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United States of America v. Jaimian Rashaad Sims
Case Number: . 19-20833
Judge: W. Eugene Davis
Court: United States Court of Appeals
for the Fifth Circuit
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office
New Orleans, LA - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with sex trafficking a minor and conspiracy to sex traffic a minor charges.
Sims was a Houston-based rap artist (known as “Sauce Lean”) and
pimp who associated with a group who called themselves “The Sauce
Factory” (TSF). TSF members were allowed to use a large house called “the
Mansion” which was owned by one of the top TSF members known as
“Sauce Walka.” At some point between 2016 and 2017, Sims linked up with
co-defendant Gary Shawn Haynes, Jr., who was a college football player.
Haynes knew Sims was a pimp and wanted an opportunity to join that
To get Haynes started, Sims instructed his girlfriend and codefendant, Tabbetha Mangis, to find Haynes a “white girl” to work as a
prostitute for Haynes. Mangis reached out to the 17-year-old minor victim,
who throughout proceedings has been referred to as Jane Doe. Mangis knew
Jane Doe as a friend of Mangis’s younger sister, and she knew that Jane Doe
was 17 years old. Several text messages were exchanged between Jane Doe,
Mangis, and Haynes, which resulted in Jane Doe agreeing to work as a
prostitute for Haynes. Haynes also knew that Jane Doe was underage.
Haynes picked up Jane Doe and brought her back to the Mansion where Jane
Doe was taught the rules of prostituting.
Shortly after her arrival at the Mansion, Haynes brought Jane Doe to
the Express Inn motel where he provided Jane Doe fraudulent identification
to obtain a room. Meanwhile, Sims had previously checked in to the Express
Inn to oversee his own prostitutes. After Jane Doe’s initial check-in, she was
relocated to a room in the Express Inn occupied by one of Sims’s prostitutes,
referred to as Janet Doe. Janet Doe was instructed by Sims to teach Jane Doe
how to make money— “help her,” make her “comfortable,” and “help her
Case: 19-20833 Document: 00515992608 Page: 2 Date Filed: 08/24/2021
Jane Doe then engaged in commercial sex for three days in which all
money she earned from these activities was paid to Haynes. After the three
days, on November 23, 2017, Jane Doe called the police and asked them to
arrest her so that she could escape. The police arrived and recovered Jane
Doe, and Sims and several prostitutes at the hotel were arrested.
Sims was charged in a three-count superseding indictment with
conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors (Count 1), sex trafficking of
minors (Count 2), and sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion (Count 3).
The case went to trial where a jury found Sims guilty of Counts 1 and 2 but
not guilty of Count 3.
During pretrial proceedings, Sims filed a motion in limine requesting
that the Government not mention song lyrics in any audio or video recording
from his rap songs and associated TSF acts. The district court decided to
admit some videos but reserved final determination for trial. At trial, Sims
objected to admission of the videos, but his objections were overruled and the
videos, which graphically depicted and glorified guns, drugs, prostitution,
pimping, and misogyny, were admitted and shown to the jury.
Upon sentencing, the PSR recommended an advisory guidelines range
of life imprisonment. Sims received a four-level adjustment in his offense
level for being an organizer of criminal activity that involved five or more
participants. Sims objected to this increase, but the objection was overruled.
The district court sentenced Sims to life imprisonment with five years of
supervised release. Sims timely appealed.
Sims argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction
for sex trafficking of a minor because the Government failed to prove beyond
a reasonable doubt that he sex trafficked a minor or aided anyone else in doing
so. He contends that Haynes and Mangis orchestrated the sex trafficking of
Case: 19-20833 Document: 00515992608 Page: 3 Date Filed: 08/24/2021
Jane Doe and that the Government did not prove that he knew or recklessly
disregarded the fact that Jane Doe was under the age of 18 or that he had a
reasonable opportunity to observe Jane Doe. He also contends that the
evidence was insufficient to show beyond a reasonable doubt that he
benefitted or received anything of value from the sex trafficking of a minor,
nor did it show that he aided or abetted anyone in doing so. Similar arguments
are made regarding the conspiracy conviction. Sims also challenges the
admission of the rap videos at trial.
A. Standard of Review
When, as in this case, a defendant properly preserves the issue of
evidentiary sufficiency,1 this Court affirms the conviction “if, after viewing
all the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to
the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential
elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.”2 We consider “whether
the inferences drawn by a jury were rational, as opposed to being speculative
or insupportable, and whether evidence is sufficient to establish every
element of the crime.”3
1 After the Government rested its case, Sims moved for a judgment of acquittal on
all counts under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29. The motion was denied, but in his
motion, Sims’s argument focused on the insufficiency of the evidence regarding his
knowledge of Jane Doe’s age and how that knowledge was required for the conspiracy crime
and the actual sex trafficking crime. This argument regarding knowledge of the minor
victim’s age is also the focus of Sims’s argument on appeal. Therefore, Sims properly
preserved his issue of evidentiary sufficiency.
