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People v. Algire

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Fourth Division

December 17, 2013

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Jose Armando ALGIRE, Defendant and Appellant.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Tomson T. Ong, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. NA090057)

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Bernstein Law Office, Inc., Bob Bernstein and Nathaniel Clark for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Assistant Attorney General, Paul M. Roadarmel, Jr. and Robert C. Schneider, Deputy Attorneys [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 651] General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.



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Appellant Jose Armando Algire challenges his conviction for forcible sexual penetration. He maintains that the trial court erred in admitting a recorded conversation, denying a continuance, and limiting his expert's testimony. In the published portion of this opinion, we reject appellant's contention that the trial court contravened the exclusionary rule in Penal Code section 632, subdivision (d), in admitting an audio recording of a conversation between appellant and his victim. We conclude that the " Right to Truth-in-Evidence" provision of the California Constitution (Cal. Const., art. I, § 28, subd. (f), par. (2)), as enacted by the passage of Proposition 8 in 1982, abrogated that exclusionary rule. In the unpublished portions of the opinion, we reject appellant's remaining contentions. We therefore affirm.


On March 14, 2012, an information was filed, charging appellant with sexual penetration with a foreign object (Pen.Code § 289, subd. (a)(1)).[1] Appellant pleaded not guilty. A jury found appellant guilty as charged. On October 3, 2012, the trial court sentenced appellant to a term of eight years in prison.


A. Prosecution Evidence

Stevie J., appellant's victim, is also his step-daughter.[2] Stevie was born in China in 1988. In April 2006, following her mother's marriage to appellant,

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Stevie came to the United States to live with her mother, appellant, and his two children. She was then 17.

Stevie testified as follows: When she took up residence with appellant, he repeatedly hugged her. Stevie initially believed that his conduct was a " Western cultural thing," as it did not occur in China. Appellant soon began trying to kiss her during the hugs, and also engaged in other inappropriate behavior. On one occasion, he told her that when he was young, a neighbor compensated him for mowing her lawn by having sex with him. On another occasion, appellant approached her from behind while she was reading a book, and placed his hands on her breasts. When Stevie pushed him away, he said that if she discussed the incident with her mother, he would " kick [Stevie] back to China." Stevie said nothing to her mother regarding appellant's misconduct because she did not want to endanger her mother's marriage.

On October 25, 2006, while Stevie's mother was absent, appellant asked Stevie to enter his bedroom. When she did so, he pushed her onto the bed and kissed her. He then moved his hands to her underwear and inserted his fingers into her vagina. Stevie struggled away from him, went to her room, and locked the door. Appellant said through the door, " If you tell anyone[ ] else [,] including your mom, I'm going to kick you guys back to China and your green card is over, the marriage is over." Stevie contacted a friend, who accompanied Stevie to a park. There, Stevie told the friend only that appellant had threatened her. Stevie did not expressly report appellant's sexual misconduct [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 652] to anyone, as she was fearful that doing so would end her mother's marriage.

In December 2006, after her natural father died in China, Stevie visited China for approximately six months. During Stevie's visit, appellant informed her by e-mail that he wanted to teach her about sex. She rejected his proposal.

In May 2007, following Stevie's return from China, appellant again asked her to enter his bedroom. She refused to do so, but stood in the bedroom doorway. Appellant directed her attention to a computer screen, which displayed a pornographic image involving a man and woman. When he asked whether Stevie wanted him to do what the image showed, she refused and tried to leave, but he grabbed her arm. She kicked him and ran to her room. Stevie related the incident to no one.

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A few days later, while appellant was giving Stevie a driving lesson, he asked whether she wanted him to teach her about sex. He explained that it was permissible for him to do so because she was not his " blood daughter." When she replied that she did not want to learn about sex from him, he said, " [S]chool's over, [your] green card is over, and you [will] go back to China." Because Stevie's conditional green card expired in 2008, she understood appellant to mean that he intended to send her back to China.

