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Williams v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

April 10, 2019

Issac WILLIAMS, Appellant
The STATE of Texas, Appellee

          From the 187th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2014CR8370B Honorable Joey Contreras, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice Liza A. Rodriguez, Justice


          Liza A. Rodriguez, Justice

         After a jury trial, Issac Williams was found guilty of continuous trafficking of persons and was sentenced to fifty years of imprisonment. On appeal, he brings twenty-three issues. Because we hold the trial court erred in denying his request for a lesser-included instruction on human trafficking of persons, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the cause for a new trial.


         Williams was accused of trafficking B.F., a minor, during a period that was more than thirty days in duration. During the guilt/innocence portion of trial, the following witnesses testified: the complainant B.F.; Sergeant John Elizarde; Agent Shawn Hallett; Christopher Hill; Agent Johnny Hirst; Sergeant Stormye Jackson; Laurie Smith, and Williams.

         At trial, B.F. testified about her home life, meeting Williams, and how she engaged in prostitution with Williams and a woman named Deborah Ameia Cooper. As a teenager, B.F. did not have a stable home life. She and her mother "argued a lot, and so those arguments sometimes turn[ed] into scruffles [sic], and sometimes, [her mother] would kick [B.F.] out." When B.F. was thirteen years old, she lived in Maryland[1] with her mother and younger brother. According to B.F., while the family was living in Maryland, they were "homeless for a good while," "on the street homeless." B.F. explained,

I had to basically have sex for money, so we could get food because we didn't have any money at all. So, it - it wasn't something that I wanted to do, but I needed to feed [my younger brother] because he's, you know, he's sick, and he had the CMV virus. He's deaf; he's autistic; and it takes a lot to take care of a person like that, and I always felt like I had to help. So, I did that for my mom, even though she didn't have any money.

         When asked on cross-examination who suggested to her at thirteen years old that she should prostitute herself for her family, B.F. was adamant that "[n]o one suggested it." She testified she thought of it all herself.

         According to B.F., when she was fifteen years old, she met Williams on social media- specifically on a website called Tagged. Williams was in his late twenties. B.F. testified she and Williams messaged each other for about six to seven months before they met in person in December 2013[2] at Lions Park in Killeen, Texas. The park was within walking distance from where she lived with her mother. B.F. testified she and her mother had gotten into an argument, and her mother had "kicked her out" of the apartment. According to B.F., she and Williams talked for about an hour in his Cadillac. Williams then began to ask B.F. about her past sexual experiences, and B.F. told him about prostituting herself in Maryland:

[H]e just kept saying he would buy me stuff, that he can get me-he can get me money, you know, so I could have my own money, so I could have my own money, so I can do what-basically, what I wanted to do. And, you know, "Your mom's not taking care of you. Now, why would she, you know, kick you out? I can give you basically something better than she had. . . . He kind of, like I say, sugarcoated to have sex for money, but it wasn't just blatant, "Okay. Do you want to have sex for money?" It was more persuasive, kind of, sort of, I guess I can say.

         B.F. testified she and Williams then had sex in the car, and Williams later took her back to a hotel. B.F. testified, "[T]hat's when the actual and real conversation came up of what I was actually going to be doing." On his mobile phone, Williams pulled up the website Backpage and navigated to the "adults" and then to the "escorts" section. B.F. testified Williams explained the entire process of placing Backpage ads to find customers and how B.F. could get started. When asked how this made her feel, B.F. replied,

It made me feel happy, but I was confused because, like, okay, I did this before; but at that time, I didn't know what an escort was. I thought it was, you know, the people who like, you know, walk people like that out of a club or, you know, like a police officer, they escort you around, not a prostitute. I don't know.

         According to B.F., Williams said she would keep some of the money she made. However, "over time, [B.F.] realized that [she] got none of it, that he kept all of it."

         B.F. testified Williams then introduced her to a twenty-year-old woman, whom Williams called "Kandy." During the trial, this woman is referred to by many names, including "Ameia," "Mia," "Deborah," and "Kandy." Her legal name is Deborah Ameia Cooper. According to B.F., because Williams called the woman "Kandy," she also used the name "Kandy." After this first meeting with Kandy, B.F. accompanied Williams and Kandy to Wal-Mart so Williams could buy B.F. some "cute underwear." When they all returned to the hotel, Williams took pictures of B.F. and Kandy in their underwear. He then created an advertisement on Backpage with the pictures. B.F. testified about the process of posting Backpage ads:

[W]hat you do is you first get a gift card. It's a Vanilla gift card. And to post a page on Backpage, it's about $12. But the thing about it is, is you're competing with over 50, 000 girls from all different countries, states, cities, so you constantly have to keep posting an ad to get it to the top because you have to get the first three pages in order for someone to call you, which is basically the client. And then, you just proceed from there.

