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People v. Jacobo

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division

July 2, 2019

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
ELIBERTO CRUZ JACOBO, Defendant and Appellant.

         CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]

          APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Riverside County No. INF1500443, Richard A. Erwood, Judge. Affirmed in part; reversed in part, and remanded for resentencing.

          Edward J. Haggerty, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, Charles C. Ragland, Alana Butler and Scott C. Taylor, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          HALLER, J.

         From 2013 through 2015, defendant Eliberto Cruz Jacobo, a middle-aged male, used a Facebook account with the fictional female persona of "Marlissa" to send "friend requests" to seven females under age 18, each of whom accepted Marlissa's request. Marlissa's Facebook profile page contained photographs of a scantily clad woman holding money. Using private messages through Facebook, Marlissa encouraged each of the minors to become prostitutes. Four of them eventually agreed and Marlissa arranged for each minor to have a "date" with Jacobo in exchange for money. At those dates, Jacobo took photographs and/or videos of the minors, had vaginal intercourse with them, and performed other sexual acts with them. Following a presentation on human trafficking at high school, two of the minors reported to their teachers their Facebook communications with Marlissa. A subsequent investigation by law enforcement officers showed Jacobo had used the Marlissa persona on Facebook to communicate with the seven minors and encourage them to become prostitutes. His laptop computer contained the photographs and videos he had taken of some of them. Jacobo was arrested and charged with various sex offenses.

         At trial, the jury found Jacobo guilty of 60 sex offenses, including aggravated human trafficking (Pen. Code, § 236.1, subd. (c)(2)), [1] contacting a minor with intent to commit a sexual offense (§ 288.3, subd. (a)), sending harmful matter to a minor (§ 288.2, subd. (a)), oral copulation with a person under age 18 (former § 288a, subd. (b)(1)), unlawful intercourse with a minor more than three years younger (§ 261.5, subd. (c)), sexual penetration with a person under age 18 (§ 289, subd. (h)), using a minor to perform posing or modeling of sexual conduct (§ 311.4, subd. (c)), and unlawful intercourse with a minor under age 18 by a person over age 21 (§ 261.5, subd. (d)). The trial court sentenced him to an aggregate indeterminate term of 105 years to life in prison and a determinate term of 14 years 4 months.

         On appeal, Jacobo contends:

         (1) there is insufficient evidence to support his convictions for aggravated human trafficking (§ 236.1, subd. (c)(2)) under a pandering theory because the evidence shows he intended to be the minors' sole client;

         (2) there is insufficient evidence to support his convictions for aggravated human trafficking (§ 236.1, subd. (c)(2)) under a pandering theory because the evidence does not show he used fraud or deceit;

         (3) there is insufficient evidence to support two of his convictions for using a minor to perform posing or modeling of sexual conduct (§ 311.4, subd. (c)) because the photographs do not depict the required sexual conduct;

         (4) there is insufficient evidence to support the remainder of his convictions for using a minor to perform posing or modeling of sexual conduct (§ 311.4, subd. (c)) because he did not direct them to pose or model;

         (5) his convictions for sending harmful matter to a minor (§ 288.2, subd. (a)) must be reversed because section 288.2, subdivision (a) violates the commerce clause of the United States Constitution;

         (6) his convictions for sending harmful matter to a minor (§ 288.2, subd. (a)) must be reversed because section 288.2, subdivision (a) is overbroad and violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution;

         (7) six of his convictions for sending harmful material depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct to a minor (§ 288.2, subd. (a)(1)) should be reduced to convictions for sending harmful material to a minor (§ 288.2, subd. (a)(2));

         (8) his convictions for contacting a minor with intent to commit a sexual offense (§ 288.3, subd. (a)) must be reversed because section 288.3, subdivision (a) is unconstitutionally vague;

         (9) his convictions for contacting a minor with intent to commit a sexual offense (§ 288.3, subd. (a)) must be reversed because section 288.3, subdivision (a) is overbroad and violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution; and

         (10) section 654 precludes his punishment for both his aggravated human trafficking offenses and his other offenses.

