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U.S.A. v. Flores

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 8, 2017

Castillo Flores

          Present: Honorable CHRISTINA A. SNYDER


         Proceedings: (IN CHAMBERS) - MORENO'S MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY (Filed March 5, 2017, Dkt. 33)

         FLORES' MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY (Filed March 6, 2017, Dkt. 34)


         On November 29, 2016, the Government filed a criminal complaint against Cesar Flores and Manuel Moreno (collectively “defendants”). Dkt. 1. On December 16, 2016, a grand jury returned a three-count indictment against defendants. Dkt. 12 (“the Indictment”). The Indictment alleges that on or about October 11, 2016, Flores and Moreno: (1) conspired to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute it, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; (2) possessed or aided and abetted possession, with intent to distribute, methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(viii); 18 U.S.C. § 2(a); and (3) possessed, or aided and abetted possession of, a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i); 18 U.S.C. § 2(a).

         On March 5, 2017, Moreno filed a motion to compel discovery. Dkt. 32 (“the Motion”). On March 6, 2017, Flores joined in Moreno's motion and filed a separate memorandum in support of the motion. Dkt. 34. On March 13, 2017, the Government filed a consolidated opposition. Dkt. 37 (“Opp'n”). On March 16, 2017, Moreno filed a reply. Dkt. 40. On April 5, 2017, Flores filed a reply under seal. Dkt. 50. On April 7, 2017, the Government filed a sur reply to Flores's reply. Dkt. 53. On April 10, 2017, the Court distributed a tentative ruling and held oral argument regarding the parties' continuing discovery disputes. Dkt. 54. Many of the parties' arguments relate to the pending motion to suppress evidence seized during a traffic stop of defendants' vehicle by Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (“LASD”) Deputy James Peterson. In light of the Court's tentative ruling, the Government has submitted documents for the Court's in camera review relating to (1) other traffic stops by Peterson and (2) the dismissal of two past cases wherein Peterson was a witness. The Court has since reviewed the documents submitted by the Government. In light of the continuing disclosures by the Government, the Court ordered the parties to submit a joint report regarding remaining discovery disputes no later than April 24, 2017. Id. On April 24, 2017, the parties filed a joint status report regarding discovery disputes. Dkt. 60.

         On May 8, 2017, the Court held further oral argument regarding remaining discovery issues in this case. Having carefully considered the parties' arguments the Court finds and concludes as follows.


         On October 11, 2016, LASD Deputy Peterson stopped a Toyota 4 Runner (“the vehicle”) on Interstate-5. Flores was driving the vehicle. Moreno was a passenger. Peterson approached the vehicle, spoke with the occupants, and ultimately asked both defendants to exit the vehicle. Peterson claims to have smelled marijuana in the vehicle. Defendants refused to consent to a search of the vehicle. Peterson placed both defendants in his patrol car while waiting for a canine-unit to arrive. Thereafter, Jeffrey Hoslet arrived at the scene with a narcotics detection dog. The narcotics dog handled by Hoslet allegedly alerted to the presence of narcotics in the vehicle. LASD deputies searched the vehicle and found just over 4 kg of methamphetamine in a backpack and a .40 caliber handgun in the center console.


         Defendants' respective motions to compel discovery seek production of several different categories of evidence.

         A. Defendants' Statements and Scientific Tests

         Defendants request production of evidence relating to their own statements and any scientific tests and reports created in relation to this case. The Government avers that all such discovery has already been provided to the defense. Opp'n at 9-10. In his reply, Moreno indicates that he will accept the Government's representations in this respect. Dkt. 40 at 7-8. Flores's reply appears to be silent with respect to defendants' statements and scientific tests. Furthermore, the parties' joint status report makes no mention of any remaining discovery dispute regarding defendants' statements or scientific tests. In light of the foregoing, defendants' motions are DENIED with respect to production of defendants' statements as well as scientific tests and reports.

         B. Henthorn Material Relating to Peterson

         The duty to inspect personnel records in the Government's possession rests with the Government. United States v. Henthorn, 931 F.2d 29, 31 (9th Cir. 1991). The Government also has a duty to learn of exculpatory evidence known to others acting on the Government's behalf, “including the police.” United States v. Price, 566 F.3d 900, 903 (9th Cir. 2009).

In response to a request for exculpatory evidence, the prosecution does not have a constitutional duty to disclose every bit of information that might affect the jury's decision; it need only disclose information favorable to the defense that meets the appropriate standard of materiality. If the prosecution is uncertain about the materiality of information within its possession, it may submit the information to the trial court for an in camera inspection and evaluation.

United States v. Gardner, 611 F.2d 770, 774-75 (9th Cir. 1980) (citations omitted). Only where the Government fails in its obligation to inspect personnel records may the Court intervene to conduct its own, in camera, review of the appropriate records and determine whether the Government is or was obligated to produce particular information. Henthorn, 931 F.2d at 31.

         Defendants contend that they are entitled to additional Henthorn materials. Defendants contend:

(1) that the Government has not adequately reviewed Hoslet and Peterson's LASD personnel files and disclosed Henthorn materials therein;
(2) that defendants are entitled to additional records regarding disciplinary actions against Peterson in 1998 and 2002;
(3) that defendants should be provided information relating to other traffic stops by Peterson; and
(4) that defendants' should be given any documents prepared by the U.S. Attorney's Office regarding Peterson's credibility, the dismissal of other cases wherein Peterson was the arresting deputy, and any official decisions to refer Peterson for investigation by LASD or the District Attorney.

Dkt. 60. The Court will address each issue in-turn.

         1. LASD Personnel Files

         As a result of subpoenas issued to LASD for Hoslet and Peterson's personnel records, the Court has reviewed each deputies' records in camera. That in camera review resulted in the disclosure of additional Henthorn material relating to Peterson and Hoslet. In light of the Court's in camera review of the personnel records at issue and the Government's representation that it has produced all Henthorn materials in its possession, defendants' motion to compel further discovery from the deputies' files is DENIED.

         2. The 1998 and 2002 Discipline Against Peterson

         Defendants acknowledge having received a description of two prior disciplinary actions against Peterson derived from Peterson's personnel file. The Court has reviewed Peterson's personnel records in camera and determined that the entire Internal Affairs Bureau file regarding Peterson's misconduct in 2002 should be disclosed to defendants. The Court has already disclosed those records to the parties, subject to a protective order. Accordingly, defendants' motions to compel further discovery of documents relating to the 2002 investigation are DENIED as moot.

         With respect to discipline against Peterson for conduct in 1998, the Court has similarly reviewed Peterson's records and determined that all material facts have already been disclosed by the Government in its description of the 1998 discipline. Accordingly, defendants' motions to compel discovery of records relating to the 1998 discipline are DENIED.

         3. Past Traffic ...

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