from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial
District, the Honorable Douglas R. Herman, Judge.
J. Viste, Assistant State's Attorney, Fargo, N.D., for
plaintiff and appellee.
Nicholas D. Thornton (argued) and James A. Teigland (on
brief), Fargo, N.D., for defendant and appellant.
1] Anjelo Sheperd appeals from a criminal judgment, entered
after a bench trial on stipulated facts, finding him guilty
of patronizing a minor for commercial sexual activity in
violation of N.D.C.C. § 12.1-41-06(1)(a). We affirm the
2] On June 29, 2016, law enforcement arrested Sheperd as a
part of a multi-agency sting operation targeted at
apprehending individuals paying, or attempting to pay, for
sex with minors. Law enforcement posted an advertisement on
Backpage.com. The advertisement impliedly sought sexual
encounters with men, but did not reference involvement with a
minor. Sheperd responded to the advertisement. A text message
exchange between Sheperd and an undercover officer,
purporting to be a female, discussed rates for sexual
activities. Later in the text message exchange, the
undercover officer told Sheperd "she" was almost
seventeen. Sheperd arrived at the sting location, set up at a
hotel in Fargo, and was arrested and charged with patronizing
a minor for commercial sexual activity in violation of
N.D.C.C. § 12.1-41-06(1)(a).
3] Sheperd waived his right to a jury trial, and the district
court held a bench trial on the stipulated facts. At the
trial, Sheperd indicated his intent to appeal based on his
interpretation of the statute under which he was charged. The
stipulated facts indicated Sheperd agreed to exchange money
or something of value for a sex act, that Sheperd originally
thought the female was over eighteen but later learned the
female claimed to be sixteen, and that Sheperd arrived at the
hotel and knocked on the designated room door. The district
court found Sheperd guilty of patronizing a minor for
commercial sexual activity. Sheperd appeals to this Court.
4] On appeal, Sheperd argues N.D.C.C. § 12.1-41-06(1)(a)
requires the presence of a minor and because no actual minor
was involved in this case, the State did not meet its burden
of proof. Sheperd further argues this Court should have
decided State v. Davison, 2017 ND 188, 900 N.W.2d
66, differently. The State argues N.D.C.C. §
12.1-41-06(1)(a) does not require the actual presence of a
minor as an essential element of the crime of patronizing a
minor for commercial sexual activity.
5] The parties agree that if no minor is required for a
conviction under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-41-06(1)(a), there is
sufficient evidence to sustain the convictions. The question
is one of statutory interpretation, which is a question of
law and is fully reviewable on appeal. State v.
Brown, 2009 ND 150, ¶ 15, 771 N.W.2d 267.
Words in a statute are given their plain, ordinary, and
commonly understood meaning, unless defined by statute or
unless a contrary intention plainly appears. If the language
of a statute is clear and unambiguous, "the letter of
[the statute] is not to be disregarded under the pretext of
pursuing its spirit." If the language of the statute is
ambiguous, however, a court may resort to extrinsic aids to
interpret the statute.
Zajac v. Traill Cty. Water Res. Dist., 2016 ND 134,
¶ 6, 881 N.W.2d 666 (citations omitted).
6] Sheperd was convicted of patronizing a minor for
commercial sexual activity in violation of N.D.C.C. ...