         As we shall explain, we conclude six of his convictions for sending harmful material depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct to a minor (§ 288.2, subd. (a)(1)) must be reduced to convictions for sending harmful material to a minor (§ 288.2, subd. (a)(2)). In all other respects, we affirm the judgment.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In November 2013, Jacobo, using the fictional female persona of Marlissa, sent K.C., then 16 years old, a friend request on Facebook, which request K.C. then accepted. Through Facebook private messages, Marlissa asked K.C. how old she was and whether she wanted to make easy money. K.C. replied she was 17 years old. Marlissa explained to K.C. that she was not talking about a regular job, but instead a job as an escort. Marlissa stated that K.C. could make $150 "tak[ing] care of a guy in bed." K.C. replied, "No thanks." Marlissa told K.C. to check her "timeline" on Facebook. K.C. did so and saw photographs of a scantily clad woman holding money. Marlissa continued to try to contact K.C. for several months, but K.C. did not respond except for a short reply in November 2014 stating that she was not doing much and asking what Marlissa was doing.

         From June through August 2014, Jacobo, using the fictional persona of Marlissa, similarly communicated with 13-year-old A.M. through Facebook and attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to persuade her to become a prostitute.[2] From April through July 2015, Jacobo, using the fictional persona of Marlissa, similarly communicated with 16-year-old Y.V. through Facebook and attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to persuade her to become a prostitute.

         In December 2013, Jacobo, using the fictional persona of Marlissa, similarly communicated with 16-year-old S.M. through Facebook and attempted to persuade her to become a prostitute. Marlissa stated that she was an escort, explaining that an escort "takes care of a guy in bed," and asked S.M. whether she wanted to be "hooked up" and make $150. After further prodding by Marlissa the following day, S.M. agreed. Marlissa told her, "Just be down boo. We only live once and nobody is going to know or find out." In January 2014, Marlissa asked S.M. if she would like to do the "hustle" before school for $150. S.M. told Marlissa to give the client her number and have him call her. Marlissa replied, "Go for it boo. We only live once and hustles are fun. Client and I are driving to hotel." Marlissa sent S.M. a photograph of Jacobo and told her that he lived nearby, would pay $150, and could be a steady customer.

         Jacobo picked up S.M. in front of her school and took her to a motel room. He took a photograph of her there. Jacobo and S.M. had intercourse and then she orally copulated him and he orally copulated her.[3] Afterward, Jacobo paid S.M. $150. A few months later, Marlissa sent a message to S.M. stating, "[y]our client hit me up. He said for you to text him." S.M. never again met with Jacobo or any other client.

         From June 2014 through August 2014, Jacobo, using the fictional persona of Marlissa, similarly communicated with 16-year-old G.M. through Facebook and attempted to persuade her to become a prostitute. After initially declining, G.M. ultimately agreed after additional prodding by Marlissa. Jacobo picked up G.M. at her home, took her to a motel room, paid her $150, and had sexual intercourse with her. He took sexually explicit photographs of G.M. and two video recordings of them engaging in oral copulation and vaginal intercourse. After that "date," Marlissa continued to ask G.M. whether she wanted to do another trick with Jacobo, but G.M. declined.

         From June 2013 through July 2014, Jacobo, using the fictional persona of Marlissa, similarly communicated with 14-year-old Y.C. through Facebook and attempted to persuade her to become a prostitute. Y.C. agreed because her parents were "broke" and she was taking care of herself. Marlissa arranged a "date" with Jacobo, who picked her up and took her to a motel room where they had sexual intercourse. Jacobo took sexually explicit photographs of Y.C. and video recordings of them engaging in sexual intercourse. In the following months, Marlissa sent Y.C. messages encouraging her to contact Jacobo again, but Y.C. replied that she was no longer interested.

         From May 2014 through February 2015, Jacobo, using the fictional persona of Marlissa, similarly communicated with 16-year-old A.C. through Facebook and attempted to persuade her to become a prostitute. Marlissa arranged for Jacobo to pick up A.C. at her high school. He took her to a motel room, but, rather than having sex with him, A.C. robbed him at knife point and walked home. Thereafter, Marlissa complained to A.C. about her robbing Jacobo and told her she should finish the trick, promising her a lucrative trip to San Diego. After A.C. agreed, Jacobo took her to a motel room where they had sexual intercourse and he took sexually explicit photographs of her and video recordings of them. Thereafter, A.C. met with Jacobo an additional time, but Marlissa never arranged any additional clients for her.

