THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CHESTERFIELD COUNTY Frederick G.
Rockwell, III, Judge
David Sands, III (Winslow & McCurry, PLLC, on briefs) for
Murphy, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring,
Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Chief Judge Decker, Judges Petty and Huff Argued at
A. HUFF, JUDGE
L. Lambert ("appellant") appeals his convictions
for two counts of possession of a controlled substance with
intent to distribute, one count of manufacture of a
controlled substance, one count of possession of a firearm
while possessing a controlled substance with intent to
distribute, three counts of receiving money from
prostitution, and three counts of sex
trafficking. After a jury trial, the Circuit Court of
Chesterfield County imposed the jury's recommended
sentences totaling twenty-nine years' and twelve
raises three assignments of error. First, he asserts that the
trial court erred by admitting evidence that he was a member
of the gang known as the "Bloods." Second, he
claims the trial court erred in limiting his
cross-examination of a key prosecution witness, J.C., the
woman he allegedly forced into prostitution. Finally, he
argues the evidence was insufficient to sustain his
convictions because J.C.'s testimony was incredible and
the police did not attempt to forensically corroborate her
Court disagrees. First, appellant's communication to J.C.
that he was in the Bloods gang was relevant and probative on
the issue of intimidation in the sex trafficking charges.
Second, evidence that J.C. had previously engaged in
prostitution was irrelevant. Moreover, evidence she had
previously engaged in dealing drugs had minimal probative
value yet significant potential for confusion and undue
prejudice. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion
in excluding it. Third, J.C.'s testimony was not so
contrary to human experience that it was inherently
incredible and forensic corroboration was not required.
Court considers 'the evidence presented at trial in the
light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing
party below.'" Hawkins v. Commonwealth, 64
Va.App. 650, 652 (2015) (quoting Bolden v.
Commonwealth, 275 Va. 144, 148 (2008)). So viewed the
evidence is as follows:
was convicted of heroin possession in 2015, and testified at
trial she was still struggling with heroin addiction. She met
appellant in January of 2016. She had no funds, and he
offered to let her stay in his hotel room. He supplied her
with drugs for several days. He then sent her to have sex for
money. J.C. complied, and when she returned, appellant
collected the money. He then provided her with more heroin.
Over several weeks-until appellant was arrested-appellant and
J.C. moved among several hotels.
J.C. was with appellant, he posted an ad for J.C.'s
prostitution services on Backpage.com. During those several
weeks, appellant instructed J.C. to prostitute herself
multiple times. Each time she gave all the money to
appellant, and appellant continued to supply her with heroin.
Although J.C. was unclear on precisely how many times overall
she had prostituted herself at appellant's instruction,
she specifically stated that on three separate days before
appellant was arrested, she had sex for money with one to
three men each day.
complied with appellant's instructions and never left or
sought help because she was afraid of appellant, even though
he never explicitly threatened her. She thought that he would
beat or kill her if she crossed him, in part because
appellant had told her he was a "general" in a
gang, the Bloods. She did not know much about the Bloods but
knew them to be violent and understood appellant to mean he
had people under him who would do his bidding. He also told
her that he had been in either prison or jail and, while
imprisoned, threw hot water and baby oil on an individual,
badly burning them. She also saw appellant carry a firearm
throughout the day. Finally, one time when J.C. was sick and
unable to engage in prostitution, appellant became angry and
withheld drugs until she resumed prostitution.
she was staying with appellant, J.C. also saw him and several
other men attempt to make crack cocaine in the hotel room.
She saw him selling both heroin and cocaine during her stay
in his hotel room.
February 12, 2016, J.C. and appellant were staying in Room
309 of a Super 8 motel. J.C. had rented the room in her name
at appellant's direction and using funds he provided.
Police began knocking on the door. Appellant hid the drugs
while J.C. was "freaking out." He attempted to get
her to take his firearm, but when she threw it on the bed, he
retrieved it and hid it in the toilet.
watching the motel from the outside then observed a man
"hanging outside of the third floor window by one arm
being held by a female." When an officer arrived at the
ground under the window, the man was gone. Nevertheless,
people at a restaurant next door directed the officer toward
appellant. Police then found appellant, but he denied being
at the hotel. After police arrested him on an outstanding
warrant, the phone they retrieved from him received a text
message, which displayed on the screen: "Just letting
you know the police were knocking on your door."
Appellant also had a room key card for the Super 8 motel and
over six hundred dollars in cash.
police returned to the room several minutes later to search
it, they found J.C. just outside the room. She gave consent
to search the room. The police found the firearm, loaded, in
the back of the toilet, wrapped in a sock. Crack cocaine and
heroin were hidden beneath an artificial plant in a pot on
the television stand. Police also found marijuana, a digital
scale, bullet cartridges, and a shoebox full of papers with
handwritten copies of the "Blood's" history and
rules. A second digital scale, identical to the one in the
hotel room, was on the ground outside the window through
which appellant had exited the hotel.
later admitted to police he had jumped out of the hotel room
window, but claimed he fled because of the outstanding
appellant's jury trial, in addition to J.C.'s
testimony about appellant's gang involvement, the
Commonwealth also offered-and the trial court admitted, over
appellant's objection-expert testimony about gangs,
including the Bloods. He explained that the Bloods in the
Richmond area engaged in narcotics distribution, robberies,
witness intimidation, and prostitution. He identified the
documents found in the shoebox in the hotel room as a
handwritten history of the Bloods which "Blood members
are supposed to know" and ...