Case may hang on pending U.S. Supreme Court ruling
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas––The multi-time postponed trial of former humane society executive David Keith Wills on a federal charge of allegedly trafficking a minor for sexual purposes has yet again been rescheduled.
Wills is now set for trial in September 2019, ANIMALS 24-7 has been informed.
Arrested in April 2015, on a warrant describing offenses said to have been committed in 2012-2014, Wills almost seems to have been awaiting trial since the known origin of the phrase “Justice delayed is justice denied,” in Exodus 18:22, the second book of the Torah and the Old Testament, compiled circa 600 BCE.
The September 2019 trial, ANIMALS 24-7 has been assured, will be held in a “special setting,” meaning no other cases will be set for the same courtroom on the same day, “and the Court indicated that the case will go to trial and will no longer be continued,” ANIMALS 24-7 was told by a source close to the prosecution.
The case, involving a child who was just nine years old when the alleged offenses began, has been kept under tight wraps.
The Wills defense team is said to have pursued a strategy of delaying tactics, but has been helped by delays incurred when the prosecution was repeatedly transferred among the multiple Texas jurisdictions in which related offenses allegedly occurred; by the eventual transfer of the case to federal jurisdiction; by Hurricane Harvey, which in 2017 damaged the courthouse where the trial was to have been held just a few weeks later; and by the September 28, 2018 appointment of former federal prosecutor Hugo R. Martinez as Immigration Judge for the Fort Worth Immigration Adjudication Center.
Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court
At that time the Wills trial was rescheduled for February 2019, but the Wills defense team won a further postponement by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that a verdict for the plaintiff in a pending Supreme Court case, Gamble vs. United States, might preclude Wills’ federal prosecution.
Since the various charges brought against Wills in Texas jurisdictions were all dropped in favor of the federal prosecution, Wills would have walked free if the federal prosecution were to be dismissed.
Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 17, 2019 upheld precedent in Gamble vs. United States, meaning that the Wills trial should now proceed on schedule.
Gamble vs. U.S.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Gamble vs. United States on December 10, 2018.
Convicted of second-degree robbery in Alabama in 2008 and 2013, plaintiff Terance Gamble was found during a 2015 traffic stop to have a gun in his car.
Summarized CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue, “Federal and state law [both] forbid a convicted felon from possessing a firearm. After convictions in both federal and state courts, Gamble said that his dual convictions prolonged his incarceration by three years.”
Gamble argued to the U.S. Court of Appeals that his federal conviction violated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which holds that a person cannot be tried twice for the same offense. The U.S. Supreme Court has now disagreed.
Win for Gamble would be win for Trump
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled against Gamble, writing that “prosecution in federal and state court for the same conduct does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause because the state and federal governments are separate sovereigns.” This is the position previous courts have taken, including the U.S. Supreme Court, for at least 170 years.
Gamble then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the “separate sovereigns doctrine,” which has long troubled strict constitutional conservatives as a purported variance from the original intent of the Fifth Amendment.
More immediately, the “separate sovereigns doctrine” allows individual states to prosecute associates of U.S. President Donald Trump, even if Trump pardons them for crimes for which they have been convicted in federal courts.
This was the aspect of Gamble vs. United States that attracted the most mainstream media attention as the case proceded, especially since the nine member U.S. Supreme Court now includes two Trump appointees plus constitutional conservative Clarence Thomas. Thomas, however, and one of those appointees, Brett Kavenaugh, held with the majority.
Justices Ruth Ginsburg and Neil Gorsuch filed dissenting opinions.
Memo from U.S. solicitor general
According to a “Memorandum for the United States” issued in January 2019 by U.S. solicitor general Noel J. Francisco, “Petitioner [Wills] is awaiting trial on one count of aiding and abetting the sex trafficking of a minor under the age of 14, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1), (b)(1), and (c) (2012 & Supp. V 2017), and 18 U.S.C. 2; and one count of conspiracy to commit such an offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1594(c), and 18 U.S.C. 1591(a)(1) and (c) (2012 & Supp. V 2017).
“Petitioner has moved to dismiss those charges, arguing that the Double Jeopardy Clause bars his pending federal prosecution on the theory that Texas has already ‘punish[ed]” him for the same underlying conduct by subjecting him to allegedly onerous conditions of pretrial release on state charges that Texas has since dismissed.’”
Wills previously made an argument similar to that of Terence Gamble in a petition to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but lost.
“Should be held pending decision in Gamble”
Continued Francisco, “The court of appeals affirmed the denial of petitioner [Wills]’s motion to dismiss based solely on the long-held understanding that the Double Jeopardy Clause does not prohibit successive prosecutions by separate sovereign governments.”
However, advised Francisco, “Because the Court’s decision in Gamble may affect the proper disposition of [Wills’ appeal], the petition in this case should be held pending the decision in Gamble and then disposed of as appropriate in light of that decision.”
Francisco, a 2018 Trump appointee, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a vote along partisan lines, 50-47. He was previously best known for defending former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, a Republican, in a 2016 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court threw out McDonnell’s multiple convictions for alleged bribery.
Even if the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Gamble, Wills’ petition for the federal charges against him to be dismissed would incorporate a novel legal theory which might not be favored by the courts––if Francisco does not dismiss the Wills case first.
In the Gamble case, Gamble was tried, convicted and punished both by the state of Alabama and the U.S. federal government. Wills has not yet been tried at either the state or the federal level.
The Wills petition argues that pretrial custody amounts to the same thing as having been tried and convicted.