         After attending high school presentations on human trafficking, K.C. and Y.V. each spoke with their teachers about communications they had with Marlissa through Facebook. Thereafter, they spoke with Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Daniel Engels about their communications with Marlissa. Engels obtained a search warrant for Marlissa's Facebook account and found 8, 033 pages of records for that account. That account led Engels to an internet account belonging to Jacobo. A subsequent search of Jacobo's home located a laptop computer that contained Marlissa's Facebook profile photograph. That photograph was of a woman, Claudia A., with whom Jacobo regularly had sex for money. She was unaware that Jacobo had used photographs of her under the name Marlissa. Jacobo's laptop computer also contained sexually explicit photographs of other females, including the minors described ante with whom he had sex.

         A third amended information charged Jacobo with seven counts of aggravated human trafficking by fraud or deceit (§ 236.1, subd. (c)(2)) and 55 other sexual offenses. After two counts were dismissed on the prosecution's motion, a jury found Jacobo guilty on 60 counts, including seven counts of aggravated human trafficking by fraud or deceit (§ 236.1, subd. (c)(2)), 10 counts of contacting a minor with intent to commit a sexual offense (§ 288.3, subd. (a)), six counts of sending harmful material depicting a minor to a minor (§ 288.2, subd. (a)(1)), five counts of sending harmful material to a minor (§ 288.2, subd. (a)(2)), five counts of oral copulation with a person under age 18 (former § 288a, subd. (b)(1)), three counts of unlawful intercourse with a minor more than three years younger (§ 261.5, subd. (c)), two counts of sexual penetration with a person under age 18 (§ 289, subd. (h)), 21 counts of using a minor to perform posing or modeling of sexual conduct (§ 311.4, subd. (c)), and one count of unlawful intercourse with a minor under age 18 by a person over age 21 (§ 261.5, subd. (d)). The trial court sentenced Jacobo to consecutive terms of 15 years to life in prison for each of the seven aggravated human trafficking counts, for an aggregate indeterminate term of 105 years to life, and an aggregate determinate term of 14 years 4 months. Jacobo timely filed a notice of appeal.

         DISCUSSION

         I

         Substantial Evidence to Support Jacobo's Convictions for Aggravated Human Trafficking under a Pandering Theory

         Jacobo contends there is insufficient evidence to support his convictions of section 236.1, subdivision (c)(2) aggravated human trafficking (hereinafter section 236.1(c)(2)), under a pandering theory because the evidence shows he intended to be the minors' sole client. In particular, he argues pandering requires that the panderer intend to procure another person for a third person and not just for the panderer.

         A

         When reviewing a trial court's denial of a section 1118.1 motion for acquittal, we apply the substantial evidence standard of review. (People v. Roldan (2011) 197 Cal.App.4th 920, 924.) Likewise, when a conviction is challenged on appeal for insufficient evidence to support it, we apply the substantial evidence standard of review. (People v. Vines (2011) 51 Cal.4th 830, 869 (Vines); People v. Johnson (1980) 26 Cal.3d 557, 578 (Johnson I).) In applying that substantial evidence standard, we review the whole record in the light most favorable to the judgment to determine whether there is substantial evidence to support the conviction. (Vines, at p. 869; Johnson I, at p. 578.) Substantial evidence is evidence that is reasonable, credible, and of solid value such that a rational trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. (People v. Killebrew (2002) 103 Cal.App.4th 644, 660.) We do not reweigh the evidence, resolve conflicts in the evidence, or reevaluate the credibility of witnesses. (People v. Cochran (2002) 103 Cal.App.4th 8, 13.)

         B

         The proper interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which we determine independently, or de novo. (People ex rel. Lockyer v. Shamrock Foods Co. (2000) 24 Cal.4th 415, 432.) The fundamental purpose of statutory interpretation is to ascertain the intent of the Legislature in enacting the statute. (People v. Cornett (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1261, 1265 (Cornett); People v. Farley (2009) 46 Cal.4th 1053, 1118.) We begin by considering the actual language of the statute, giving its words their usual and ordinary meaning. (Cornett, at p. 1265; Alcala v. Superior Court (2008) 43 Cal.4th 1205, 1216 (Alcala); Robert L. v. Superior Court (2003) 30 Cal.4th 894, 901 (Robert L.).) We construe the words of a statute as a whole and within the overall statutory scheme to effectuate the intent of the Legislature. (Robert L., at p. 901.) If the words of the statute are unambiguous, the plain meaning of the statute governs and there is no need for construction. (Cornett, at p. 1265; People v. Johnson (2013) 57 Cal.4th 250, 260 (Johnson II); People v. Hendrix (1997) 16 Cal.4th 508, 512 (Hendrix).) However, if the statutory language is ambiguous, we look to other indicia of the intent of the Legislature. (Cornett, at p. 1265; People v. Floyd (2003) 31 Cal.4th 179, 187-188.) Those other indicia may include the purpose of the statute, the evils to be remedied, the legislative history, public policy, and the statutory scheme encompassing the statute. (Cornett, at p. 1265.) We do not interpret ambiguities in statutory or initiative language in a defendant's favor if that interpretation would create an absurd result or be inconsistent with the intent of the Legislature. (People v. Cruz (1996) 13 Cal.4th 764, 782-783.)