Immediately after the incident, Stevie contacted Tae Boettcher, whom she knew through her karate class. When Stevie told her that appellant wished to have sex with Stevie and threatened her immigration status, Boettcher arranged for Stevie to see a counselor at the high school she had attended. Before talking to the counselor, Stevie told her mother that appellant had acted improperly toward her. The counselor directed Stevie to the high school police, who told her they could not offer assistance because she was then 18 years old. In addition, the counselor located an alternative residence for Stevie and urged her to move out of appellant's house. Stevie decided to do so. After moving out of appellant's residence, she found employment in a food court in a shopping mall, and met Torrance Police Department Officer Steven Janguard, who also worked in the mall.

In December 2007, appellant told Stevie and her mother that they needed to contact a lawyer in order to renew Stevie's green card. Later, in January 2008, appellant and Stevie went to their lawyer's office in order to sign some paperwork. Although Stevie's mother was supposed to accompany them, she was not present. After meeting with the lawyer, appellant and Stevie had a conversation. While appellant talked to her, he used the word " orgasm," which she did not understand. According to Stevie, she had a practice of recording conversations " [t]o help [her] ... learn English." She thus began recording their conversation.[3]

During the conversation, appellant stated that the last time he touched Stevie, she was not " wet at all," and that he believed that she needed instruction in sex from him because her body did not " understand what [was] happening." She rejected his proposal. Stevie's recording of the conversation was played for the jury.

After the incident, Stevie told Janguard that she had " issues" with appellant. Janguard suggested that Stevie arrange a meeting with appellant at the mall where she worked, so that Janguard could try to overhear their conversation. Although the meeting occurred, appellant said little during it. Shortly afterward, Stevie received a letter from appellant. The letter stated [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 653] that if she

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stopped making her accusations against him, he would assist her in obtaining her a green card. She did not respond to the letter. Later, her lawyer told her that appellant had withdrawn his sponsorship of her green card application. She asked for advice from Janguard, who later acted as her sponsor.

Stevie had no further dealings with appellant, and did not participate in his and her mother's divorce. In 2009, Stevie had her breasts removed because they reminded her of what appellant had done to her. In April 2010, after the renewal of Stevie's green card, she reported appellant's sexual misconduct to the police.

Boettcher testified that she became friends with Stevie through Stevie's karate lessons. According to Boettcher, when Stevie told her that appellant had " touched" her, Boettcher arranged for Stevie to meet with a counselor and police officers at Stevie's high school. In addition, Boettcher helped Stevie find a new place to live.

Officer Janguard testified that he met Stevie in a mall where they both worked. In January 2008, while in the mall's food court, Stevie told him that she was having problems with appellant, but did not specify the nature of the problems or identify them as a crime. In addition, she played an audio recording of a conversation between Stevie and appellant. According to Janguard, the background noise in the food court made the recording difficult to understand, but it appeared to Janguard that appellant had made inappropriate remarks to Stevie.

After consulting with a police sergeant, Janguard asked Stevie to arrange a meeting with appellant in the mall. When the meeting took place, Janguard approached appellant and asked him to " listen to Stevie" because " there [was] some inappropriate talking going on." Appellant said nothing to Janguard. Janguard then walked away from Stevie and appellant. Although he saw them talking, he did not overhear their conversation. A few weeks later, Stevie told Janguard that appellant had withdrawn his support for her green card. After learning that Stevie needed to renew her green card, Janguard and his wife agreed to act as her sponsors.[4]

B. Defense Evidence

Appellant, who testified on his own behalf, denied any misconduct regarding Stevie. He stated that after he married Stevie's mother and sponsored her

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for citizenship, she asked him to arrange for Stevie to live with them. When Stevie arrived, she disregarded his authority, used profane language, and performed few household chores. She also dressed like a boy, and viewed pornography on her laptop.

According to appellant, he became concerned whether he should take responsibility for Stevie's conduct by sponsoring her for a green card. After Stevie returned from her visit to China, he told her that he would not " renew [her] visa." Regarding the conversation that Stevie recorded, appellant denied that he made any remarks referring to an event during which he touched her. At trial, appellant asserted that no such remarks were audible on the recording, and that the recording had been " doctored." Appellant also maintained that during the conversation, he intended [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 654] only to encourage Stevie to learn about her sexuality.

