This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Johnnie Bloodsaw, Jr.,
Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 00061928
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Elizabeth V. Cutter, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Michael C. Davis, Special Assistant State Public Defender, 1042 Minnesota Building, 46 East Fourth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)
Appellant challenges the admissibility of Spreigl evidence in his trial on prostitution-related charges. In his supplemental pro se brief, he also argues that this appeal should be stayed so that he can file a petition for postconviction relief. Because we find no error in the admission of the Spreigl evidence and no reason to stay the appeal, we affirm.
As part of an undercover prostitution investigation, a male Minneapolis police officer rented a motel room on June 27, 2000, and telephoned an escort service to hire a prostitute.
Trina Brown, who identified herself to the officer as Eve, came to the motel room and negotiated with the officer for the performance of particular sexual acts for various prices. After Brown accepted money, the officer revealed his identity and arrested her.
Brown protested the arrest and said that she was with a police officer named “Johnnie” who was waiting outside in a blue Buick. She said she was just testing him. Johnnie was appellant Johnnie Bloodsaw, Jr.
Officers arrested Bloodsaw and searched his car. They found business cards for out-call services and a hot-dog container on which there was writing pertaining to the motel at which Brown and Bloodsaw were arrested.
At Bloodsaw’s trial for solicitation and promotion of prostitution, Brown testified that she had worked for Bloodsaw as a prostitute on ten or more occasions between January and March 2000. She testified that Bloodsaw initially instructed her on how much to charge for particular sexual acts and that Bloodsaw let her keep her earnings only once. Brown stated that, when the officer’s telephone call came on June 27, 2000, she was with Bloodsaw, that he spoke with the officer and arranged the meeting at the motel, and that he drove her to the motel to meet the “john.”
When Bloodsaw testified in his defense, he denied being involved in prostitution and claimed that he operated a bachelor party and dancing service. He testified that he thought he was taking Brown to the motel to dance.
Over Bloodsaw’s objection, the district court permitted the state to introduce evidence that Bloodsaw had been convicted in 1991 of promoting prostitution. That crime involved a 15-year-old girl whom Bloodsaw drove to various locations at various times to engage in sexual acts for money.
The jury found Bloodsaw guilty of promoting prostitution. In this appeal, Bloodsaw contends that the district court committed reversible error when it admitted evidence of his prior conviction. In his pro se supplemental brief, he contends that the appeal should be stayed so that he can petition for postconviction relief to challenge the district court’s allowance of an amendment of the criminal complaint.
D E C I S I O N
1. Prior Conviction
The state offered evidence of Bloodsaw’s prior conviction under Minn. R. Evid. 404(b), which provides that evidence of other crimes is not admissible to prove character, or conduct in conformity with that character, but it may be admissible to prove other consequential facts, such as intent, knowledge, and plan. Rule 404(b) evidence is commonly referred to in Minnesota as Spreigl evidence, after the seminal case of State v. Spreigl, 272 Minn. 488, 139 N.W.2d 167 (1965), and its admissibility depends on various preconditions. Bloodsaw contends that the preconditions of notice, proof of a categorical exception, relevance, and probative value were not met. The admission of Spreigl evidence lies within the sound discretion of the district court and will not be reversed on appeal absent a clear abuse of that discretion. State v. Spaeth, 552 N.W.2d 187, 193 (Minn. 1996).
Bloodsaw argues that the state was required to give him written notice of the specific prior crime that would be offered against him and of the particular rule 404(b) exception into which evidence of that other crime fit. Spreigl, 272 Minn. at 488, 139 N.W.2d at 167. See also State v. Billstrom, 276 Minn. 174, 179, 149 N.W.2d 281, 284 (1967). Although the state gave notice of the prior crime, it did not designate in that notice a particular rule 404(b) exception under which evidence of that crime might have been admissible, but rather simply listed in boilerplate fashion all of the exceptions specified in the rule. See United States v. Kern, 12 F.3d 122, 125 n.3 (8th Cir. 1993) (focus should not be on laundry-list approach but on the specific purpose for which evidence is to be offered). However, in a memorandum that the state served upon Bloodsaw prior to the trial, the state identified the applicable rule 404(b) exceptions to be intent, plan, knowledge, and absence of mistake or accident.
The state’s disclosure through its memorandum of particular applicable rule 404(b) exceptions satisfied any notice requirement that might have been a precondition to the admissibility of evidence of the prior crime. State v. Bolte, 530 N.W.2d 191, 197 (Minn. 1995) (notice requirement designed to give defendant opportunity to prepare for trial and to avoid unexpected testimony). Furthermore, under the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, a codification of the Spreigl-Billstrom notice requirement expressly excepts prior convictions: “The notice need not include offenses for which the defendant has been previously prosecuted.” Minn. R. Crim. P. 7.02. Thus, Bloodsaw’s argument would have been without merit even if the state had given no notice whatsoever.
