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Accused Pimp Gets Second Chance Thanks to Flawed Jury Instruction

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By Dyanna Quizon, Esq. on January 27, 2012 9:04 AM

A Burnsville man convicted of pimping a teenage girl in the Twin Cities is getting a second chance at presenting his case in court. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the jury instructions given at Arthur Chappell's original trial for sex trafficking were so flawed that it warranted throwing out his original verdict.

"Considering the magnitude of this plain and prejudicial error, we conclude that failing to correct the error would seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings," the Eighth Circuit wrote.

The 39-year-old Chappell is accused of recruiting a 17-year-old Twin Cities girl to perform sex acts for money in 2007. The girl also allegedly told police he threatened and sexually assaulted her. He was convicted and sentenced to 336 months in prison for sex trafficking of a minor.

During his trial, however, the district court had instructed the jury that it could find Chappell guilty if he knew or acted in reckless disregard of the fact that the person he recruited was younger than 18.

The Eighth Circuit found that the instruction was erroneously made since the "reckless disregard" language was taken from a 2008 amendment to the statute of sex trafficking of a minor, and did not apply to Chappell's 2007 case. In 2007, the statute only used the "knowingly" standard.

It was an arguably lucky break for Chappell, and an example of the necessity for legal practitioners to keep abreast of the rapidly-changing laws. Ironically, Chappell did not object to, and may have even preferred, the "reckless disregard" language over the government's proposed "deliberate indifference" instruction, according to the Eighth Circuit's opinion. Either way, Arthur Chappell will get another chance to defend himself against the allegations in court.

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