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State v. Butler

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

April 3, 2017


          VERELLEN, C.J.

         The State charged Ivory Tyquan Butler with promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor. Months before trial, the State provided the defense with business records and a certification from the records custodian. Although the State did not give the required written notice of its intent to rely on the preauthentication provisions of RCW 10.96.030, Butler had a fair opportunity to challenge the business records. Therefore, Butler was not prejudiced by the lack of written notice. Alternatively, any error was harmless in view of the overwhelming evidence of Butler's commercial sexual exploitation of a 14-year-old girl.

         The presence of a second jail officer in the courtroom during a portion of the victim's testimony did not deprive Butler of his right to a fair trial. The second officer was not conspicuously close to Butler, did not obstruct Butler's view of the witness, did not attract attention, and was not present for the remainder of the victim's testimony. Additionally, the trial court instructed the jury about a routine change in security personnel.

         We affirm.


          N.C. was 14 years old when she first met 22-year-old Ivory Butler. N.C. skipped school and spent the day with Butler. N.C. 's mother found out she had skipped school and punished her.

          N.C. ran away from home, and Butler picked her up. He took her to a motel room and arranged for her to meet men at the motel for sex. She gave the money she received to Butler.

         Text messages to and from N.C. on Butler's cellphone describe their relationship and discuss N.C. selling sexual services and giving the payments to Butler. After his arrest, Butler admitted the phone was his and that he had the phone in his possession the day police found N.C. at the motel. N.C. also testified that she had memorized that same phone number as Butler's number. Recordings of Butler's jail phone calls established that he called his own phone number from jail several times. After failed attempts, someone did answer, and Butler asked, "Why haven't you been [answering] my phone?"[1] And the individual he spoke to referred to the phone as "your phone."[2]

         Detective Raymond Unsworth found Internet ads on for female escort services with Butler's phone number listed as the contact number. The ads included photographs of the body, but not the face, of a young woman. The ads alluded to sexual services that would be provided, with the prices that would be charged. When Detective Unsworth showed the photos in the ads to N.C. 's mother; she recognized N.C.

         An undercover detective responded to the Backpage ads by contacting Butler's phone number. The detective, posing as a customer, arranged to obtain sexual services for $300 from a woman in room 201 of the New Horizon Motel. Police found N.C. in that room, together with a disposable cellphone under the mattress, condoms in a Crown Royal bag, and a knife in the bedside table drawer. N.C. testified that Butler provided these items for her use. In Butler's phone, the contact name assigned to the disposable phone found in the motel room was "Money Baby Money Baby."[3] Text messages between Butler's phone and the disposable phone found in the motel room included details about providing sexual services for money.[4] The messages also included instructions from Butler to N.C. to discard the phone in the toilet if the police came.

         Butler was arrested and charged under RCW9.68A.101 with promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor.

         At trial, the State sought to admit three exhibits that are at issue on appeal. Exhibits 3 and 4 relate to Backpage ads for escort services. Exhibit 5 is the certification from the Backpage records custodian.

         Detective Unsworth testified that he found the ads on Backpage's public website. Each ad included photographs of a young woman, information about the sexual services that could be provided, the price, and Butler's telephone number as the contact. Exhibits 3 and 4 compiled the ads that were online, more photographs that Detective Unsworth had not seen online, the date each ad was posted, and the poster's fictitious name, mailing address, and e-mail address. Backpage provided the certification from its records custodian in response to a search warrant for business records. The State provided these exhibits to Butler months before trial as part of discovery. The trial court admitted the exhibits over Butler's objection.

         During trial, Butler was in custody and a jail officer was present in the courtroom. When N.C. concluded her testimony, Butler moved for a mistrial, arguing that during a portion of N.C. 's testimony, an additional jail officer was present and "was shielding the witness from [Butler]" and the officer made "it obvious to the jurors."[5] The court described the event:

Very little that happened with the second officer entering the courtroom the Court believes created any sort of alarm for dangerousness by the defendant or even particular tension in the courtroom, and the Court treated it as though it were routine. The defense didn't raise a motion to alert the Court to any prejudice or possible prejudice that they believe it produced. The officer was unobtrusive. He sat directly in front of the witness stand but some 20 feet away. He was eight feet away from the defendant-I would say that's a fair estimate-and six from the defense counsel. He was in a position to prevent any harm, but he also was not obtrusive. No weapon was displayed. There was no fidgetiness. There was nothing to suggest that this was anything other than just another security measure.[6]

         The court also noted that there was not a second officer present when N.C. testified the next morning. The court denied Butler's motion. Jail staff subsequently informed both counsel and the court that the additional officer appeared because of a routine change in personnel. The trial court gave a limiting instruction conveying that information:

Security staff in the courtroom has not been deliberately heightened at any time during this trial. Additional security staff may have appeared because of a routine change in personnel. The jury should not make any assumptions or draw any conclusions based upon the presence of security staff.[7]

         The jury found Butler guilty as charged, and the trial court imposed a standard range sentence.

         Butler appeals.


         I. Evident ...

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