Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 187th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2014CR8370B Honorable Joey Contreras, Judge
Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Patricia O.
Alvarez, Justice Liza A. Rodriguez, Justice
A. Rodriguez, Justice
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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 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.
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.
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."
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
[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.
Backpage ads that were introduced as exhibits at trial look
similar. They all show the email address of
email@example.com. 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
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!!
**PLEASE TEXT OR EMAIL** AND MAKE SURE U SAY UR FROM BACKPAGE
OR NO REPLY *NO CALLS* firstname.lastname@example.org 254-245-2663 KANDY
254-393-5060 AMBER IN/ OUT CALL NOW!!
Poster's age: 20
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
subpoena was then prepared and sent to Backpage for the email
on the ad, email@example.com. In response to the subpoena,
Backpage produced over 3, 000 pages of ads and invoices
related to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
email@example.com. 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.
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.
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.
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 ...