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United States v. Mancia

June 18, 2010

UNITED STATES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
COCHIS MANCIA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge

(Mag. No. P0618480)

ORDER REGARDING APPEAL FROM STATEMENT OF DECISION AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE DECISION

I. INTRODUCTION

Appellant Cochis Mancia ("Mancia") was found guilty of violating 36 C.F.R. § 2.30(a)(1), which prohibits misappropriation of property, after a bench trial before a United States Magistrate Judge on August 29, 2007. Mancia appeals his conviction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 3402. (Doc. 1). Appellant filed an opening brief on May 9, 2008. (Doc. 25). The United States filed its opening brief on December 19, 2008. (Doc. 30). Appellant filed a reply on April 10, 2009. (Doc. 35).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Ranger Siler's Testimony

On or about 12:00 am on July 18, 2006, National Park Service Ranger Michael Siler ("Siler") was conducting bike patrol of an area known as Curry Village within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park. (RT at 3-7). Siler observed four individuals, one of whom was Mancia, walking through the east parking lot at Curry Village "being loud." (RT at 6). Siler followed the group as they walked toward the shower building at Curry Village and watched the individuals walk into a back dock area behind the Curry Village Store. (RT at 7). The individuals disappeared from Siler's. (RT at 33). A few moments later, the individuals emerged from the back dock area carrying three jugs of water. (RT at 33-34).

Siler testified that he approached the individuals and identified himself as a Park Ranger, at which point the individuals started to "split up." (RT at 34). Siler detained the individuals radioed for additional assistance. (RT at 36). Siler stated that he began to identify the individuals, and that Mancia stated he "would bring back the water" if Siler wished him to do so. (RT at 16). Siler determined that the other individuals in Mancia's group were juveniles. (RT at 45). Siler testified that Mancia never made any statements indicating that he had paid for or owned the water. (RT at 17). Siler asked Mancia where he obtained the water, and Mancia replied only that he would return the water if Siler wanted him to. (RT at 17). Siler testified that he "did not recall any statements" by Mancia that he had purchased the water. (RT at 195).

Eventually, two or three Delaware North Corporation ("DNC") security officers arrived on the scene, and Siler testified that he spoke with DNC security regarding the water. (RT at 38). Siler testified that he did not speak to any other non-park employees about the water. (RT at 39). Siler testified that he could not "swear 100 percent that there wasn't someone else around" other than Mancia and his group, other rangers, and DNC security. (RT at 48).

Siler testified that he smelled alcohol on Mancia as well as the "group as a whole." Siler did not issue any alcohol related citations to the minors in Mancia's group. (RT at 47). Siler issued Mancia a citation for misappropriation of property. (RT at 47).

Stephanie Matern's Testimony

DNC Security Officer Stephanie Matern ("Matern") testified that she responded to the scene at Curry Village after she overheard a radio message regarding the incident. (RT at 51). Matern stated that she witnessed four to six individuals sitting on a low wall near the back door entrance to Curry Village when she arrived, and that there were already multiple rangers on the scene. (RT at 51). At some point, Matern had a conversation with Siler about the water jugs. (RT at 56). Siler asked Matern to determine the value of the water jugs. (RT at 56). Matern stated that typically, there would be "a few to none" employees encountered at the back area of Curry Village during the midnight hour on any given day. (RT at 55). Matern did not recall observing any other DNC employees on the night in question. (RT at 56).

Matern was recalled by the government later in the proceeding. During her second stint testifying, Matern stated that seeing a man in a jersey with a towel around his neck "sound[ed] familiar," but she could not say for sure whether she recalled seeing the man. (RT at 181-82).

In response to an inquiry by the Court, Matern stated that she "couldn't say specifically" what would happen to a DNC employee for "engaging in private backdoor sales of DNC merchandise for cash," but Matern "imagined" that they would be fired. (RT at 184).*fn1

At the conclusion of her testimony, Matern revealed that she had prepared a written report concerning the July 18 incident. (RT at 185). The government failed to produce a copy of the report to the Defense prior to trial. (RT at 186-87). Matern's report indicated that she was told that the group had been stopped for a possible minor in possession charge. (RT at 188). Matern stated that she believed Siler told her about the minor in possession suspicion, but she was not sure. (RT at 187-88). The report also indicates that Siler told Matern that the four individuals had been found "in the dungeon area, downstairs behind the gift shop." (RT at 189).

Jim Webb's Testimony

Jim Webb ("Webb"), the grocery manager for DNC in Yosemite, testified that shipments of water arrive to the DNC retail stores in the park on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. (RT at 66). Webb testified that water that could not be stored inside the store would be kept in the back area of the Curry Village grocery store. (RT at 67). Webb testified that employees are scheduled to work past eleven o'clock at night "very rarely." (RT at 71).

Mancia's Testimony

Mancia testified that he arrived in Yosemite at approximately 11:30 pm on the night of the incident with Jennifer Underwood ("Underwood"), Amicho Jerel Mancia ("Amicho"), Nathaniel Velasquez ("Velasquez"), and Anthony Trejo ("Trejo"). (RT at 74-75). Mancia and his friends went directly to the Curry ...


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