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United States v. Johnson

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 6, 2015




This matter is before the Court on Defendant Valentino Johnson's motion to compel discovery. (Docket No. 106). The Government responded (Docket No. 108), and Defendant timely replied (Docket No. 110). The Court heard oral argument on May 4, 2015. After carefully considering the Parties' written and oral arguments, the Court hereby GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendant's motion to compel discovery for the reasons set forth below.


As the Parties are familiar with the factual background of this case, the Court provides only a brief summary of the facts. On February 2, 2014, San Francisco Police Department ("SFPD") officers responded to a 911 call about a potential suicide at the residence of Luana McAlpine. Upon arrival, Officers Wise and Cader encountered McAlpine, the homeowner, and Defendant, who was on parole and appeared to be staying at the house. After performing a parole search of the home, the officers found a handgun and arrested Defendant for felon in possession of a firearm. The Government alleges that it has traced this gun to that used by Defendant's brother in a 2011 homicide, as well as a 2014 burglary involving a friend of Defendant's ex-girlfriend.

Defendant has been charged with two counts. Count One charges Defendant with being a felon in possession of a gun in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). On this count, the Government seeks an Armed Career Criminal Enhancement. Count Two charges Defendant with obstruction of justice for tampering with official proceedings under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2). The Court severed these counts to prevent prejudice from joinder. (Docket No. 111).


The Government must disclose, upon a defendant's request, all "documents... if the item is within the government's possession, custody, or control and... the item is material to preparing the defense." Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(E). The Advisory Committee's Notes explain that this rule was adopted "in the view that broad discovery contributes to the fair and efficient administration of criminal justice." Fed. R. Crim. P. 16 Advisory Committee's Notes (1974 Amendment).

"A defendant must make a threshold showing of materiality, which requires a presentation of facts which would tend to show that the Government is in possession of information helpful to the defense." United States v. Santiago, 46 F.3d 885, 894 (9th Cir. 1995) (quotation marks omitted). This showing requires a defendant to provide "specific facts, beyond allegations" to support a claim of materiality. Id. at 894-95. "Neither a general description of the information sought nor conclusory allegations of materiality suffice...." United States v. Mandel, 914 F.2d 1215, 1219 (9th Cir. 1990).

Nonetheless, the Ninth Circuit notes that it "behooves the Government to interpret the disclosure requirement broadly and turn over whatever evidence it has pertaining to the case." United States v. Hernandez-Meza, 720 F.3d 760, 768 (9th Cir. 2013). "Materiality is a low threshold; it is satisfied so long as the information [] would have helped [the defendant] prepare a defense." Id. (quotation marks omitted).


Defendant asks the Court to compel the discovery of three items: (1) the criminal history of Jakieth Martin; (2) a copy of allegedly racist text messages sent between SFPD officers and disclosed by the Government in connection with United States v. Furminger; and (3) the personnel files of SFPD Officers Cader and Wise.

As a preliminary matter, neither Party disputes that the requested documents are in the possession of the Government, as required by Rule 16. Accordingly, the Court now addresses the materiality of each of these requested documents in turn.

I. The criminal history of Jakieth Martin

Defendant was charged with felon in possession of a firearm after SFPD officers discovered a firearm during a search of Luana McAlpine's residence, where Defendant had been staying the week prior to the search. Specifically, the firearm was found in a closet belonging to McAlpine's daughter. McAlpine has disclosed that her daughter's boyfriend, Jakieth Martin, "spends the night sometimes." Ex. N to Lin Decl. at Valentin-Johnson 000048 (Docket No. 106-15). As part of Defendant's case strategy, Defendant ...

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