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People v. Cason

December 7, 2009


APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County. Bernard Schwartz, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. |SWF022145).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ramirez P. J.




Michael Barrett Cason (defendant) asserts that the evidence adduced at trial is insufficient to support three of his four convictions. We will affirm.


Defendant was on probation in two prior felony cases when, on April 28, 2008, the District Attorney of Riverside County filed an information charging him with two counts each of pimping (Pen. Code, § 266h, counts 1 & 2),*fn1 and pandering (§ 266i, counts 3 & 4). As to pimping, the information alleged that defendant willfully and unlawfully solicited Jane Doe #1 (Q.) and Jane Doe #2 (P.) to be prostitutes and lived and derived support from the earnings of their prostitution (counts 1 & 2). As to pandering, the information alleged, in the language of subdivisions (a)(1) and (a)(2) of the statute, that defendant procured Q. and P. "for the purpose of prostitution and by promises, threats, violence and by device and scheme, cause, induce, persuade and encourage [each of them] to become a prostitute" (counts 3 & 4). The information further alleged that a year earlier, on April 27, 2007, defendant had been convicted of making criminal threats (§ 422), a serious and violent felony within the meaning of the three strikes law. (§§ 667, subds. (c) & (e)(1), 1170.12, subd. (c)(1).)*fn2

Jury trial began on September 3, 2008. Q., D., H., and two sheriff deputies, Rohn and Staton, testified for the People. P. did not testify. Defendant did not testify and called no witnesses. Q.

Q. was in debt and living with her parents in San Diego when, in June 2007, for the first time, she posted an Internet advertisement offering to provide time and companionship to persons who were willing to pay her. The day she posted the ad, defendant called and offered her employment as a prostitute. If she would work for him, he said, he would take care of her and pay her outstanding car and telephone bills. He would post advertisements and all she had to do was "take the calls" and "give him the money." Defendant talked to Q. for about an hour.

On June 11, 2007, the day after he called her, Q. drove to Temecula to meet defendant. She agreed to work for him and stayed at his house that night. The next morning, D., who lived with defendant and also worked for him, accompanied Q. to the Comfort Inn in Temecula for her first day of work. The women both had cell phones defendant gave them and on which customers could call to make "dates." Through his computer, defendant monitored their calls. If Q. missed any calls or stopped answering the phone, defendant would contact her and ask her why she was not answering the phone. Defendant posted Q.'s services at $200 for each half hour and gave her a daily quota of $1,000. Because she was "just a prostitute," she gave all the money she made, including tips, to defendant.

Q. did not like the work and tried to leave defendant's employ on several occasions. When she told him she wanted to go home, he refused to give her any money. Defendant told Q. she would never make it without him, that she "wasn't good enough" and "didn't have the looks" to be successful by herself. Nonetheless, Q. "quit" five or six times, by turning in her phone and driving back to her parents' home in San Diego. When she again found herself in debt, she sometimes worked for a pimp in San Diego, "DK." She returned to work for defendant because, unlike DK, he didn't hit her.

In August 2007, Q. reported defendant to the police. At trial, she testified that she was angry at defendant, as opposed to DK, because it was defendant who had first recruited her to work as a prostitute. She had never engaged in any acts of prostitution before she met defendant. D.

D. was working as a clerk at Walgreen's in Hemet when she met defendant in 2005. Defendant told her she was beautiful and that he would like to take her and her two-year-old daughter to Disneyland. In the beginning, D. and defendant had a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship and talked about getting married. However, a few weeks after they began dating, defendant revealed that he ran an escort business and talked to D. about some of the girls who worked for him.*fn3 Eventually, D. began working for defendant too. Defendant photographed her with other prostitutes and posted their pictures, along with phone numbers and prices coded in "roses" on the Internet Web site, craigslist. P. was one of the girls who worked for defendant and with whom defendant photographed D. for ads he posted. Some of the photographs were taken in a house in Temecula where D. lived with defendant. D. saw defendant in their kitchen writing and posting Internet advertisements containing photographs of P. and other girls.

D. worked for defendant from July 2006 to August 2007. She stopped for four months between January and May 2007, hoping she could regain custody of her daughter, who had been taken by child protective services. In those four months, D. worked as a hostess at a restaurant. Defendant repeatedly called and came to the restaurant or to her apartment and tried to persuade her to return to work for him. To avoid him, D. sometimes would not answer the phone or the door. Eventually, because she needed money so badly, she returned to work for defendant. D. was afraid to leave lest, "all this stuff he told me happened to the girls that told, would happen to me."

When she worked for defendant, D. would sometimes accompany and transport defendant's other girls to hotel rooms where she and they would wait for customers to call their cell phones. Defendant had a laptop computer that "went everywhere he went" and on which he could monitor their calls and post Internet ads. In addition to their photographs and phone numbers, defendant set and posted varying prices for their services. The prices varied by city and the amount of time and number of girls a customer wanted. All the girls had a quota of $1,000 a day. All the girls gave defendant all the money they made every day. As soon as a client paid D., she took the money directly to defendant.

In May 2007, defendant and D. moved together to a house in Temecula, which D. and M.O.-another girl who worked for defendant-rented for $2,300 per month with money orders defendant gave them. Defendant gave D. money for groceries and beauty supplies, but never any money for herself.

D. was arrested with defendant on August 27, 2007, and charged with four identical felonies. By the time of defendant's trial, however, her charges had been reduced to misdemeanors in exchange for a guilty plea. During testimony, D. identified eight different photographs of P., taken by defendant and posted by him on the Internet. D. said she had never worked as a prostitute before meeting defendant and ...

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