FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF BERNALILLO COUNTY Briana H.
Zamora, District Judge
H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM Walter Hart,
Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee
Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender B. Douglas Wood III,
Assistant Appellate Defender Santa Fe, NM for Appellant
J. VARGAS, JUDGE.
Defendant Sharoski Jackson appeals his convictions for human
trafficking, promoting prostitution, accepting earnings from
a prostitute, contributing to a delinquency of a minor, and
conspiracy. The charges arose from Defendant's
interactions with a minor, B.G., in early 2013. At trial, the
State presented its theory that B.G. was engaged in
commercial sexual activity at the urging and with the
assistance of Defendant. The jury found Defendant guilty of
Defendant appeals, raising four points of error. First,
Defendant claims that the district court erred by failing to
properly instruct the jury that to convict him of human
trafficking, it must find that he knew his victim was under
the age of eighteen. Second, Defendant contends that the
district court abused its discretion by admitting text
messages without requiring the State to first lay a proper
foundation for their admission. Third, Defendant argues that
there was insufficient evidence to convict him of the charged
crimes. Finally, Defendant insists that the district court
abused its discretion when it denied his motion for a new
trial, based on new evidence that B.G. purportedly lied
during her testimony at trial. We discuss each of
Defendant's claims of error in turn. Finding no error, we
Human Trafficking and Knowledge
Defendant argues that the instructions submitted to the jury
were inadequate because the jury should have been instructed
that to convict Defendant, it must find Defendant knew B.G.
was under the age of eighteen when the acts giving rise to
the human trafficking conviction occurred. This is a novel
issue that New Mexico courts have not yet
considered—whether knowledge of the victim's age is
an essential element of human trafficking under NMSA 1978,
Section 3 0-52-1(A)(2) (2008). We begin our analysis by
setting forth our standard of review, which requires a plain
language reading of the statute. We then consider
interpretations of similar statutory language from other
jurisdictions to arrive at the conclusion that knowledge of
the victim's age is not an element of human trafficking
under Section 3 0-52-1(A)(2).
Statutory interpretation presents "a question of law
that we review de novo." State v. Parvilus,
2014-NMSC-028, ¶ 15, 332 P.3d 281. When interpreting
statutes, we seek "to give effect to the intent of the
Legislature." Id. ¶ 15; State ex rel.
Helman v. Gallegos, 1994-NMSC-023, ¶ 23, 117 N.M.
346, 871 P.2d 1352 ("[I]t is part of the essence of
judicial responsibility to search for and effectuate the
legislative intent—the purpose or
object—underlying the statute."). The first
indicator of the Legislature's intent is the plain
language of the statute. State v. Almanzar,
2014-NMSC-001, ¶ 14, 316 P.3d 183 (acknowledging that
courts give "words their ordinary meaning, unless the
Legislature indicates a different one was intended").
"When a statute contains language which is clear and
unambiguous, we must give effect to that language and refrain
from further statutory interpretation." State v.
Jonathan M, 1990-NMSC-046, ¶ 4, 109 N.M. 789, 791
P.2d 64, superseded by statute as stated in State v.
DeAngelo, 2015-NMSC-033, 360 P.3d 1151.
Our human trafficking statute provides:
A. Human trafficking consists of a person knowingly:
(1) recruiting, soliciting, enticing, transporting or
obtaining by any means another person with the intent or
knowledge that force, fraud or coercion will be used to
subject the person to labor, services or commercial sexual
(2) recruiting, soliciting, enticing, transporting or
obtaining by any means a person under the age of eighteen
years with the intent or knowledge that the person will be
caused to engage in commercial sexual activity; or
(3) benefiting, financially or by receiving anything of
value, from the labor, services or commercial sexual activity
of another person with the knowledge that force, fraud or
coercion was used to obtain the labor, services or commercial
Initially, we note that the Legislature offset
"knowingly" from the remainder of the definition of
human trafficking, making it applicable to all three subparts
of Section 30-52-1(A). Defendant argues that, with regard to
Section 30-52-1(A)(2), the "knowingly" requirement
refers to the entire phrase, "recruiting, soliciting,
enticing, transporting, or obtaining by any means a
person under the age of eighteen years." Applying
the plain language rule and utilizing rules of grammar, we
conclude I that the more persuasive interpretation of the
statute is that the Legislature intended that the
"knowingly" requirement modify "recruiting,
soliciting, enticing, transporting or obtaining" as they
are used in Section 30-52-1(A)(1) and (2) and
"benefiting" as it is used in Section
30-52-1(A)(3). See Wilson v. Denver, 1998-NMSC-016,
¶ 16, 125 N.M. 308, 961 P.2d 153 (acknowledging that
application of the plain language rule allows us to consider
and "rely on rules of grammar to aid our construction
... of a statute"); see also State v. Johnson,
2001-NMSC-001, ¶ 13, 130 N.M. 6, 15 P.3d 1233 (applying
"rules of grammar" when construing statute).
Indeed, "knowingly" cannot properly modify "a
person under the age of [eighteen] years." See
William A. Sabin, The Gregg Reference Manual 667
(11th ed. 2011) (explaining that an adverbial clause
functions as an adverb to the main, independent clause and
may modify a verb, adverb, or adjective, but not a noun).
Common usage and generally accepted principles of grammar, as
well as the structure and language of the statute, indicate
the Legislature intended that a jury determine whether any
"recruiting, soliciting, enticing, transporting, or
obtaining" was done knowingly, rather than whether the
defendant knew the age of the person being recruited,
solicited, enticed, transported, or obtained.
Indeed, even in instances where the language of a statute is
unambiguous, "a statutory subsection . . . must be
considered in reference to the statute as a whole."
State v. Rivera,2004-NMSC-001, ¶ 13, 134 N.M.
768, 82 P.3d 939 (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted) (noting courts closely examine the statute's
overall structure and its function within a comprehensive
legislative scheme). Considering the statute as a whole, we
note that, although the Legislature used the term
"knowingly" in Section 30-52-1 (A)'s definition
of human trafficking, it did not include any ...