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United States v. Jackson

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

May 31, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
DAMON JACKSON a/k/a "DJ" a/k/a "Daddy Frost" BAKARI SHAHID MCMILLAN a/k/a "Bizzle" COREY MILLER a/k/a "Clow", Defendants.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on defendant Damon Jackson's ("Jackson") motion in limine to exclude the government's witness, Federal Bureau of Investigations Special Agent James E. Hardie ("Agent Hardie"), from providing expert testimony regarding sex trafficking.[1] Defendant argues that Agent Hardie is not qualified as an expert and that his testimony is not based upon sufficiently reliable methodology to be admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence and Daubert v. Merrill-Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). For the reasons set forth below, the court denies Jackson's motion in limine.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendants Jackson, Bakari Shahid McMillan ("McMillan"), and Corey Miller ("Miller") were indicted on multiple counts of trafficking a minor for sex and of sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion in connection with a conspiracy to commit sex trafficking in South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina. The indictment charges that the defendants conspired to recruit young women, some of whom were less than 18 years old, to work as prostitutes. According to the indictment, the defendants used the website Backpage.com to advertise for sexual services, and used Facebook to recruit victims as well as to communicate with other co-conspirators. Defendants also physically beat or threatened to physical beat the victims to scare and control them. The indictment further charges that members of the conspiracy used heroin and crack cocaine to coerce the victims-many of whom were addicted to drugs-to engage and continue to engage in commercial sex acts.

         The government plans to call Agent Hardie as an expert witness.[2] The proposed scope of Agent Hardie's testimony will be on the subculture of the prostitution lifestyle, including pimp/prostitution relationships, the hierarchy of sex trafficking organizations, operations of sex trafficking organizations, and trends in the sex trafficking industry. Agent Hardie will also discuss venues used to facilitate prostitution, destination cities and the prevalence of sex trafficking at major events, the use of websites and social networking sites to facilitate prostitution activities and recruit victims, the means that pimps use to recruit and control victims, and the victomology of sex trafficking. The government does not plan on connecting Agent Hardie's expert testimony with the case at hand-instead, Agent Hardie will be speaking generally about the aforementioned aspects of sex trafficking. Exhibit A, Rhett Dehart email 3/19/2017 at 10:53 AM.

         On March 20, 2017, the court held a hearing on Jackson's motion to exclude, during which the government put forth testimony by Agent Hardie. After the hearing, the court ruled on this motion. This order supplements that previous ruling.

         II. STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides:

         A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:

(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

         District courts serve as gatekeepers for expert testimony. The court has a "special obligation" to ensure that expert testimony is relevant and reliable. Kumho Tire ...


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