Argued: September 11, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Middle District
of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 1-17-cr-00316-001) District Judge:
Honorable Christopher C. Conner
A. Abom [Argued] Abom & Kutulakis, LLC Counsel for
J. Freed William A. Behe United States Attorney's Office
Francis P. Sempa [Argued] United States Attorney's Office
Counsel for Appellee
Before: CHAGARES, JORDAN, and RESTREPO, Circuit Judges.
RESTREPO, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Tyson was indicted for the transportation of a minor to
engage in prostitution and the production of child
pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a) and 18
U.S.C. § 2251(a), respectively. During pre-trial
proceedings, the District Court granted the Government's
motion in limine to exclude mistake-of-age evidence. Tyson
and the Government then submitted a conditional plea
agreement preserving his right to appeal the District
Court's order. The District Court sentenced Tyson to
concurrent terms of 180 months' imprisonment for each
appeals the District Court's grant of the
Government's motion in limine precluding him from
introducing mistake-of-age evidence at trial. He argues that
the District Court erred in precluding the evidence because
knowledge of age is an element of § 2423(a) and §
2251(a). He also urges us to read an affirmative defense on
lack of knowledge into each statute. We disagree. The
statutes' text, context, and history make it clear that
knowledge of age is not an element and mistake of age is not
a defense. Therefore, we will affirm the District Court's
August 2017, Tyson contacted a seventeen-year-old female on
Facebook to engage her in prostitution. After communicating
for several days via Facebook and text messages, Tyson
traveled from Pennsylvania to New York City. Tyson picked up
the victim and her friend and brought them to Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania. He then rented several rooms at a Motel 6 in
New Cumberland, Pennsylvania between August 15 and August 20,
2017. Phone records reveal that Harrisburg-area individuals
contacted the victim to engage in commercial sexual activity.
August 22, 2017, after a relative of Tyson brought the victim
to a Quality Inn in New Cumberland, FBI agents and local law
enforcement recovered her during a sting operation.
Investigators interviewed her and reviewed her phone. They
found an August 20, 2017 video of the victim performing oral
sex on an adult male in a Motel 6 room. The victim identified
the man in the video as "Real," whom the
investigators identified as Tyson.
October 18, 2017, Tyson was indicted for knowingly
transporting a minor to engage in prostitution in violation
of § 2423(a) and producing child pornography in
violation of § 2251(a). Before trial, the Government
filed a motion in limine to prohibit Tyson "from
eliciting evidence to establish 'mistake of
age'" and from asserting "mistake of age"
as an affirmative defense. App. 21. The District Court
granted the motion on July 11, 2018. The Court found that
evidence of mistake of age is irrelevant to § 2423(a)
and § 2251(a) because the statutes do not require proof
of defendants' knowledge that the victim was a minor. As
a result, the Court excluded the evidence because "its
probative value is substantially outweighed by a risk that
the evidence will result in unfair prejudice, confuse the
issues, or mislead the jury" under Federal Rule of
Evidence 403. See App. 10.
and the Government subsequently entered a plea agreement.
According to its terms, Tyson and the Government agreed to
recommend to the District Court that the sentences be served
concurrently for a total of 180 months' imprisonment. The
agreement also preserved Tyson's right to appeal the
District Court's July 11, 2018 order granting the
Government's motion in limine. On December 19, 2018, the
District Court sentenced Tyson to 180 months'
imprisonment for each count, to be served concurrently. Tyson
filed a Notice of Appeal with this Court on December 24, 2018
challenging the District Court's order.
District Court had jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §
3231. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and 18
Court reviews decisions on the admissibility of evidence for
abuse of discretion. United States v. Higdon, 638
F.3d 233, 238 (3d Cir. 2011). District court conclusions on
whether "the risk of unfair prejudice does not
substantially outweigh the probative value of otherwise
admissible evidence" are reviewed under the same
standard. Id. We exercise plenary review over legal
questions and district court rulings based on interpretations
of the Federal Rules of Evidence. See United States v.
Schiff, 602 F.3d 152, 160-61 (3d Cir. 2010); United
States v. Serafini, 233 F.3d 758, 768 ...