United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
John F. Anderson
GRADY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on three of Defendant's
Motions for Judgment as a Mailer of Law. Dkt. Nos. 98, 99,
and 101. The Motions are fully briefed and the Court heard
oral arguments October 20, 2017. Defendant Linda Howard
argues she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law for
three reasons- first, because the statute of limitations on
the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) at the time of
the relevant conduct would have barred the suit: second, as
to Count III of the complaint, because the sexual abuse of
Plaintiff Sarah Roe, a domestic worker, did not cause Ms. Roe
"to engage in a commercial sex act" as defined
under 18 U.S.C. § 1591; and third, because the TVPA
proscriptions cannot be applied to Howard's 2007
extraterritorial conduct. For the reasons stated below, the
Court DENIES Ms. Howard judgment as a matter
of law on all points. A separate order has issued. Dkt. 107.
of the Case
Roe brought this case under 18 U.S.C. § 1595, which
provides a civil remedy for violations of the Trafficking
Victims Protection Act (TVPA). On July 3 1. 201 7. alter a
four-day trial, a jury found defendant Linda Howard liable
for forced labor in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1589,
forced labor trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1590, commercial sex trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1591, and conspiring to engage in those offenses in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1594. The parties established
the following facts at trial.
2007. while a U.S. citizen, employed by the State Department,
and living in U.S. embassy housing, Linda Howard conspired
with her husband, Russell Howard (deceased prior to trial) to
entice plaintiff Sarah Roe into their employment as a live-in
housekeeper. Once so employed, Russell I loward subjected Roc
to repealed rapes and continuous sexual abuse. Dkt. 33,
Stipulated Uncontested Facts ¶ 1.
Howard spent months befriending Roe prior to hiring her as a
housekeeper, including helping Roe obtain a data entry
position with the U.S. embassy. Tr. 301:6-8. 305:22-306:24,
308:20-309:9. After the Howards' prior housekeeper lied,
Linda Howard succeeded in hiring Roe, offering help with
medical treatments, Roe's visa, and monetary
compensation. Tr. 317:1-318:15, Linda Howard told Roe that it
was Roe's job to "make Russell happy" because
he "needs a friend" while he was home and Linda
Howard worked. Tr. 321:1-2, 3 18:10-12. Upon moving into the
Howards' embassy housing, the Howards presented her with
her "uniform, " which consisted of a very short
skirt and a revealing blouse and which Linda Howard had
sewed. Tr. 323:24-324:6. After Roe refused to wear the
uniform, Russell Howard took Roe to the mall and purchased a
new uniform for her: a "very revealing"
"one-piece" that "opens in the front, "
and -underwear . . . with one tiny string" and
"many holes." Tr. 323:8-21. After Ms. Roe refused
to wear the new uniform. Russell Howard raped her in her
bedroom. Tr. 325:8, 325:12-327:24. Russell Howard
continuously raped and sexually assaulted Roe for the
duration of her time with the Howards and threatened her to
keep her silent. Tr. 334:25-335:22. 327:25-329.5. Linda
Howard was aware of these assaults. She ''observe[d]
Russell Howard touching [Roe] in a sexual manner, "
including her intimate parts. Tr. 419:10-16. Russell Howard
told Roc that he spoke with his wife about the rapes and Roe
once overheard Russell Howard doing just that over the phone.
Tr. 329:6-8, 405:1-9. Ultimately, Russell Howard was unhappy
with Roe's continuous resistance to his attacks and he
fired her. though he continued to have contact with her to
keep her silent about what had occurred. Tr. 335:23-336:11,
Howard contends that a four-year statute o IT imitations
should apply to claims in this case, because in 2007, the
time of Ms. Howard's relevant conduct, the statute of
limitations under the TVPA was lour years. Under a four-year
statute of limitations. Ms. Roc's claims would have been
lime-barred when this litigation commenced. However, Congress
amended the TVPA with the Trafficking Victims Protection
Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) in 2008 to provide for a ten-year
statute of limitations. At the time of amendment, Ms.
Roe's claims were not yet time-barred. Accordingly, she
is entitled to the full benefit of the amended statute of
limitations.See Cruz v. Maypa. 773 F.3d 138.
144-45 (4th Cir. 2014).
Howard also contends that Count IV of the Complaint asserts a
common law civil conspiracy in addition to the TVPRA
conspiracy, and is therefore subject to Virginia's
shorter statute of limitations. While true that the complaint
alleged conspiracy both in violation of the TVPRA provisions
and common law civil conspiracy (Compl. at 17). the jury
found Ms. Howard liable under TVPRA conspiracy, subject to
the 10-year statute of limitations discussed supra.
Tr. 581:7-10; Jury Instruction No. 29.
Ms. Howard's motion for judgment as a matter of law based
on the defense of the statute of limitations is denied.
Howard next argues that she is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law as to Count III of the Complaint because her
conduct did not constitute a "commercial sex act"
under 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a). The TVPA defines a
"commercial sex act" as "any sex act. on
account of which anything of value is given to or received by
any person." 18 U.S.C. § 1591(e)(3). Ms. Howard
argues for a narrow interpretation of that definition, one
that requires a thing of value to have been paid to the
Howards in exchange for Ms. Roe's acts. Dkt. 105 at 4.
Ms. Howard further evidences this theory by citing to the
testimony of Ms. Roe's expert witness, Florence Burke,
who opined at trial that she would not consider sexual abuse
of a domestic worker by an employer to constitute
"commercial sex, " Dkt. 102 at 7.
Court finds this argument unconvincing. Ms. Burke was not
qualified as an expert on Congressional intent and Ms. Howard
cannot demonstrate that Burke had in mind §
1591(e)(3)'s definition of "commercial sex act"
when she testified. See Tr. 215:14-18. Nor was Ms.
Burke qualified to opine, as a matter of law, on what kind of
conduct is prohibited under § 1591(a). See United
States v. McIver,470 F.3d 550. 562 (4th Cir. 2006). Ms.
Howard's narrow definition is plainly contradicted by the
language of the statute. Congress included the word
"any" in reference to every element of the
definition - any sex act, anything of value, any person.
Here, the Court finds ample evidence to support the
jury's verdict as to Count ...