2 United States v. Vargas-Ocampo, 747 F.3d 299, 301 (5th Cir. 2014) (en banc).
3 Id. at 302.
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B. The Substantive Conviction
To convict a defendant of sex trafficking a minor requires the
government to establish that the defendant (1) “recruits, entices, harbors,
transports, provides, obtains, advertises, maintains, patronizes, or solicits by
any means a person; or . . . benefits, financially or by receiving anything of
value” from the above described venture, and (2) knowledge that the person
has not attained the age of 18 years.4 The knowledge or mens rea requirement
can be met in one of three ways: (1) actual knowledge; (2) reckless disregard
of the minor’s age; or (3) a defendant’s reasonable opportunity to observe
the minor.5 The third option regarding observation of the victim has been
characterized by this Court as a strict liability option for the Government.6
To prove that there was a conspiracy to sex traffic a minor, the
Government must additionally show “beyond a reasonable doubt that an
agreement existed to violate the law and each conspirator knew of, intended
to join, and voluntarily participated in the conspiracy.”7 The agreement may
be tacit rather than explicit, “may be established solely by circumstantial
evidence[,] and may be inferred from concert of action.”8
In this case, the jury was presented with sufficient evidence to
conclude that Sims had a reasonable opportunity to observe Jane Doe. First,
Janet Doe testified that Sims and Haynes together introduced her to Jane Doe
4 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a).
5 § 1591(a), (c).
6 “The better reading of § 1591(c) is that the government may prove that the
defendant had a reasonable opportunity to view the victim in lieu of proving knowledge.”
United States v. Copeland, 820 F.3d 809, 813 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting United States v.
Robinson, 702 F.3d 22, 31 (2d Cir. 2012)).
7 United States v. Chon, 713 F.3d 812, 818 (5th Cir. 2013).
8 Id. at 818–19 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
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at the hotel. Although Jane Doe testified that only Haynes introduced her to
Janet, the jury was allowed to weigh and assess credibility on this conflicting
testimony. If the jury credited Janet Doe, an introduction where Sims was
present supports a finding that Sims had ample time to observe Jane Doe.
Second, Jane Doe testified that she saw Sims at the Express Inn, once
while he was outside going up to the second floor, and once when Sims came
into Jane Doe and Janet Doe’s room. When Sims came into the room, Jane
Doe saw him briefly and then she went back to the bathroom and mirror area
of the room while Sims spoke with Janet Doe. The jury could reasonably infer
that if Jane Doe saw Sims while he was traversing the motel, then Sims likely
also saw Jane Doe. More importantly, however, the jury was able to see
photos of Jane and Janet Doe’s small room in the motel and conclude that
Sims had a reasonable opportunity to observe Jane Doe when he came into
Additional circumstantial evidence was presented that could have
aided the jury in determining that Sims recklessly disregarded Jane Doe’s
age.Jane Doe testified that upon her arrival with Haynes at the motel, Haynes
went “upstairs” at the motel to obtain a fraudulent I.D. for Jane Doe so she
could rent a room.9 Testimony revealed that Sims had a room on the second
floor. Furthermore, Janet Doe testified that she had previously found an I.D.
from her friend, Monica, in her room, and she gave the I.D. to Sims. She later
saw that Jane Doe was using that I.D. The jury was entitled to infer from this
9 The Express Inn General Manager testified that guests were required to show ID
and be 18 years old to rent a room.
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circumstantial evidence that Sims was providing fraudulent identification for
Haynes to give to a minor (Jane Doe) so she could rent a room.
