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United States v. Torres-Gonzalez

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 21, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CRUZ TORRES-GONZALEZ, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL

GONZALO P. CURIEL, District Judge.

I. OVERVIEW

On March 28, 2013, following a three-day jury trial, Defendant Cruz Torres-Gonzalez ("Defendant" or "Torres-Gonzalez") was convicted of being a Deported Alien Found in the United States under 18 U.S.C. § 1326, and making a False Statement to a Federal Agency under 18 U.S.C. § 1001. On July 12, 2013, Torres-Gonzalez filed a motion for new trial. The Government filed its response and opposition on August 9, 2013. The motion for new trial raised the following challenges:

(1) insufficiency of the evidence to sustain a § 1326(a) conviction; (2) insufficiency of evidence to establish the "materiality" requirement under § 1001; and (3) the erroneous admission of the testimony of Susan Homewood, a handwriting expert.

On August 16, 2013, the Court held a hearing on Defendant's motion for new trial. Following argument by counsel, the Court orally denied the motion for new trial as to all of the raised grounds except the sufficiency of evidence issue on the "materiality" requirement of § 1001. The Court took this issue under submission. Following careful review and consideration of the parties' arguments and record in this case, the Court finds that there is sufficient evidence to support the "materiality" determination and the 18 U.S.C. § 1001 conviction. As such, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion for new trial.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On September 8, 2012, Torres-Gonzalez was arrested by Border Patrol Agent Philip Kader in an area near the Tecate Point of Entry. Following his arrest, Torres-Gonzalez admitted to being a Mexican citizen without authorization to be in the United States. Agent Kader turned over Torres-Gonzalez to Border Patrol Agent Thomas McCormick for processing. Defendant told McCormick that his name was "Juan Ruiz-Gonzalez". Agent McCormick entered the name "Juan Ruiz Gonzalez" into the database. Thereafter, an immigration form was provided to Defendant who signed his name as "Juan Ruiz Gonzalez" and requested a voluntary return to Mexico.

After running Defendant's fingerprints, McCormick determined that Defendant's true name was Cruz Torres-Gonzalez and that he had been previously deported. Based upon this information, Torres-Gonzalez was not allowed to voluntarily return and this prosecution followed.

III. DISCUSSION

The case presents the question whether a false statement to a Border Patrol Agent that has almost no chance of resulting in the voluntary return of a defendant can nonetheless be "material" for purposes of § 1001. 18 U.S.C. § 1001 provides in pertinent part:

(a)... whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully-
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism ...

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