Appellant further testified that after the conversation occurred, Stevie asked appellant to meet her at a shopping mall. There, Officer Janguard told appellant to " shut up and listen" to Stevie. Stevie then played her recording of the conversation for appellant, but the recording was inaudible. Later, appellant wrote a letter informing Stevie that he would assist her in obtaining a new visa only if she stopped her accusations against him. At trial, appellant maintained that Stevie's accusations were baseless, and that she had been engaged in " extortion."

Thomas Guzman-Sanchez, an expert in audio analysis, opined that Stevie's audio recording had been edited. According to Guzman-Sanchez, the four-minute recording disclosed a single edit at approximately the mid-point of the recording.

Yi Fan Shang, who attended high school with Stevie, testified that they shared secrets while they were classmates. During that time, Stevie told her that she was a lesbian. Stevie's only complaints against appellant were that he verbally abused her and touched her breasts. In addition, on one occasion, Stevie asked her to pick her up from her house. They went to a park, where Stevie told her that appellant had tried to touch her. Not until 2011 did Stevie suggest that appellant had sexually assaulted her.

Gloria Kalatzis, a counselor at Stevie's high school, testified that Stevie told her only that appellant verbally abused her. She provided information regarding shelters to Stevie, who responded that she was not interested in living in a shelter.[5]

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Appellant contends the trial court erred in admitting the audio recording of his conversation with Stevie, denying his request for a continuance, and limiting his expert's testimony. For the reasons discussed below, we disagree.

A. Admission of Audio Recording

Appellant contends the trial court contravened section 632 in admitting the audio recording of his conversation with Stevie. That statute is a provision of the Invasion of Privacy Act (§ 630 et seq.), enacted in 1967. (Stats.1967, ch. 1509, p. 3584, § 1.) The Invasion of Privacy Act regulates wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping ( People v. Chavez (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 1144, 1148, 52 Cal.Rptr.2d 347), with the aim of limiting " intentional, as opposed to inadvertent, overhearing or intercepting of communications." ( People v. Buchanan (1972) 26 Cal.App.3d 274, 287, 103 Cal.Rptr. 66.)

Generally, section 632 " prohibits eavesdropping or intentionally recording a confidential communication without the consent of all parties to the communication. [Citation.]" [6] ( Coulter v. Bank of America (1994) 28 Cal.App.4th 923, 928, 33 Cal.Rptr.2d 766; § 632, subd. (a).) Absent [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 655] specified exceptions, the statute bars the admission of any such recorded confidential communications in judicial proceedings. (§§ 632, subd. (d), 633, 633.1, 633.5, 633.6, 633.8.) Pertinent here is the exception stated in section 633.5, which provides that nothing in section 632 " prohibits one party to a confidential communication from recording the communication for the purpose of obtaining evidence reasonably believed to relate to the commission by another party to the communication of ... any felony involving violence against the person," or " renders any evidence so obtained inadmissible in a prosecution for ... any felony involving violence against the person...."

Appellant maintains that the trial court erred in admitting Stevie's audio recording under the exception described above. Regarding this contention, the record discloses that during the preliminary hearing, Stevie testified that she recorded her conversation with appellant solely to help her learn English, and not to support her claim that appellant had engaged in criminal conduct.

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Before trial, appellant objected to the admission of Stevie's audio recording on the basis of section 632. In response, the prosecutor argued that the recording fell within the exception stated in section 633.5, and alternatively, that Proposition 8 had abrogated the statutory rule requiring the exclusion of such evidence. The trial court concluded that the recording was admissible under section 633.5. Later, during the trial, Stevie again testified that she recorded the conversation to " help [her] learn English."

