FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpí, Jr., U.S. District
Jessica E. Earl, Assistant Federal Public Defender, with whom
Eric Alexander Vos, Federal Public Defender, Vivianne M.
Marrero, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Supervisor,
Appeals Section, and Franco L. Pérez-Redondo, Research
and Writing Specialist, were on brief, for appellant.
Francisco A. Besosa-Martínez, Assistant United States
Attorney, with whom Rosa Emilia
Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, and
Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States
Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, were on brief, for
Torruella, Thompson, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
KAYATTA, Circuit Judge.
March 2017, a jury convicted Joel Saldaña-Rivera
("Saldaña") under 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b)
of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in
sexual activity for which Saldaña could be charged
with sexual assault under the laws of Puerto Rico.
Saldaña appeals his conviction, arguing that he could
not have been charged with sexual assault under Puerto Rico
law because the person he tried to entice was an adult
federal agent posing as a minor. Saldaña also
challenges the jury instructions regarding the
government's burden of proof. For the following reasons,
we affirm Saldaña's conviction.
February 2016, Saldaña, an adult using the moniker
"Irresistible," engaged in an online conversation
with an undercover Department of Homeland Security
("DHS") agent. The agent, using the moniker
"JessiRiv," told Saldaña he was an
eleven-year-old girl. The conversation began in an online
chatroom before moving to Kik Messenger, a messaging
application for mobile devices that provides some degree of
anonymity to users.
the conversation, Saldaña sent photographs of himself
to "JessiRiv" and asked her to send photographs
back. Saldaña also asked "JessiRiv" where
her father was and what she was wearing. During the course of
their conversation, Saldaña agreed to meet
"JessiRiv" in person with the understanding that
they would go to her parents' house, have sex, and watch
Saldaña arrived at the location where he thought he
would be meeting an eleven-year-old "JessiRiv," he
instead met the DHS agent and other law enforcement
officials. After being Mirandized and arrested,
Saldaña told the officials that he believed he had
been communicating with an eleven-year-old girl and that he
had gone to the meeting location with the intent to have sex
was indicted with one count of attempted sexual coercion and
enticement of a minor, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
2422(b). He initially pleaded guilty before a magistrate
judge, but he withdrew his guilty plea before the district
court accepted the magistrate judge's report and
recommendation. After he moved unsuccessfully to dismiss the
indictment, the case went to trial "solely," in
Saldaña's words, "to preserve the legal
ruling for appellate review."
trial, the undercover DHS agent, another DHS agent, and a
Puerto Rico Police Department officer testified. The
government also presented screenshots of the conversations
between Saldaña and "JessiRiv." As
Saldaña acknowledges, "the evidence and testimony
of the witnesses went largely uncontested." At the end
of the government's case, Saldaña moved under Rule
29 for a judgment of acquittal, which the district court
denied. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29.
jury found Saldaña guilty of violating section
2422(b). The district court sentenced Saldaña to 120
months' imprisonment, the statutory minimum, to be
followed by ...