         C

         Jacobo was charged with and convicted on seven counts of aggravated human trafficking under section 236.1(c)(2), which provides in pertinent part:

         "A person who causes, induces, or persuades, or attempts to cause, induce, or persuade, a person who is a minor at the time of commission of the offense to engage in a commercial sex act, with the intent to effect or maintain a violation of Section... 266i... is guilty of human trafficking. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison as follows:

         "(1) Five, 8, or 12 years and a fine of not more than five hundred thousand dollars ($500, 000).

         "(2) Fifteen years to life and a fine of not more than five hundred thousand dollars ($500, 000) when the offense involves force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or to another person." (Italics added.)

         Section 236.1, subdivision (h)(2) defines the phrase "commercial sex act" as meaning "sexual conduct on account of which anything of value is given or received by a person."

         The offense of pandering under section 266i consists of any of the six listed acts described in section 266i, subdivisions (a)(1) through (a)(6). Section 266i was originally enacted in 1953 (Stats. 1953, ch. 32, § 4, p. 635) and now provides:

         "(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), any person who does any of the following is guilty of pandering, a felony, and shall be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for three, four, or six years:

         "(1) Procures another person for the purpose of prostitution.

         "(2) By promises, threats, violence, or by any device or scheme, causes, induces, persuades, or encourages another person to become a prostitute.

         "(3) Procures for another person a place as an inmate in a house of prostitution or as an inmate of any place in which prostitution is encouraged or allowed within this state.

         "(4) By promises, threats, violence, or by any device or scheme, causes, induces, persuades, or encourages an inmate of a house of prostitution, or any other place in which prostitution is encouraged or allowed, to remain therein as an inmate.

         "(5) By fraud or artifice, or by duress of person or goods, or by abuse of any position of confidence or authority, procures another person for the purpose of prostitution, or to enter any place in which prostitution is encouraged or allowed within this state, or to come into this state or leave this state for the purpose of prostitution.

         "(6) Receives or gives, or agrees to receive or give, any money or thing of value for procuring, or attempting to procure, another person for the purpose of prostitution, or to come into this state or leave this state for the purpose of prostitution."[4] (Italics added.)

         Under section 266i, subdivision (a)(2) (hereinafter section 266i(a)(2)), persuading or encouraging another person "to become a prostitute" includes "recruiting someone to enter the prostitution trade for the first time." (People v. Zambia (2011) 51 Cal.4th 965, 973 (Zambia).)

         D

         After the prosecution completed its case in chief, Jacobo filed a section 1118.1 motion for acquittal on the seven section 236.1(c)(2) aggravated human trafficking charges on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that he intended to pander the minors for purposes of prostitution with other men and not solely himself. The trial court denied Jacobo's section 1118.1 motion for acquittal. In closing, the prosecution argued that Jacobo was guilty of section 236.1(c)(2) aggravated human trafficking under the section 266i(a)(2) theory of pandering, and the court instructed the jury thereon with CALCRIM No. 1151 that the prosecution must prove "[Jacobo] used promises or any device or scheme to cause, persuade, encourage, induce [the seven alleged victims] to become a prostitute, although the defendant's efforts need not have been successful...."[5] The jury was further instructed that "[a] prostitute is a person who engages in sexual intercourse or any lewd act with another person in exchange for money or other compensation."

         E

         Contrary to Jacobo's assertion, pandering under section 266i(a)(2) does not require that the panderer intend to procure another person (i.e., the victim) for a third person. As quoted ante, section 266i(a)(2) provides that one form of pandering is committed when a person "by any device or scheme, causes, induces, persuades, or encourages another person to become a prostitute." (Italics added.) That statutory language does not contain any reference to a third person. Rather, under the plain meaning of its language, section 266i(a)(2) provides that pandering can be committed when only two persons are involved-namely, the panderer and the victim who the panderer persuades or encourages to become a prostitute. Giving the words of section 266i(a)(2) their usual and ordinary meaning and construing section 266i as a whole, we conclude the words of section 266i(a)(2) are unambiguous and therefore their plain meaning governs and no further construction of that statute is required. (Cornett, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p. 1265; Alcala, supra, 43 Cal.4th at p. 1216; Robert L., supra, 30 Cal.4th at p. 901; Johnson II, supra, 57 Cal.4th at p. 260; Hendrix, supra, 16 Cal.4th at p. 512.)