There is some precedent for such a ruling, in cases where individuals have been held in pretrial custody for an excessive length of time, through no fault of that person’s own.
This, however, is why the writ of habeas corpus exists: to order the speedy trial or release of defendants.
In Wills’ case, the chief reason for repeated delays of trial has been his own defense team’s strategy.
Wills was formerly president of the Nashua Humane Society, the Michigan Humane Society, and the National Society for Animal Protection. Wills later was vice president for investigations at the Humane Society of the United States.
Wills left each position amid allegations of misuse of funds.
Previous allegations of sexual misconduct arose at the Nashua Humane Society and the Humane Society of the U.S., but did not result in criminal charges.
The case against Wills for “continuous sexual abuse of a child” and “continuous trafficking of a child” originated when Wills was arrested in Rockport, Texas, on April 13, 2015. The warrant alleged offenses in Cameron County, Texas, that were said to have occurred between July 2012 and November 2013.
Parallel charges against Wills were filed later in 2015 in Nueces and San Patricio counties, also in Texas, alleging offenses involving the same parties said to have occurred between November 2013 and December 2014.
All of the state charges were eventually dropped, making way for prosecution of the federal indictment issued on June 29, 2017, which carries a greater likelihood that Wills, 66, will spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.
Co-defendant pleaded guilty
Arrested in Corpus Christi, Texas, five days after the indictment was issued, Wills “was permitted release upon posting a $5 million bond,” U.S. district court spokesperson Angela Dodge told ANIMALS 24-7.
Wills’ co-defendant, Maria Candelaria Losoya, 57, of Brownsville, Texas, pleaded guilty on August 2, 2017 to one federal count of trafficking a minor for sexual purposes, but has yet to be sentenced.
The apparent plea bargain settlement of the case against Losoya suggests that she is expected to testify against Wills. This could significantly increase the likelihood that Wills will be convicted, and upon conviction, receive a maximum sentence.
Victim was Losoya’s daughter
“Losoya appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington and admitted she was responsible for the continued sexual assault of her daughter which began in Brownsville in 2012,” reported John Morgan, then editor of the apparently now defunct Coastal Bend Chronicle. “Later, she traveled with the victim so that the attacks could continue. She further admitted that she did so in exchange for money. Prosecutors say Wills paid Lasoya to have sex with her daughter over the course of several years.
“These attacks were committed in several locations across the region, including Portland, Rockport, and Brownsville,” Morgan wrote.
Losoya, who like Wills was freed on bond, could receive “a minimum of 15 years and up to life in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine,” Morgan reported. “Upon completion of any prison term imposed, Losoya also faces a maximum of life on supervised release during which time the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children. Losoya will also be required to register as a sex offender.”
Life in prison?
Even if the prosecution had not been transferred to federal jurisdiction via the June 2017 indictment, Wills might potentially have been facing life in prison, but only if convicted of particular combinations of offenses, as ANIMALS 24-7 explained in detail in Former HSUS vp David Wills hit with federal child sex charges on July 16, 2017.
The same ANIMALS 24-7 article also detailed Wills’ long history of previous brushes with the law.
Wills’ tenure at HSUS ended with a 1996 conviction for embezzling and an out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit brought by three HSUS employees who sued him for sexual harassment––one of whom, Cristobel “Kitty” Block, on February 2, 2018 ascended to the HSUS presidency.
Worked for animal use industries
Wills, meanwhile, for at least four years after leaving HSUS, was associated in various capacities with the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, a front for animal use industries including whalers, sealers, vealers, and fur trappers.
Wills later became involved in a series of shrimp farming ventures. One of those projects, in South Africa, reportedly lost $42 million without ever getting into commercial scale production, and is now central to criminal allegations involving a corporation then called Bosasa, now called African Global Operations, and political figures including leaders of the ruling African National Congress party.
Big shrimp in small pond
Summarized Earth Journalism Network reporter Yolandi Groenewald on January 27, 2019, “Bosasa’s business empire is well known for information technology, fencing, security, and catering for prisons, but less so for dabbling in prawn farming.
“Called SeaArk Africa, the marine farming project in the Coega industrial development zone in the Eastern Cape promised to produce the biggest prawns in South Africa. It also promised to employ 11,000 people.
“SeaArk claimed to have perfected the world’s first closed biosecure farming system, which could grow prawns two or three times faster than its competitors,” without the use of antibiotics, meaning that the prawns could qualify for “organic” certification.
“It all started,” Groenewald recalled, having covered the debacle since 2008, “when David Wills convinced [then Bosasa chief executive] Gavin Watson that his brand of organic prawn farming was the next big thing back in 2005.
“Wills became president of SeaArk, and was put in charge of the pilot project.”
“The criminal was already present”
As a media stunt, Groenewald remembered, “Wills himself pulled fantastically sized prawns from ponds housed in a space-age type facility.”
Said Wills at the time, “It would take a criminal act to sabotage my farm.”
“But the criminal was already present,” Groenewald continued.
Raising investment capital for SeaArk became difficult for Bosasa after Wills’ history became known, Groenewald explained. “After lying about an alleged $5 million [U.S. dollars] Saudi Arabian deal, no more money flowed into the project. It also later emerged that the project’s Australian lead scientist was the real brains behind the operation. He later sued SeaArk over the project’s intellectual property rights.”
While Wills returned to Texas in 2009, Bosasa in 2015 tried again to “open a multimillion-rand prawn farm on the West Rand, near Bosasa’s headquarters in Krugersdorp. Instead of SeaArk the new venture would be named Bio-Organics,” Groenewald wrote.
That project failed in 2017.