         The Backpage ads that were introduced as exhibits at trial look similar. They all show the email address of They all include pictures of B.F. and Kandy. After the pictures, there is a message. Sometimes the message is from "Amber" (B.F. used this name). Sometimes the message is from "Kandy." Whether the message claims to be from Amber or Kandy, the text is the same: [3]

Hi, Im Kandy.!!! [or "Hi, Im Amber!"] Come enjoy yourself in a more upscale atmosphere. If you like my pictures, you will love me in person. I love to have a good time.. Some come have some fun with me:) you wont be disappointed! I am Native American, Blk & White. More like the Girl Next Door. Thank you! 2 GIRL SPECIAL!!
50 qk
80 hh
120 hr
Poster's age: 20

         B.F. explained that "qk" meant ten minutes, "hh" meant a half hour, and "hr" meant an hour. Thus, the charges were $50 for ten minutes, $80 for thirty minutes, and $120 for an hour. According to B.F., they traveled from Killeen to Austin to San Antonio, and Williams set the prices depending on which city they were in. Williams also set a goal of $600 per day for B.F. and $800 per day for Kandy. B.F. testified she and Kandy would stay in a hotel room while Williams either waited in his Cadillac or stayed in his own hotel room. B.F. would communicate with Williams by text. After B.F. talked to a client and the client agreed to a service, B.F. would text Williams:

I would say a QK, which he knows is quickie for $50, and then, he'll reply back. And then, the client-I would go get the client, and I would bring them upstairs, and I would text him "I," which means inside, which means the client is inside the room with me, and I'm about to get the money. And that basically lets him know, you now, time by time what I'm doing. Once I'm done, once I've got the money, I would text W, and then, he would text C or H. "C" meant coming up, which means he's coming up to the room, or he'll text "H" was - which is here I come, you know; I'm about to come up to the room.

         B.F. testified the customers never saw Williams. Kandy would either remain in the room "if the client was okay with it," or "step outside the room and go down the hall, but she had to stay close just in case she had a client." "And we would kind of swap back and forth."

         According to B.F., she began working with Williams and Kandy the week after she first met Williams in person (i.e. December 2013). They all lived in Williams's apartment on Winkler Avenue in Killeen, which was across the street from B.F.'s high school and about a five-to-ten-minute walk from her mother's apartment. They worked every day except Sunday, because on Sundays they went to church.[4]

         At the time she left home to move in with Williams and Kandy, B.F. was on juvenile probation "for stealing out of a car." B.F. testified she was "supposed to be in the house before 7:00 p.m." and "check in" with her probation officer every week. However, once she started working with Williams and Kandy, and was always out of town, she stopped making her weekly appointments with her probation officer.

         On August 19, 2014, Williams, B.F., and Kandy were all arrested at a hotel in Killeen, Texas. B.F. testified,

Mia [Kandy] had told me she was texting a client, that he was coming by, so I said okay. I was going to go downstairs and get me something to snack on because I was a little hungry. After I got my snack, I came back upstairs, and Mia, she was to go get something to snack on and, you know, get something to eat because we were hungry. And I believe we actually didn't have any more TV dinners, so she went down. And I was actually about to light a cigarette, and I kept sitting there thinking, "Wow, she's taking a really long time," and she walks pretty fast. So, I just kept sitting there. And just as I was about to light my cigarette, the door opens. And I'm thinking it's her, so I'm not paying attention, and it's police officers. And they're saying, "Are you [B.F.]?" And, immediately, I freeze, and I'm looking. They just kept saying it, "Are you [B.F.]?" And I said, "Yes." And they said, "Okay. Well, we've been looking for you for a really long time," and they said, "Are you okay?" I said, "Yes." And they said, "Is he here?" I said, "No." I said, "Who" - and you know, I already knew who they were talking about, but I was really mostly just in shock because they were pointing guns at me, but I know it - it wasn't, you know, like that. After that, they had handcuffed me and took me downstairs where I had saw Kandy sitting [in] a chair, and they were talking to me. I forgot about what. And then, just as they were sitting there talking to me, I see Issac [Williams] pull up. But at first, I knew he was coming. I'd seen his car. But first, he pulled up to the side door and then to the front entrance of the hotel. And immediately, I start freaking out because he's really big on not telling the police, the feds anything about what we're doing. He told me, "If you get caught, deny everything because if you get caught, it's a misdemeanor for probation. So, if you get caught, you go to jail, I will bail you out, and then, we'll just keep going." And so, when I had seen him, I told them-I was like, "You got to move me somewhere else." I was saying, "You got to move me somewhere else because if he sees me, I'm going to be in like big ass trouble." And they were like, "Okay. We're going to move you somewhere else." And that's when they had arrested him in front of the hotel.