With respect to Sims’s argument that the evidence was insufficient to
show beyond a reasonable doubt that he benefitted from or received anything
of value from sex trafficking a minor or that he aided or abetted anyone in
doing so, the Government need not show this benefit element if it
alternatively proves that the defendant “recruits, entices, harbors,
transports, provides, obtains, advertises, maintains, patronizes, or solicits” a
person under the age of 18, knowing the person will be caused to engage in a
sex act.11 The evidence supports a finding that Sims recruited Jane Doe by
directing Mangis to get Haynes a “white girl” to work as a prostitute. His
direction to Janet Doe to have Jane Doe stay with her at the motel to help her
feel more comfortable so she would make money through prostitution also
supports this conclusion that Sims participated in enticing her into
The evidence also supports the conspiracy conviction. Sims knew
about the criminal conduct and voluntarily participated in it when he agreed
to find Haynes a girl to pimp, directed Mangis to do the finding, and directed
one of his girls, Janet Doe, to essentially teach Jane Doe how to prostitute for
Haynes. Furthermore, as discussed previously, circumstantial evidence
showed that Sims, in concert with Haynes, was a source of fraudulent
identification for Jane Doe. Thus, a rational trier of fact could certainly
10 See United States v. Phea, 755 F.3d 255, 260 (5th Cir. 2015) (acknowledging that
the lack of proper identification is some evidence that a jury can consider to conclude that
a defendant recklessly disregarded a minor victim’s age).
11 See § 1591(a)(1).
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conclude that Sims, at least tacitly, voluntarily participated in Jane Doe’s
trafficking with Mangis and Haynes.
C. Admissibility of the Rap Videos
Sims argues that rap videos admitted at trial were unfairly prejudicial
and should have been excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 403.12 He
contends that the lyrics to the music in the videos, which referred to women
as “bitches” and “whores” and glorified the pimp lifestyle, including
designer clothes, violence, weapons, money, drugs, jewelry, and “selling
white bitches,” were fictional and did not depict his real life. At trial, the
Government played three rap videos by TSF—“7:30,” “ALot of That,” and
“Remix”—and questioned witnesses about the identities of the people in the
videos and the phrases and imagery used in them.
Under Rule 403, relevant evidence may be excluded if “its probative
value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following:
unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay,
wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.”13 A district
court’s ruling as to Rule 403 is reviewed “with an especially high level of
deference to the district court, with reversal called for only rarely and only
when there has been a clear abuse of discretion.”14 Courts apply Rule 403
12 Although a specific objection based on Rule 403 was not made at trial, Sims did
argue in pretrial briefing that he objected to the videos as prejudicial under Rule 403.
Because the district court considered this evidentiary issue several times and requested
briefing on the issue, the fact that Sims argued Rule 403 during the course of litigating this
evidentiary issue apprised the judge of the Rule 403 objection. See United States v. Polasek,
162 F.3d 878, 883 (5th Cir. 1998). Thus, the Rule 403 issue is properly preserved for this
13 FED. R. EVID. 403.
14 United States v. Dillon, 532 F.3d 379, 387 (5th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted).
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sparingly,15 and the rule is “not designed to even out the weight of the
evidence.”16 “Rule 403’s major function is limited to excluding matter of
scant or cumulative probative force, dragged in by the heels for the sake of its
prejudicial effect.”17 “Any error in admitting such evidence is subject to
harmless error review, and reversal is not required unless there is a
reasonable possibility that the improperly admitted evidence contributed to
The admissibility of rap videos is an issue of first impression in our
circuit. However, other circuits have analyzed the admissibility of rap videos
under Rule 403. The general conclusion from courts that have considered
this type of evidence is that explicit rap videos are probative and outweigh
substantial prejudice when the defendant performs the song, describes events
closely related to the crime charged, and the evidence is not cumulative.19
15 United States v. Fields, 483 F.3d 313, 354 (5th Cir. 2007).
16 Baker v. Canadian Nat’l / Ill. Cent. R.R., 536 F.3d 357, 369 (5th Cir. 2008)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
17 Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
18 United States v. Williams, 620 F.3d 483, 492 (5th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted).
19 See United States v. Belfast, 611 F.3d 783, 793, 820 (11th Cir. 2010) (finding no
abuse of discretion when defendant performed the song and described violence and killing
that was pertinent to defendant’s charges under the Torture Act); United States v. Gamory,
635 F.3d 480. 485–93 (11th Cir. 2011) (finding abuse of discretion in admitting videos
performed by a non-defendant that corroborated the defendant’s general lifestyle but were
cumulative of other testimony and highly prejudicial due to the violence, profanity, and
general lawlessness); United States v. Stuckey, 253 F. App’x 468, 473–82 (6th Cir. 2007)
(unpublished) (finding no abuse of discretion in admission of rap lyrics that described
killing snitches and Government witnesses “wrapping them in blankets” and “dumping
their bodies in the street,” which was exactly what the Government accused the defendant
of doing); United States v. Hankton, 2016 WL 10950447 (E.D. La. 2016) (admitting one rap
video but not another in a RICO murder in aid of racketeering case where the admissible
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In this case, Sims performs in all three videos. Regarding the song,
“7:30,” Mangis testified that 7:30 was made shortly after Sims was arrested
for sex trafficking a minor. In 7:30, one verse contains the lyrics “While you
was trying to be a top draft pick,” and then after a few lines says, “N[***a]
trying to put the feds on me, but they won’t put me with the dead homies.”
