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Blanchard v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maine

April 12, 2019

FRITZ BLANCHARD, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON 28 U.S.C. § 2255 MOTION

          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         In this action, Petitioner moves, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence. (Motion, ECF No. 158; Supplemental Motion, ECF No. 163.) Following a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of aiding and abetting transportation in interstate commerce for prostitution; the Court sentenced Petitioner to 46 months in prison. (Judgment, ECF No. 134; Indictment, ECF No. 7.) The First Circuit upheld the sentence on appeal. United States v. Blanchard, 867 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2017). Petitioner asserts that the trial court improperly instructed the jury by including two questions on the verdict form for a single count indictment, which, together with the jury instructions, erroneously allowed the jury to convict Petitioner without finding that he had the requisite knowledge and intent. The Government seeks dismissal of the motion. (Response, ECF No. 166.)

         Following a review of the record, and after consideration of Petitioner's motion and the Government's request for dismissal, I recommend the Court grant the Government's request and dismiss Petitioner's motion.[1]

         I. Factual Background and Procedural History

         In 2013, Petitioner's friend, Samuel Gravely, and Gravely's romantic partner, Alisha Philbrook, agreed that Philbrook would engage in prostitution. Blanchard, 867 F.3d at 3 - 4. Gravely testified that Petitioner suggested prostitution as a means of making money. Id. All three lived in Presque Isle, Maine. Id. at 4.

         In March 2013, Gravely, Philbrook, and Petitioner travelled to Bangor and Portland, and Philbrook made money from prostitution during the trips. Id. On the evening of March 27 or the morning of March 28, 2013, they traveled to Boston, Massachusetts and were joined by two other women, M.J. and Kaylee Howland. Id. Petitioner booked a hotel room in Boston. Id. Howland testified that when they were on the streets in a certain area of Boston, Petitioner instructed Howland to watch Philbrook to learn how to be an escort. Id. at 4 - 5.

         After they returned to the hotel, Howland gathered her belongings and, in tears, told the front desk staff of the hotel that she wanted to return to Maine. Id. at 5. The hotel staff put her in a back room and called the police. Id. The police took Philbrook and Howland to the police station, along with M.J., who had apparently returned to the hotel room. Id. Gravely was permitted to leave, and after Gravely found Blanchard, they returned to Maine. Id. Petitioner testified that he wanted to travel to Boston for unrelated reasons, that he only joined the group as a means of transportation, and that he did not intend for anyone to engage in prostitution. Id. at 4 - 5 n.2; (see also Motion at 11 - 13.)

         On January 15, 2014, a grand jury indicted Petitioner on one count of transporting individuals in interstate commerce with the intent that they engage in prostitution, and that he aided and abetted the same, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2421 and 2. (Indictment, ECF No. 7.) A jury trial was held from August 25, 2014, to August 28, 2014. (Minute Entries, ECF Nos. 89 - 98.) On the final day of trial, the Court instructed the jury, in relevant part:

Mr. Blanchard is charged with knowing transportation of individuals in interstate commerce with the intent that they engage in prostitution and also aiding and abetting the same. . . .
For you to find Mr. Blanchard guilty of this charge, the Government must prove each of the following things beyond a reasonable doubt: First, that Mr. Blanchard knowingly transported an individual in interstate commerce; and second, that at the time of such transportation Mr. Blanchard intended the individual he transported would engage in prostitution. . . .
In addition to charging that Mr. Blanchard knowingly transported individuals in interstate commerce with the intent that they engage in prostitution, the indictment also charges that Mr. Blanchard aided and abetted in the same. Even though the indictment charges that he both committed the crime and aided and abetted the crime, you need not find that he did both. If you determine that the Government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Blanchard transported individuals in interstate commerce for prostitution and/or that he aided and abetted someone else in transporting individuals in interstate commerce for the purposes of prostitution, you may return a verdict of guilty.
To aid and abet means to intentionally help someone else commit the charged crime. To establish aiding and abetting, the Government must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt: First, that someone else committed the crime of transportation of individuals in interstate commerce for prostitution; and second, that at the time someone else committed the crime Mr. Blanchard consciously shared the other person's knowledge of that crime, intended to help the other person commit that crime, and took part in the endeavor, seeking to make it succeed. Mr. Blanchard need not actually transport individuals for prostitution himself, be present when they are transported, or be aware of the details of the transportation to be guilty of aiding and abetting. On the other hand, a general suspicion that an unlawful act may occur or that something criminal is happening is not enough. Mere presence at the scene of the crime and knowledge that the crime is being committed are also not sufficient to establish aiding and abetting, but you may consider these among other factors.

(Trial Day 3 Transcript 18:2 - 21:20, ECF No. 145.)

         The Verdict Form contained the heading: “COUNT 1: KNOWING TRANSPORTATION OF PERSONS IN INTERSTATE COMMERCE FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROSTITUTION AND/OR AIDING AND ABETTING THE SAME[.]” (ECF No. ...


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