         B.F. testified she was arrested because she had a warrant for her juvenile probation violations. After her arrest, she talked with Sergeant Stormye Jackson, an investigator with the Special Investigations Unit of the Attorney General's office. B.F. told Sergeant Jackson about Kandy's and Williams's roles.[5]

         Agent Shawn Hallett, a special agent with the Texas Department of Public Safety's Criminal Investigations Division, testified that he was part of an investigation seeking to find juvenile victims of human trafficking. He began his investigation by reviewing ads on Backpage and looking for images of people who appeared to be minors. Once he found an image of a person he believed to be a minor, he would try to identify the person using phone numbers, social media, and other databases to which he had access. During his investigation, he found one of the ads featuring "Kandy" and "Amber," and believed the images depicted a minor. He then ran the phone numbers contained in the ad through every database, including Facebook and other law enforcement databases. He was able to link one of the numbers in the ad to a Facebook account associated with B.F., who he discovered was a juvenile.

         A subpoena was then prepared and sent to Backpage for the email on the ad, In response to the subpoena, Backpage produced over 3, 000 pages of ads and invoices related to The dates on the ads range from December 9, 2013 to August 14, 2014. On all these ads, the email associated with the Backpage account is On almost all the invoices associated with the ads, the account person listed is "kandy" at a fake address (123 jake st) in Killeen, Texas. However, some of the invoices list "Issac Williams" at William's real address of 1309 Winkler Ave., Killeen, Texas. Williams's name appears on these invoices on the following dates: July 20, 2014, July 21, 2014, July 27, 2014, July 30, 2014, August 2, 2014, August 3, 2014, August 4, 2014, and August 5, 2014. At trial, every document produced by Backpage was admitted in evidence as State's Exhibit 1 over defense counsel's objection.

         After obtaining the documents from Backpage, Agent Hallett testified he set up an undercover operation. On August 14, 2014, he contacted by text one of the phone numbers listed on the ad ("Kandy (254) 245-2663") and tried to set a date for Monday, August 18, 2014. However, he did not receive a response to his text until the evening of August 18th. According to Agent Hallett, "Kandy" agreed by text to a date on the following day. Agent Hallett requested that both girls be present for the date. On the afternoon of August 19, 2014, Agent Hallett texted "Kandy" and, through text messages, was led to a hotel in Killeen, Texas. Deborah Ameia Cooper, otherwise known as "Kandy," let Agent Hallett in through a side door to the hotel. As he was following Kandy up a stairwell, Sergeant John Elizarde took her into custody. Agent Hallett then went to Kandy's hotel room and saw the door propped open. He announced "police," opened the door, and saw B.F. Agent Hallett testified he recognized B.F. from the ads and called out her name. After B.F. responded, he entered the room. Because he knew there was an outstanding juvenile warrant for B.F., he took her into custody at about 2:00 p.m. He then passed B.F. to Stormye Jackson, an investigator with the Attorney General's Office.

         According to Sergeant Jackson, she obtained basic information from B.F., such as her age, date of birth, what she had been doing at the hotel, and who else had been involved. B.F. gave the investigators Williams's name and described his Cadillac.

         Agent Hallett testified that the hotel room was registered to Deborah Ameia Cooper, otherwise known as "Kandy." They found three cell phones in the room and a box of condoms. According to Agent Hallett, when everyone had finished their respective duties at the hotel, they started to escort B.F. out:

And as we're walking out the front door, [B.F.], for lack of a better term, has a complete meltdown, trying to - basically, almost falling to the ground. You could tell that it was a very fearful thing for her as ...

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