FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MAINE [Hon. Nancy Torresen, U.S. District Judge]
A. Davis, with whom Tisdale & Davis, P.A. was on brief,
Margaret D. McGaughey, Assistant United States Attorney, with
whom Thomas E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, was on
brief, for appellee.
Torruella, Lynch, and Barron, Circuit Judges.
TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.
a jury trial in the United States District Court for the
District of Maine, Fritz Blanchard was convicted of one count
of aiding and abetting the interstate transportation of three
victims for purposes of prostitution, in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 2421 and 2422. On appeal, Blanchard
argues that the court erred by allowing unauthenticated
exhibits into evidence and that he was denied a fair trial
because information concerning similar bad acts was presented
to the jury via cross-examination when he took the witness
stand on his own behalf. Blanchard also submitted a pro se
supplemental brief that raises sufficiency of the evidence
and inadequate jury instruction claims as well as challenges
the district court's denial of a motion for a mistrial.
Unpersuaded by these arguments, we affirm.
March of 2013, Blanchard joined his childhood friend Samuel
Gravely and Gravely's romantic partner, Alisha Philbrook,
on a trip to Bangor, Maine. Philbrook and Gravely had
previously agreed to begin prostituting Philbrook. Gravely (a
cooperating witness who had already pled guilty to
transportation in interstate commerce for purposes of
prostitution at the time of Blanchard's trial) testified
that Blanchard was the one who suggested prostitution to him
as a means of making money and that prior to March 2013
Blanchard was himself already profiting from prostitution. On
March 13, 2013, Gravely, Philbrook, and Blanchard drove to
Bangor, Maine, where Gravely rented a room in a Motel 6.
There, Gravely took Philbrook's picture and, with
Blanchard's help, posted an ad on Backpage.com
("Backpage"), a website often used to advertise
escort services. Cf. Jane Doe No. 1 v. Backpage.com,
LLC, 817 F.3d 12, 16-17 (1st Cir. 2016). Between March
13 and 14, Philbrook saw clients in the hotel room while
Gravely and Blanchard waited in the parking lot. She gave all
the money she earned to Gravely. Afterwards the three
returned to Presque Isle, Maine, where they were living.
March 25, the trio returned to Bangor, Maine and Philbrook
again made money from prostitution, which she gave to
Gravely. On March 26, deciding that business in Bangor was
slow, the three traveled together to Portland, Maine. On
March 27 they rented a room at a Travelodge in Portland,
where Philbrook saw customers.
point while in Portland, Gravely and Blanchard went out to
get food and met a female minor only identified on the record
as M.J. Gravely, Blanchard, and M.J. went back to the
Travelodge where Blanchard took pictures of M.J. and posted
another ad on Backpage. Gravely testified that M.J. began
seeing customers with Blanchard's coaching on how to talk
to them on the phone and how much money to charge. M.J. saw
clients at the Travelodge while Gravely, Blanchard and
Philbrook waited in the car.
between the evening of March 27 and the morning of March 28
the group decided to travel to Boston,
Massachusetts.Before they left, however, Gravely and
Blanchard met a woman named Kaylee Howland and invited her to
go along with the four of them to Boston. Howland agreed and
the three returned to the Travelodge to pick up Philbrook and
drove the group to Boston. On the way there, Blanchard booked
and paid for a room at the Midtown Motel in Boston. Howland
testified that during this trip Philbrook and M.J. used an
iPad to look at a webpage that she later recognized was
Backpage. When they arrived in Boston, Gravely and Blanchard
dropped the women off at the hotel and the two of them
continued to Blanchard's mother's home in Dorchester.
There, they tried to post another ad on Backpage for M.J. and
Philbrook, but they did not have a credit card to pay for it.
in their attempt to advertise the women on Backpage, Gravely
and Blanchard returned to the hotel. Blanchard wanted to walk
"the track, " an area in Boston where prostitutes
walk the streets. Gravely dropped Howland, Philbrook, and
Blanchard off in the area of the track. Philbrook testified
that Blanchard told her to show Howland "how to do it,
to walk around and get in a vehicle and show her how to
proceed." Philbrook testified that she did not do this,
at which point Blanchard himself began talking to Howland.
Howland testified that Blanchard told her to watch Philbrook
and gave her tips on how to be an escort. After some time she
told Blanchard she was sick as a pretext because she wanted
to return to the hotel.
returned to pick up the trio. They all went back to the hotel
room and Blanchard left with M.J. Howland told Philbrook that
she wanted to return to Maine. She got her belongings and
went to the front desk. Howland, in tears, told the front
desk staff that she wanted to go home. The hotel staff put
her in a back room where she spoke to the head of hotel
security who then called the police. When the police arrived
they went up to the room rented by Blanchard. Gravely was
permitted to leave but Philbrook, Howland and M.J. were taken
by the police to the police station. Gravely found Blanchard
and the pair returned to Maine.
was subsequently convicted of aiding and abetting the
interstate transportation of three victims for purposes of
prostitution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2421 and
2422, and sentenced to 46 months of imprisonment.
Authentication of Evidence
appeal, Blanchard argues that the Backpage ads of Philbrook
and M.J. were not properly authenticated, that they therefore
should not have been admitted, and that he was prejudiced by
their admission. As part of this argument he asserts that the
government should have submitted expert testimony from
Backpage explaining discrepancies between the ads the
government sought to admit into evidence and the testimony of
the government's authenticating witness, Gravely. To
authenticate evidence "the proponent must produce
evidence sufficient to support a finding that the item is
what its proponent claims it is." Fed.R.Evid. 901(a).
Blanchard asserts that the ads were not what the government
purported them to be because key features -- namely, the date
and place of creation -- differed from the testimony of the
authenticating witness. The district court admitted the two
Backpage ads over Blanchard's objections, asserting that
any discrepancies between the ads themselves and the
testimony about them "goes to the weight and not the
axiomatic that documentary evidence must be authentic.
United States v. Holmquist, 36 F.3d 154, 167 (1st
Cir. 1994) ("It cannot be gainsaid that documentary
evidence must be authentic."); United States v.
Paulino, 13 F.3d 20, 23 (1st Cir. 1994) (stating that
documentary evidence must be authentic and that authenticity
is a condition precedent to admissibility). Authenticity is
closely related to relevance, for if an item is not what it
purports to be then it may not be relevant to the inquiry.