Argued: September 28, 2018
from the United States District Court for the District of
South Carolina, at Columbia. Terry L. Wooten, Chief District
Bruce Betts, LAW OFFICES OF DAVID B. BETTS, Columbia, South
Carolina, for Appellant.
Hunter May, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Columbia,
South Carolina, for Appellee.
Drake, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES
ATTORNEY, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellee.
MOTZ, AGEE, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.
Pratt was convicted of eight counts related to sex
trafficking and child pornography. He appeals on two grounds.
On the first ground, we hold that the district court should
have suppressed evidence from Pratt's cellphone. That
error was not harmless because the remaining evidence does
not satisfy the elements of the two child pornography counts.
On the second ground, we hold that the district court did not
err in admitting hearsay statements. Accordingly, we vacate
Pratt's convictions on the two child pornography counts,
affirm his other six convictions, vacate his sentence, and
remand to the district court.
agents in the Carolinas investigated Samuel Pratt for running
a prostitution ring that included juveniles. The agents found
a post on Backpage.com in which Pratt advertised the sexual
services of seventeen-year-old "RM" at a hotel in
Columbia, South Carolina. An agent scheduled a
"date" with RM at the hotel for February 3, 2016.
When the agent entered the hotel room, he identified himself
to RM as law enforcement. She agreed to speak with several
agents. RM told them she was seventeen and working as a
prostitute at the hotel. She said her "boyfriend"
Pratt brought her across state lines from North Carolina.
J.A. 66. Responding to an agent's question, she said she
had texted nude photographs of herself to Pratt's phone.
RM allowed FBI agents to take her cellphone.
same time, two FBI agents spoke to Pratt in the hotel parking
lot. Agent Stansbury, who had spoken with RM, joined them.
Stansbury confronted Pratt, who was holding an iPhone. Pratt
told Stansbury the phone was his. Stansbury asked if Pratt
had nude photos of RM on the phone. Pratt responded
"yes, I've got pictures of her on the phone."
then seized the phone, telling Pratt the FBI would get a
search warrant. Pratt refused to consent to the seizure or
disclose the phone's passcode. And the FBI didn't get
a warrant to search the phone until March 4, 2016-a full 31
days after seizing it. When agents finally searched the
phone, they found nude images of RM and incriminating text
conversations with RM and others.
after, a federal grand jury indicted Pratt. At Pratt's
initial appearance, the magistrate judge ordered him to have
no contact with anyone "who is a witness, or may be a
witness, or a victim." J.A. 524. Despite that order,
Pratt repeatedly called his mother from prison to coordinate
continued prostitution operations. In several calls, he had
his mother put RM on the phone. He repeatedly told RM not to
testify or cooperate.
trial, Pratt moved to suppress evidence from his phone. In
his written pleadings, Pratt only contended that the seizure
of the phone was unconstitutional. But at the suppression
hearing, he also argued that the delay between the seizure
and obtaining the search warrant was unconstitutional. The
government explained that the delay came from the need to
decide whether to seek a warrant in North Carolina or South
Carolina. Ruling from the bench, the district court denied
the suppression motion, finding the seizure justified and the
government tried to get RM to testify. Several months after
Pratt's calls from jail, the FBI served her with a
subpoena. When agents later spoke to her, she refused to
testify. The FBI obtained a material witness warrant for her,
but the U.S. Marshals couldn't find her. Several other
women would testify at trial that Pratt would beat any
prostitute-including RM-whom he considered disobedient.
unavailable, the government sought to introduce her
statements to FBI agents about the prostitution ring and
about the nude images she sent Pratt. The district court
overruled Pratt's hearsay and confrontation objections,
ruling that Pratt forfeited those objections by intimidating
RM into refusing to testify. An agent then recounted RM's
addition, the government introduced evidence from Pratt's
cellphone. That evidence included 28 images alleged to be
child pornography, metadata for the images, text message
conversations, and advertisements Pratt placed for
prostitution. The government also introduced an
"extraction report" on data from RM's phone. It
included text messages but didn't include photos or
jury convicted Pratt on all eight counts. The district court
imposed life sentences on four counts and concurrent time on
the other four. Pratt appeals the denial of his ...