Wisconsin Court Denies Ineffective Assistance of Counsel for Man Charged with Soliciting Child Prostitution and Pornography

By Reddin & Singer

Girl with Smartphone

All criminal defendants are entitled to effective counsel under the United States Constitution. This may be either a paid attorney or a public defender for defendants who cannot afford an attorney. When a defendant has been convicted of a state or federal crime but feels that he or she did not receive a fair trial because a private attorney or public defender did not do an adequate job of representing the defendant, an appeal on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel may be allowed. Reaching the threshold of ineffective assistance of counsel, however, can be difficult to accomplish.

In State of Wisconsin v. Warfield, Mr. Warfield was charged with sexual exploitation of a child and soliciting a child for prostitution. According to the State, Mr. Warfield posted ads soliciting interest in child prostitution and child pornography on a website. The State set up a sting operation to catch Warfield in the act. Detective Callaway texted the number related to the advertisement and corresponded with Warfield to express his false interest in meeting with a child or viewing child pornography. Warfield provided Detective Callaway with rates for his services via text as well. The substance of these texts was introduced as evidence at trial, along with testimony concerning the numbers texted and narrative elements of the Detective’s report. Warfield’s attorney did not object to the admission of this evidence. During jury deliberations, the jurors specifically requested these exhibits.

Warfield was ultimately found guilty and filed a post-conviction motion asserting that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his attorney failed to object to the admission of the typed texts into evidence. The lower court denied Warfield’s argument, finding that his trial counsel was not ineffective because it was quite likely that the texts would have been admitted even if his counsel had objected and, at most, any objection would likely just have alerted the State to lay a better foundation for the exhibits.

On appeal to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, Warfield renewed his argument of ineffective assistance of counsel, arguing that but for these errors, there was a reasonable probability that the outcome at trial might have been different. The appellate court declined to even consider whether Warfield’s counsel was ineffective, finding that the introduction of the exhibits at trial did not prejudice Warfield’s defense. The court noted that even if the exhibits hadn’t been admitted, “overwhelming evidence linked Warfield to the phone number and text messages at issue,” including Facebook messages between Warfield and a child victim, testimony from Detective Callaway himself, and recovery of the actual cell phone used from Warfield’s hotel room. Accordingly, based on all the evidence presented, the Court determined that it would have been clear to the jury that Warfield was the individual making the texts that Detective Callaway referred to and that there was no reasonable possibility that had the text messages been objected to, the outcome of the jury could have been any different.

If you have been accused of possessing child pornography in Wisconsin, or wish to appeal a child pornography conviction, you should speak with an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. To find out more about the defenses available to you, including possible ineffective assistance of counsel claims, do not hesitate to contact the law offices of Reddin & Singer, LLP online or give us a call at (414) 271-6400.