Mangis testified that these lyrics were about Haynes, the college football star
trying to go to the NFL, who got Sims wrapped up in the present federal case.
Given the timing of this song, the lyrics that describe the facts of this case,
and the fact that Sims was in the video, we cannot say that the district court
abused its discretion in admitting this video. This video connects Sims to
Haynes in this particular case, and it depicts the use of firearms, which was
highly relevant for the government’s case on Count 3, the force charge.
In the video for “The Remix,” Sims and Sauce Walka flash guns and
money while rapping about violence and pimping, generally. Mangis testified
that the song was about Sims’s lifestyle. Similarly, “ALot of That” talks
about “selling white bitches” and how rich and famous the performers are.
The video depicts drug use and weapons. Although these videos speak only
generally to the pimping lifestyle and are cumulative of testimony in that
respect, the violence and weapons depicted in the videos are relevant to the
force charge—that Sims sex trafficked by force, fraud, or coercion. We are
not persuaded the district court abused its discretion in admitting these two
videos. However, even if the district court erred in admitting these two
video described a shooting that was the subject of the charge and the inadmissible video
only generally referenced that the crime was on the news).
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videos, we are satisfied that the videos were not harmful to the defense, and
any error was harmless.20
D. The Leadership Role
Sims argues that the district court erred in imposing a four-level
enhancement for hisleadership role in the offense under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a).
He contends that there was no evidence adduced at trial that he told anyone
to recruit an underage minor to prostitute, that he directed Jane Doe’s sexual
conduct, that he directed Haynes to bring Jane Doe or any underage minor
to Houston, or that he even spoke with Jane Doe. He contends further that
statements in the PSR regarding his leadership role were not supported by
trial testimony and were not reliable due to their inclusion in the PSR alone.
Sims preserved this issue by objecting to this enhancement before
sentencing. The district court overruled the objection. Generally, the finding
of an aggravating role is reviewed for clear error and “need only be supported
by a preponderance of the evidence.”21
“If the defendant was an organizer or leader of a criminal activity that
involved five or more participants or was otherwise extensive,” his offense
level is increased by four levels.22 Factors relevant to the determination of
whether a defendant qualifies as an organizer or leader under § 3B1.1(a)
include: (1) the degree to which the defendant exercised decision-making
authority; (2) the nature of the defendant’s participation in the offense’s
commission; (3) the recruitment of accomplices; (4) the defendant’s claim of
20 See U.S. v McCann, 613 F.3d 486, 501 (5th Cir. 2010) (“[E]ven if the district
court abused its discretion in admitting the text, any such error would have been
21 United States v. Fillmore, 889 F.3d 249, 255 (5th Cir. 2018).
22 § 3B1.1(a).
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a right to a larger share of the crime’s fruits; (5) the degree of the defendant’s
participation in planning or organizing the offense; (6) the nature and scope
of the illegal activity; and (7) the degree of control and authority the
defendant exercised over others.23 A defendant’s role in the criminal activity
“may be deduced inferentially from available facts.”24
Similar evidence that supports the convictions, as well as additional
statements in the PSR, support the application of § 3B1.1(a) on clear-error
review. Trial testimony regarding Sims’s directive to Mangis to find a “white
girl” for Haynes and Sims’s directive to Janet Doe to allow Jane Doe to stay
with her to help her become a prostitute and make her more comfortable and
learn to earn money support the PSR’s findings regarding Sims’s leadership
role and his decision-making authority and participation in planning.25
Uncontradicted facts provided in the PSR, as well as trial testimony itself,
indicate that, at a minimum, Sims had a leadership role over Jane Doe, as
described above; Haynes, who was being encouraged by Sims to become a
pimp and who was being taught about pimping by Sims; Mangis, who was
Sims’s girlfriend and employee; Deszmann Broussard (known as
“Lucciani”) who drove Haynes to retrieve Jane Doe; and Janet Doe and
Cassandra Cabrales, who were sex workers for Sims.26 In light of the
foregoing, trial testimony and the PSR support the § 3B1.1 enhancement by
23 § 3B1.1, comment. (n.4).
24 United States v. Guzman-Reyes, 853 F.3d 260, 265 (5th Cir. 2017) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
25 § 3B1.1, comment. (n.4).
26 § 3B1.1, comment. (n.4).
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a preponderance of the evidence, and thus Sims has not demonstrated clear
Outcome: For the above reasons, we AFFIRM the conviction and sentence.