It is unnecessary for us to determine the propriety of the court's ruling under section 633.5, as the recording was admissible on the alternative ground offered by the prosecutor. On appeal, we will affirm the admission of the recording on any theory properly established by the record. ( People v. Mason (1991) 52 Cal.3d 909, 944, 277 Cal.Rptr. 166, 802 P.2d 950.) As explained below, Proposition 8 abrogated the exclusionary rule upon which appellant relies.

" [I]n 1982, the California voters passed Proposition 8. Proposition 8 enacted Article I, section 28 of the California Constitution, which provides in relevant part: " Right to Truth-in-Evidence. Except as provided by statute hereafter enacted by a two-thirds vote of the membership in each house of the Legislature, relevant evidence shall not be excluded in any criminal proceeding, including pretrial and post conviction motions and hearings...." (Cal. Const., art. I, § 28, subd. (f), par. (2).) ( People v. Lazlo (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 1063, 1069, 142 Cal.Rptr.3d 407.) The " Truth-in-Evidence" provision in subdivision (f), paragraph (2), of article I, section 28 of the California Constitution (section 28(f)(2)) " was intended to permit exclusion of relevant, but unlawfully obtained evidence, only if exclusion is required by the United States Constitution...." ( In re Lance W. (1985) 37 Cal.3d 873, 890, 210 Cal.Rptr. 631, 694 P.2d 744 ( Lance W .).) Section 28(f)(2) is applicable not only to judicially created rules of exclusion ( In re Demetrius A. (1989) 208 Cal.App.3d 1245, 1247, 256 Cal.Rptr. 717), but also to statutory evidentiary restrictions ( Lance W., supra, 37 Cal.3d at p. 893, 210 Cal.Rptr. 631, 694 P.2d 744; People v. Ratekin (1989) 212 Cal.App.3d 1165, 1169, 261 Cal.Rptr. 143 ( Ratekin )).[7]

[165 Cal.Rptr.3d 656] In Ratekin, the appellate court examined section 631, a provision of the Invasion of Privacy Act that closely resembles section 632. As originally enacted and in its present form, section 631 bars wiretapping without the

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consent of all parties to the communication, and states that evidence obtained in contravention of that prohibition is inadmissible in a judicial proceeding. ( Ratekin, supra, 212 Cal.App.3d at p. 1169, 261 Cal.Rptr. 143; § 631, subds. (a), (c).) The appellate court concluded that section 28(d) abrogated the exclusionary rule in section 631, noting that following Proposition 8, the Legislature had not reinstated that rule by a two-thirds vote of the membership in each house of the Legislature. ( Ratekin, supra, at p. 1169, 261 Cal.Rptr. 143.)

We confront an issue not presented in Ratekin. As respondent observes, in 1985, the Legislature enacted the Cellular Radio Telephone Privacy Act of 1985 (1985 Act). (Stats 1985, ch. 909, p. 2900.) The focal element of that legislation is section 632.5, which prohibits the interception of cellular telephone communications, absent specified circumstances.[8] (Stats 1985, ch. 909, pp. 2900-2904.) In enacting the statute, the Legislature also amended section 632 and related statutes to reflect the addition of section 632.5, without making substantial changes to the wording of the exclusionary rule set forth in subdivision (d) of section 632. At least two-thirds of the members of each house of the Legislature voted in favor of the 1985 Act. [9] The question thus presented is whether its enactment revived the exclusionary rule in subdivision (d) of section 632, abrogated by section 28(f)(2).

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We find dispositive guidance on this issue from Lance W. There, the Supreme Court addressed subdivision (a) of section 1538.5, which— as originally enacted and in its present form— states, inter alia, that a criminal defendant may seek suppression of evidence obtained through a search or seizure in violation of " state constitutional standards." ( [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 657] Lance W., supra, 37 Cal.3d at p. 893, 210 Cal.Rptr. 631, 694 P.2d 744; § 1538.5, subd. (a)(1)(B)(v).) As the court noted, after section 28(d) abrogated that provision of section 1538.5, the Legislature amended section 1538.5 twice, once by a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature. ( Lance W., supra, at pp. 893-896, 210 Cal.Rptr. 631, 694 P.2d 744.) Because the California Constitution provides that " [a] section of a statute may not be amended unless the section is re-enacted as amended" (Cal. Const., art. IV, § 9), and the amendments did not materially modify the pertinent provision of section 1538.5, the court examined whether the amendments revived that provision. ( Lance W., supra, 37 Cal.3d at pp. 893-896, 210 Cal.Rptr. 631, 694 P.2d 744.)