3. Proof of 404(b) Exception
Evidence of another crime can be admitted substantively for a purpose other than to show character, but that purpose must be demonstrated. State v. Kates, 616 N.W.2d 296, 299 (Minn. App. 2000) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. Oct. 26, 2000). Bloodsaw contends that the evidence of his prior crime does not fit any rule 404(b) exception. We disagree.
Bloodsaw’s defense was that he had no knowledge that Brown was going to engage in acts of prostitution when he drove her to the motel to meet a customer of Bloodsaw’s dance service, and that he did not intend that she would do so.
The Spreigl incident showed that Bloodsaw drove a young woman to a motel, told her that some men would come and have sex with her, and required her to give him the money she received for her sexual services. He then waited outside the motel in a vehicle until she finished. This conduct is sufficiently similar to Bloodsaw’s conduct on June 27, 2000, so as to permit an inference of guilty knowledge and intent. See State v. Smith, 541 N.W.2d 584, 589 (Minn. 1996) (evidence that defendant previously actively participated in similar crime admissible to rebut claim of self-defense); State v. Dolbeare, 511 N.W.2d 443, 446 (Minn. 1994) (evidence that defendant was previously involved in club burglary admissible to show method of operation and intent to commit predicate burglary at same club). Because the evidence of Bloodsaw’s prior crime supported inferences as to his knowledge and intent, the evidence satisfied two of the express exceptions in rule 404(b).
Bloodsaw argues that the evidence of his prior crime was not relevant to the current prosecution because the prior crime occurred nearly ten years before this case, took place at a different location, involved a different victim, and involved greater misconduct.
As Bloodsaw correctly acknowledged, the greater the similarity of the other-crime evidence to the crime charged in time, place, or modus operandi, the greater the chance that the other crime is relevant. State v. Frisinger, 484 N.W.2d 27, 31 (Minn. 1992).
The two crimes are substantially similar in modus operandi. Both involve Bloodsaw as the principal of a business involving the transportation of a woman to a motel to meet with a man there and to perform a service of some sort for money, which the woman is required to deliver to Bloodsaw who waits in a vehicle outside the motel. The only controverted issue is that of the nature of the service the woman provides in the motel room.
There is a lengthy gap between the prior conviction in 1991 and the current crime in 2000. But even with the passage of substantial time since the Spreigl offense, the evidence may still be admissible if the other attributes of relevancy are clear. State v. Drieman, 457 N.W.2d 703, 710 (Minn. 1990) (a 9 ˝-year-old offense was admissible, notwithstanding lack of proximity in time or place, where relevancy was otherwise clear).
We conclude that the modus operandi used in both incidents presents a strong and clear demonstration of relevancy, so that the time gap does not preclude admissibility of the Spreigl evidence. Furthermore, Bloodsaw was incarcerated for seven of the years following the Spreigl offense and thus had no opportunity during that time to commit similar crimes.
5. Probative Value
The admissibility of Spreigl evidence must also be considered in light of Minn. R. Evid. 403, which states that “evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.” When balancing the probative value of Spreigl evidence against the potential for unfair prejudice, the district court must consider how necessary the Spreigl evidence is to the state’s case. State v. Reckinger, 603 N.W.2d 331, 334 (Minn. App. 1999). The district court should admit the Spreigl evidence only if other evidence is weak or inadequate, and the Spreigl evidence is needed as support for the state’s burden of proof. Id.
The state had no direct evidence of any act of prostitution or of Bloodsaw’s knowledge and intent except Brown’s testimony. The evidence linking Bloodsaw to alleged out-call services and to the motel in question are circumstances that reasonably would support Bloodsaw’s defense that he was operating only a bachelor party and dance service. Thus, without the Spreigl evidence, the state’s case was not particularly strong. The Spreigl evidence was probative on the essential issues of knowledge and intent and, when introduced for the limited purpose of proving those issues, the danger of unfair prejudice did not outweigh the probative value of the evidence.
6. Stay of Appeal
In his pro se supplemental brief, Bloodsaw argues that this appeal should be stayed and that he should be permitted to file a petition for postconviction relief grounded on his allegation that the district court improperly allowed the state to amend the criminal complaint against him.
We find no basis for staying this appeal, and we make no determination as to the propriety of the amendment of the criminal complaint. Furthermore, we do not intend by our decision on the Spreigl issue to foreclose any other appropriate and permissible relief to which Bloodsaw may be entitled on issues not before us.