The Massachusetts Appeals Court today threw out the convictions of a pimp and a madam, ruling that the couple did not lure a homeless and drug-addicted teenager into prostitution because the 16-year-old runaway had sold her body for money in the past.
In a 3-0 ruling written by Judge Fernande R.V. Duffly, the court reversed Diana Matos and Antwan Sampson’s 2008 convictions for inducing a teen into prostitution, a conviction based on the testimony of the teenager, who was arrested by Malden police and State Police during a sting operation into prostitution in the suburbs.
In today’s ruling, the Appeals Court let stand their convictions for deriving support from prostitution and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. According to state records, Matos is serving a sentence at MCI-Framingham and Sampson is imprisoned at MCI-Shirley.
Matos and Sampson drove the teen to the hotel where she met an undercover detective and agreed to engage in sex for $280, according to court records. Using a ruse, the officer convinced the teen, identified in court records only as B.C., to leave the hotel before a sex act was performed.
Last month, Governor Deval Patrick nominated Duffly to take a seat on the Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court.
The teen handed the cash to Matos and Sampson, who were waiting in the hotel parking lot in September 2006, according to court records. Matos and Sampson were tried together and convicted of deriving support from prostitution, contributing to the delinquency of a child, and inducing a minor into prostitution.
But Duffly wrote that state law requires prosecutors to show the suspect takes steps to induce a minor “become a prostitute.” Duffly wrote that B.C. testified in Middlesex Superior Court that supported herself by engaging in prostitution, and that she had done so before the Malden arrest.
“There was no evidence from which the jury could reasonably infer that B.C. had not already been engaged in acts of prostitution on the date that the defendant accompanied her to the hotel,’’ Duffly wrote. “There was also no evidence that it was the defendant who, earlier in the week after B.C. ran away from the halfway house, induced B.C. to resume prostitution activities.’’
The court analyzed the language of the state law and concluded that suspects cannot be prosecuted in those instances where the minor was already working as a prostitute.
“We think that the language of the statute is plain and unambiguous and that it clearly expresses the Legislature's intent to penalize a person for inducing a minor, who is not then so engaged, to engage in the commercial enterprise of prostitution by offering for hire his or her body for indiscriminate sexual activity,’’ Duffly wrote.
Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr.’s office argued in court papers that the public policy goal of protecting children should lead to the imprisonment of people like Matos and Sampson each time they help a minor to become a commodity in the sex trade.
In a statement released today, Leone did not criticize Duffly’s conclusions.
“We are pleased that the court affirmed two of the three prostitution charges the defendant was convicted of in this child protection case," Leone said in the statement. "We will continue to vigorously pursue cases involving the abuse and sexual exploitation of females and minors by others."
Joining Duffly in the unanimous ruling were judges R. Marc Kantrowitz and James R. Milkey.
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