The court determined that the amendments did not reinstate the abrogated provision, as there was no evidence of a legislative intent to do so. ( Lance W., supra, 37 Cal.3d at pp. 893-896, 210 Cal.Rptr. 631, 694 P.2d 744.) As the court observed, neither the legislative history of the amendments nor the Legislature's declarations regarding them manifested any intent to nullify the operation of Proposition 8. ( Ibid. ) Indeed, when the Legislature amended section 1538.5 by a two-thirds majority in both houses, the amendment was an element of a group of amendments that the legislative history described as a " noncontroversial ‘ clean up’ " ; moreover, those " ‘ clean up’ " amendments were unanimously adopted by the Legislature. ( Lance W., supra, at p. 894, 210 Cal.Rptr. 631, 694 P.2d 744.) The court stated: " We cannot assume that the Legislature understood or intended that such far-reaching consequences— virtually a legislative repeal of the ‘ Truth-in-Evidence’ section of Proposition 8— would follow an amendment so casually proposed and adopted without opposition." ( Ibid. )

Based on our Supreme Court's analysis in Lance W., we reach a similar conclusion regarding the abrogated exclusionary rule set forth in subdivision (d) of section 632. Accompanying the 1985 Act was a declaration of legislative intent that focused exclusively on the need to protect private cellular phone communication. (Stats.1985, ch. 909, § 2, pp. 2900-2901.) The declaration states: " [T]his act is intended to provide recourse to those persons whose private cellular radio telephone communications have been maliciously invaded by persons not intended to receive such communications." ( Ibid. ) The narrow scope of the Legislature's intent is

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further confirmed by section 632.5 itself, the primary element of the 1985 Act. That provision discloses no intent to nullify the operation of Proposition 8, as it contains no provision akin to subdivision (d) of section 632 establishing an exclusionary rule. Appellant has directed us to no portion of the legislative history— and we have found none— evincing the Legislature's intent to annul the effects of section 28(f)(2). Because there is no suggestion that the Legislature's intent in enacting the 1985 Act was to revive the abrogated exclusionary rule contained in subdivision (d) of section 632, we conclude that legislation did not do so.[10] Accordingly, [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 658] the audio recording of Stevie and appellant's conversation could be excluded only under the federal exclusionary rule applicable to evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment. ( Lance W., supra, 37 Cal.3d at p. 896, 210 Cal.Rptr. 631, 694 P.2d 744.)

Thus, the remaining question is whether the United States Constitution required exclusion of the audio recording. ( Lance W., supra, 37 Cal.3d at p. 890, 210 Cal.Rptr. 631, 694 P.2d 744.) As Stevie did not record the conversation while acting as a government officer or agent, the recording does not implicate appellant's interests under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. ( Jones v. Kmart Corp. (1998) 17 Cal.4th 329, 333, 70 Cal.Rptr.2d 844, 949 P.2d 941.) Furthermore, under federal statutory law, recordings of conversations between private individuals made with the consent of only one party to the conversation are ordinarily admissible in judicial proceedings. ( Zhou v. Pittsburg State University (D.Kan.2003) 252 F.Supp.2d 1194, 1203-1204; 18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(d).) Accordingly, we conclude that the admission of the audio recording did not offend the United States Constitution. (See Ratekin, supra, 212 Cal.App.3d at p. 1169, 261 Cal.Rptr. 143.) In sum, the audio recording was properly admitted.

B. Remaining Contentions [**]

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The judgment is affirmed.

We concur: EPSTEIN, P.J., WILLHITE, J.

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