Conviction in prostitution case upheld


The Court of Special Appeals upheld yesterday the conviction of a man found guilty of bringing a 16-year-old New York girl to Laurel for prostitution and ruled that registering him as a sexual offender was a legal part of his probation.

The defense attorney for Jessie Lee Young, 34, of Alexandria, Va., had contended that his client should not have been registered because the lower court judge did not instruct the jury to consider the victim's age. Under the Maryland code, someone can be required to register as a sexual offender if the person transported for the purpose of prostitution is younger than 18.

The state's second-highest court ruled that Young's constitutional right to a fair trial was not violated.

"While sexual offender statutes providing for registration and notification differ from state to state, the Maryland statute contains the same attributes as statutes upheld by other courts against constitutional challenges, albeit not Sixth Amendment challenges," Judge James R. Eyler wrote in the 24-page decision.

Young met the girl, then 16, in the summer of 1999 and invited her to join his escort service, according to the ruling. The girl, whom The Sun is not identifying because she is a victim of a sex crime, left her relatives in Rochester and lived with Young in hotels and motels. In September 1999, the girl was arrested in Washington by an undercover police officer and charged with prostitution.

In June, Young was given the maximum sentence - 10 years, with two years suspended, plus five years' probation, in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

The girl was the state's key witness when Young was tried in May and convicted of bringing a person to Maryland for prostitution.

The defense argued that the sex offender registration imposed by the judge as a probation condition violated Young's constitutional rights of due process and trial by jury.

For the judge to increase Young's sentence beyond the statutory maximum by imposing the registration requirement, the defense maintained, the state must prove the basis of the sentencing enhancement beyond a reasonable doubt, the guidelines established last year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The jury was not instructed to consider the girl's age, and the defense maintained Young was entitled to have that issue resolved. Therefore, the defense argued, Young cannot be required to register as a sex offender.

The court ruled that in this case, the sex offender statute wouldn't affect due process and the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.

Young's attorney could not be reached for comment.

The defense also argued that the lower court should not have allowed evidence the defense deemed irrelevant, such as the girl's testimony that she didn't want to prostitute herself and did so only because she loved Young. Evidence of racial prejudice, such as Young's telling the girl she couldn't date black men, also should not have been admitted, the defense argued.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled that such evidence was relevant and that the Circuit Court did not abuse its discretion.

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