Submitted: October 21, 2016
Appeals from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - St. Paul
MURPHY, GRUENDER, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.
convicted Rahmad Lashad Geddes of one count of aiding and
abetting sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion; one
count of aiding and abetting transportation with intent to
engage in prostitution; and one count of being an armed
career criminal in possession of a firearm. Geddes appeals a
number of pre-trial, trial, and post-trial motions on which
the district court ruled in favor of the prosecution. We
January 6, 2014, Geddes traveled from Eau Claire, Wisconsin
to Duluth, Minnesota with a woman named Grace Schreiner.
Schreiner was under the impression that they were traveling
to St. Paul, rather than Duluth, to sell drugs as they had
done in the past. After a brief sojourn in St. Paul, they
drove to Superior, Wisconsin where they checked into a motel
and had sex. Thereafter, the pair drove to Duluth, and Geddes
picked up cocaine from a supplier. Throughout the remainder
of this trip, Geddes was actively involved in selling
cocaine, and Schreiner witnessed Geddes meet another woman to
exchange cocaine for two handguns.
January 7, they drove to Rochester, Minnesota to pick up
Geddes's friend, Shannon Funk. On the return trip, Funk
and Geddes proposed that Schreiner engage in prostitution
upon arriving in Duluth. According to Schreiner's trial
testimony, she felt she had to comply because she would not
be able to return home if she refused. They checked into
another Duluth hotel, and Geddes began cutting the quantity
of cocaine he purchased into distribution amounts. Geddes and
Funk created an advertisement on a website called
Backpage.com with pictures of Schreiner and a telephone
number to call, and Funk gave Schreiner a cellular phone on
which to receive calls. This process culminated in Schreiner
completing two transactions as a prostitute. In the first,
she was paid to perform oral sex on one man at the hotel.
Although the recipient was told this act would cost $120, he
only left $20 on the table in the room. As a result of this
discrepancy, Geddes slapped Schreiner four times in the face.
The second act consisted of an encounter where a man came to
the hotel and paid $20 but then left shortly thereafter
without any sexual activity occurring.
the trip, Geddes refused Schreiner's requests to return
home. The two finally returned to Eau Claire on January 14,
2014. Once Geddes left, Schreiner told her pastor what had
occurred, and he called the police. Geddes was indicted on
three counts: (1) sex trafficking by force, fraud, or
coercion in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591; (2)
transportation to engage in prostitution in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 2421; and (3) being a felon in possession of a
firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). A
superseding indictment was later returned that was the same
as to Counts 1 and 2, but Count 3 was changed to charge
Geddes as an armed career criminal in possession of a
trial, Geddes filed three motions relevant to this appeal.
First, he moved to sever the sex trafficking counts from the
firearm count, arguing that the two instances arose from
different facts and would depend on different witnesses. The
district court denied this motion. Second, Geddes moved to
exclude testimony from the victim of his earlier conviction
for terroristic threats. The government sought to introduce
this evidence as being relevant to show Geddes's intent
on Count 1, and Geddes opposed its introduction as merely
being propensity evidence. The district court allowed the
evidence to be presented subject to a number of limiting
instructions. Finally, Geddes sought to exclude the
government's proposed expert witness on the basis that
her testimony would not help the jury and would be overbroad.
The district court also denied this motion, finding that
Eighth Circuit precedent allowed expert testimony on the
operation of sex trafficking rings. Geddes renewed all of
these motions during trial, and the district court overruled
three-day trial, the jury found Geddes guilty of all three
counts, and the district court sentenced him to 282 months
imprisonment. He brought this appeal challenging all three of
the above rulings and the sufficiency of the evidence to
sustain a conviction on Counts 1 and 2.
first issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in
denying the motion to sever the sex trafficking counts from
the firearm count. This Court reviews the denial of a motion
to sever properly joined counts for an abuse of discretion.
United States v. Erickson, 610 F.3d 1049, 1055 (8th
Cir. 2010). Two or more offenses may be joined for trial
"if the offenses charged-whether felonies or
misdemeanors or both-are of the same or similar character, or
are based on the same act or transaction, or are connected
with or constitute parts of a common scheme or plan."
Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(a). "If the joinder of offenses . . .