NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN WEST'S HAWAII REPORTS AND PACIFIC REPORTER
APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE THIRD CIRCUIT KONA DIVISION (CASE NO. 3P711-1171)
Robert D.S. Kim for Defendant-Appellant.
Jason R. Kwiat, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, County of Hawai'i, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Fujise, Presiding Judge, Leonard and Reifurth, JJ.
SUMMARY DISPOSITION ORDER
Defendant-Appellant Jacques Raymond Monteil (Monteil) appeals from the Notice of Entry of Judgment and/or Order, entered on January 10, 2012 in the District Court of the Third Circuit, Kona Division (District Court) Monteil was found guilty of Prostitution, in violation of Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) § 712-1200(1) (1993 and Supp. 2013).
Upon careful review of the record and the briefs submitted by the parties and having given due consideration to the arguments advanced and the issues raised by the parties, we resolve Monteil's points of error as follows and affirm.
At base, Monteil challenges the sufficiency of the evidence presented at trial. Monteil claims the District Court erred by finding that the term "GFE" as used in this case meant engaging in sex as a boyfriend and girlfriend without contraceptives, that there was no agreement to pay a fee to another to engage in sexual conduct because the term "GFE" is uniformly recognized by federal courts to mean "good faith estimate, " there is no legally recognized definition of the term "GFE" in Hawai'i, the term "GFE" is not a commonly understood slang term, and the term "GFE experience" was used (not "GFE") and "GFEE" is a recognized acronym for "good fun everywhere experience." Monteil contends there was insufficient evidence to convict him because there was no evidence that he paid, agreed to pay, or offered to pay a fee to another to engage in sexual conduct. Monteil also contends that the District Court erred by finding that he did pay a fee to engage in sexual conduct with another person because there was no evidence that any funds or money was paid.
(1) With regard to the District Court's finding that use of the term "GFE" was sufficient to convey the intent to engage in sex for a fee, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support such a finding. "A finding of fact is clearly erroneous when (1) the record lacks substantial evidence to support the finding, or (2) despite substantial evidence in support of the finding, the appellate court is nonetheless left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made." State v. Locquiao, 100 Hawai'i 195, 203, 58 P.3d 1242, 1250 (2002) (citation omitted).
Officer Chad Taniyama (Officer Taniyama) conducted the sting operation on behalf of the Hawai'i Police Department in this case. He testified that he placed an advertisement on the website "backpage.com" for escort services. He engaged in email correspondence with a person responding to this advertisement. In the course of this correspondence and in response to Officer Taniyama's question "what kind of party u want, " the person responded, "gfe experience for an hour or two." Officer Taniyama replied that, "my party for a hour will b $300" and the person agreed, writing, "k . . . .perfect then." Monteil appeared at the time and place later specified in emails. Officer Taniyama testified that the term "GFE" has a literal meaning of girlfriend experience, but that the meaning of girlfriend experience within the context of the escort industry was the equivalent of having sex as boyfriend and girlfriend without contraceptives, and Monteil agreed to an amount of money in exchange for this experience.
Monteil argues that there are many other definitions for the acronym GFE, including "good faith estimate" that he testified he was familiar with as a realtor and that he was not familiar with the term's meaning in the "prostitute world." However, even assuming that there are other meanings for the term and that the meaning testified to by Officer Taniyama has not been recognized by the courts of Hawai'i as Monteil argues, Officer Taniyama testified that GFE is understood as referring to unprotected sex in the escort context, and when Monteil used the term in that context, it was to convey that meaning. The District Court credited Officer Taniyama's testimony. Moreover, the context of the email exchange supported Officer Taniyama's testimony. "It is well-settled that an appellate court will not pass upon issues dependent upon the credibility of witnesses and the weight of the evidence; this is the province of the trier of fact." State v. Mattiello, 90 Hawai'i 255, 259, 978 P.2d 693, 697 (1999) (citation, internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). See also State v. Connally, 79 Hawai'i 123, 126-27, 899 P.2d 406, 409-10 (App. 1995) (Officer's testimony regarding the meaning of a term and other circumstances of the offense was sufficient to support conviction for prostitution). When the evidence adduced at trial is considered in the strongest light for the prosecution, State v. Richie, 88 Hawai'i 19, 33, 960 P.2d 1227, 1241 (1998) (citation omitted), there was substantial evidence as to every material element of the offense charged to support Monteil's conviction. Id.
Finally, we reject Monteil's argument that the District Court found Monteil actually paid a fee to another to engage in sexual conduct. Rather, taken in context it appears the District Court tracked the language of the statute when finding Monteil guilty. Even if we were to construe the District Court's statement as a finding that Monteil actually paid a fee and such a finding is erroneous, it is harmless because there was evidence of Monteil's agreement to pay a fee to engage in sexual conduct with another person which is also a violation of HRS § 712-1200(1) .
(2) Monteil's contention that the District Court convicted him using the preponderance of the evidence rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard is not supported by the record. The District Court stated that "the Court will find that the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly, paid or agreed to pay or offered to pay a fee to another to engage in sexual conduct, " (emphasis added). That the District Court did make a specific finding as to its basis for finding Monteil guilty--that Monteil agreed to pay a fee to another to engage in sexual conduct--further refutes Monteil's argument that the District Court's verdict was ambiguous.
(3) Monteil also cites Rules 23(c) and 32(c)(2) of the Hawaii Rules of Penal Procedure (HRPP) to support his claim that the District Court failed to make specific findings of fact instead of a general finding of guilt. However, Monteil failed to invoke HRPP Rule 23(c) by requesting findings at the time of the District Court's general finding. Moreover, HRPP Rule 32(c) (2) was not violated as the District Court signed and entered a written Notice of Entry of Judgment ...