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United States v. Meza

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID ENRIQUE MEZA, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT MEZA'S MOTIONS TO DISMISS THE SUPERSEDING INDICTMENT

          JEFFREY T. MILLER United States District Judge.

         On March 29, 2017, Defendant David Enrique Meza filed a motion to dismiss Count 1 of the superseding indictment for lack of jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 145.) The next day, Meza filed a motion to dismiss Count 2. (Doc. No. 147.) The Government opposes both motions. (Doc. Nos. 149, 152.) The court heard argument on both motions on April 7, 2017, and, for following reasons, denies each.

         BACKGROUND

         Count 1 of the superseding indictment, (Doc. No. 139), charges Meza with violating 18 U.S.C. § 2261(a)(1) (“section 2261(a)(1)”). Section 2261(a)(1) provides that any “person who travels in interstate or foreign commerce . . . with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate a spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner, and who, in the course of or as a result of such travel or presence, commits or attempts to commit a crime of violence against that spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).” Count 2 charges Meza with conspiring to obstruct “an official proceeding, that is, a foreseeable Federal Grand Jury proceeding and a foreseeable criminal proceeding before a Court of the United States regarding the death of Jake Clyde Merendino, ” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2), (k).

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. The Superseding Indictment

         An indictment must only “be a plain, concise and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged . . . .” Fed. R. Crim. P. 7(c)(1). Thus, an indictment is sufficient if it: (1) contains the elements of the offense charged and fairly informs the defendant of the charge against which he must defend, and (2) enables him to plead an acquittal or conviction in bar of future prosecutions for the same offense. United States v. Resendiz-Ponce, 549 U.S. 102, 108 (2007). “The Government need not allege its theory of the case or supporting evidence, but only the essential facts necessary to apprise a defendant of the crime charged.” United States v. Buckley, 689 F.2d 893, 897 (9th Cir. 1982). “In cases where the indictment tracks the words of the statute charging the offense, the indictment will be held sufficient so long as the words unambiguously set forth all elements necessary to constitute the offense.” United States v. Davis, 336 F.3d 920, 922 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal quotations omitted).

         B. Meza's Motions to Dismiss

         Meza's motions both fall within the ambit of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b). See Fed. R. Crim. P. 12(b)(2), (b)(3)(A)(v) (covering lack of jurisdiction and error in grand jury proceeding, respectively). Rule 12(b) provides that a “party may raise by pretrial motion any defense, objection, or request that the court can determine without a trial on the merits.” Under Rule 12(b), a “motion to dismiss is generally capable of determination before trial if it involves questions of law rather than fact, ” for example “such matters as former jeopardy, former conviction, former acquittal, statute of limitations, immunity, and lack of jurisdiction.” United States v. Nukida, 8 F.3d 665, 669 (9th Cir. 1993) (internal quotations and alterations omitted). A Rule 12(b) motion to dismiss is not the proper way to raise a factual defense. Id. (“If the pretrial claim is substantially founded upon and intertwined with evidence concerning the alleged offense, the motion falls within the province of the ultimate finder of fact and must be deferred.”).

         DISCUSSION

         The court will address Meza's two motions in turn.

         A. Motion to Dismiss Count 1

         Meza argues that because section 2261(a)(1) punishes traveling in foreign commerce with merely bad intent, it exceeds the bounds of the Foreign Commerce Clause. Therefore, according to Meza, the court lacks jurisdiction and must dismiss the superseding indictment. Meza bases his argument on Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470 (1917), which he contends “stands for the principle that travel with bad intent is not enough to fall within the limits of the Commerce Clause; there also must be an immoral or injurious act that itself used the channels of foreign commerce.” As Meza sees it, because section 2261(a)(1) “does not punish traveling with the intent to commit an illegal or immoral act in the course of the travel itself, ” but instead ...


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