         Given that plain meaning of the words of section 266i(a)(2), we conclude that if a panderer persuades or encourages the victim to become a person who engages in sexual intercourse or any lewd act with the panderer in exchange for money, the panderer can be found guilty of section 266i(a)(2) pandering even if the panderer intended to persuade or encourage the victim to engage in sexual intercourse or any lewd act for money solely with him or her and not any third person. As the People suggest, the Legislature could reasonably believe that the offense of section 266i(a)(2) pandering should apply to both those panderers who lure victims to become prostitutes for others as well as those panderers who lure victims to become prostitutes solely for their own sexual gratification. Zambia, supra, 51 Cal.4th 965, cited by Jacobo, addressed the question of whether the offense of pandering under section 266i(a)(2) can include the encouragement of a currently active prostitute to work instead for the panderer. (Id. at pp. 970-971, 981.) Therefore, Zambia is factually and legally inapposite to this case and does not persuade us to reach a contrary conclusion.

         Although Jacobo cites People v. Roderigas (1874) 49 Cal. 9 (Roderigas) as authority showing California requires a third person for the offense of pandering, that case is inapposite because it dealt with a statute (§ 266), which was originally enacted in 1872 and had different language from section 266i, which was not enacted until 1953. In Roderigas, the court construed the language of section 266, which provided that a person who "procures any female to have illicit carnal connection with any man" was guilty of pandering under section 266. (Id. at p. 11.) Focusing on the word "procures," Roderigas stated that its use in section 266 "refers to the act of a person 'who procures the gratification of the passion of lewdness for another.'" (Ibid.) The court concluded that "[t]o 'procure a female to have illicit carnal connection with any man,' is the offense of a procurer or procuress-of a pander. This is the natural meaning of the words-the fair import of the terms of the statute...." (Ibid.) Roderigas rejected the People's argument that section 266 pandering included a seducer's procurement of a theretofore chaste female to have illicit carnal connection with himself. (Ibid.) It concluded that the defendant cannot "be considered to have been both procurer and seducer at the same time." (Ibid.)

         Assuming arguendo that Roderigas's holding remains valid today regarding its construction of the term "procure" in the current version of section 266, [6] we are not bound by its construction of section 266 pandering in this case because Jacobo was not charged with, nor convicted of, section 266 pandering. On the contrary, he was convicted of section 236.1(c)(2) aggravated human trafficking under the theory of section 266i(a)(2) pandering, which statute does not use the term "procure" nor does it expressly require the procurement of a female to have an illicit carnal connection "with any man" as section 266 requires. Therefore, Roderigas's interpretation of the 1874 version of section 266 pandering does not control our interpretation of the current version of section 266i(a)(2) pandering. To the extent Jacobo argues Roderigas's interpretation of the offense of "pandering" under section 266 controls all subsequently-enacted statutes defining offenses of "pandering" (e.g., § 266i(a)(2)) regardless of their different language, we reject that argument as one based on an ill-founded attempt to create or enforce common law crimes.

         In California, there are no common law crimes. (People v. Smith (1997) 57 Cal.App.4th 1470, 1480.) Rather, "subject to the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, the power to define crimes and fix penalties is vested exclusively in the legislative branch." (Keeler v. Superior Court (1970) 2 Cal.3d 619, 631.) Accordingly, it is the Legislature through its enactments of criminal statutes, and not a court through common law decisions, that decides what acts constitute criminal offenses. Therefore, we reject Jacobo's apparent assertion that Roderigas established a binding common law principle of what an offense of pandering can, and cannot, constitute.

         Because the Legislature in 1953 enacted a new statute, namely section 266i, that defines six variants of the offense of "pandering," we are not bound, nor are we persuaded, by Roderigas's interpretation of the offense of pandering under section 266 in interpreting the language of section 266i(a)(2) in this case. Accordingly, as discussed ante, we conclude the plain meaning of the words of section 266i(a)(2) do not require a third person for its offense of pandering to be committed. Contrary to Roderigas's conclusion regarding section 266, under section 266i(a)(2) Jacobo can be "both procurer ...


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