged portions of the presentence investigation report, and the record of the disposition hearing. United States v. Dávila-González, 595 F.3d 42, 45 (1st Cir. 2010). "We rehearse only those facts that are needed to put the claims of error into context." Id.

         On December 13, 2014, Minor A contacted Calhoun via Facebook. In response to a question about her age, Minor A, who was 13 years old, wrote that she was 15. Calhoun replied, "[W]hat I do you need to be of age." They later discussed meeting up to travel from Maine to either Massachusetts or New York.

         Calhoun asked her acquaintance Houston to rent a car to drive Calhoun and Minor A from Maine to Boston, Massachusetts. In exchange, the group would pay his expenses and he could visit his child in Boston. On December 23, Houston drove Calhoun, Minor A, and another individual from Maine to Boston. While in Boston, Calhoun used her smartphone to prepare online advertisements on to market her own and Minor A's sexual services. Calhoun coached Minor A on how to post to and also purchased condoms for Minor A to use. Houston, meanwhile, drove Minor A to various locations in the Boston area to engage in prostitution, and Minor A provided the money from these encounters to Calhoun. Both Houston and Calhoun learned Minor A's true age either at the outset of the trip or while in Boston.

         On December 30, Calhoun, Houston, and Minor A learned the FBI was looking for Minor A in Massachusetts. Houston then drove the group to Bangor, Maine. While en route, they stopped briefly in the Lewiston/Auburn area, near Minor A's hometown. Minor A hid in the backseat of the car because the group knew the authorities and her mother were looking for her. Advertisements for Minor A's sexual services in the Bangor area were posted to, and Minor A again performed sexual services for money.

         Early in the morning on December 31, Calhoun and Houston drove Minor A to a hotel in the Bangor area so that she could meet with a client. The purported client was a law enforcement detective who identified himself after Minor A entered the hotel room. Police then arrested Calhoun and Houston, who were in the parking lot in the rental car.

         That same day, Houston waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak with the police. He said he knew that Minor A and Calhoun had both been engaging in prostitution at different hotels, that he had driven them to Boston and back to Maine, and that they paid for his expenses during the trip.

         In January 2015, Houston and Calhoun were charged in a one-count complaint with transporting an individual in interstate commerce with the intent that she engage in prostitution, and aiding and abetting the same, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2421 and § 2.

         The following month, Houston agreed to provide information relating to the human trafficking of Minor A via a proffer agreement. The government agreed not to offer Houston's statements from the proffer session in evidence in its case-in-chief or in connection with a sentencing proceeding, except in a prosecution for false statements or perjury. But the terms of the agreement also provided that, in the event of a prosecution, the government would provide Houston's statements to the district court. The parties acknowledged that the government could not bind the district court from using the statements to the extent permitted by law.

         In March 2015, Calhoun and Houston were charged in a one-count indictment with the trafficking charges from the January complaint. Calhoun and Houston each pleaded guilty without a plea agreement. Their separate Revised Presentence Investigation Reports (PSRs) calculated the same offense level under the Guidelines. Starting with a base offense level of 24 under U.S.S.G. § 2G1.3, the PSRs computed 2-level enhancements for unduly influencing Minor A under subsection (b)(2)(B); 2-level enhancements for use of a computer under subsection (b)(3); 2-level enhancements as the offense involved the commission of a sex act under subsection (b)(4)(A); and 3-level reductions for accepting responsibility, resulting ...

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