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U.S.A. v. Flores

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 8, 2017

U.S.A.
v.
Castillo Flores

          JAKE NARE LAWRENCE MIDDLETON REEMA EL-AMAMY Assistant U.S. Attorney

          Present: The Honorable CHRISTINA A. SNYDER JUDGE

          CRIMINAL MINUTES - GENERAL

         Proceedings: GOVERNMENT'S MOTION TO QUASH SUBPOENA OF AUSA KIM (Filed April26, 2017, Dkt. 79)

         GOVERNMENT'S MOTION TO QUASH SUBPOENA OF AUSA PINKEL (Filed May 8, 2017, Dkt. 107)

         I. INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         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).

         Each defendant has filed a motion to suppress evidence derived from a purportedly unlawful search. See Dkts. 35, 38. In anticipation of a hearing on the motions to suppress, the parties have filed a number of interrelated motions. Two such motions are the Government's motions quash two subpoenas for testimony by two Assistant United States Attorneys (“AUSAs”). Dkts. 62, 107. On April 26, 2017, the Government filed a motion to quash the subpoena relating to AUSA Ann Kim (“the Kim Subpoena”). Dkt. 62. On May 1, 2017, Moreno lodged an opposition to the motion to quash the Kim Subpona. Dkt. 90. On May 3, 2017, Flores filed an opposition to the motion to quash the Kim Subpoena. Dkt. 100. On May 4, 2017, the Government filed a reply in support of its motion to quash the Kim Subpoena. Dkt. 101.

         On May 8, 2017, the Government filed a motion to quash the subpoena of AUSA Pinkel, which relied primarily upon the same arguments relating to the Kim Subpoena. Dkt. 107. Also, on May 8, 2017, the Court heard oral argument from the parties regarding the pending motions to quash.

         Having carefully considered the parties' arguments, the Court finds and concludes as follows.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. The Stop of Defendants' Vehicle

         On October 11, 2016, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (“LASD”) Deputy Peterson stopped a Toyota 4 Runner 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 narcotics-detecting canine-unit to arrive. Thereafter, a dog handled by LASD Detective Jeffrey 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.

         B. The Subpoenas

         The two subpoenas at issue here seek testimony by AUSAs about Peterson's character for truthfulness. In a prior case, United States v. Rafael Gonzalez Arellano, Case No. 14-cr-00410-BRO (the “Arellano Case”), the Government filed charges based upon a traffic stop by Peterson. Kim was the primary AUSA assigned to handle the prosecution of the Arellano Case. Peterson's incident report from that traffic stop indicated that Peterson obtained verbal consent from Arellano to search his truck. Arellano filed a motion to suppress evidence derived from a purportedly unlawful search. During preparation for the hearing on Arellano's motion to suppress, Kim ensured that Peterson signed a sworn declaration about the stop, Kim interviewed Peterson, and she spoke with a second deputy who responded to the scene of the traffic stop. The second deputy, who was called to the scene in order to act as a translator, opined that Arellano did not speak or understand English. The Government voluntarily dismissed the charges against Arellano before the hearing on Arellano's motion to suppress.

         Thereafter, Pinkel became aware of Peterson's incident report, declaration, and interviews with Kim as well as Peterson's role in other cases being pursued by the United States Attorneys' Office. The Government elected to dismiss charges in a second case in which Peterson was the primary witness to a traffic stop, United States v. Becerra-Alvarez, Case No. 15-cr-0877-MJ (the “Becerra-Alvarez Case”). In a third case, United States v. Israel Ayala & Yessic Avila, Case No. 15-cr-00085-SVW (the “Ayala Case”), the defendants in that case filed a motion to suppress evidence derived from a traffic stop conducted by Peterson. The Government made a Henthorn disclosure relating to prior LASD ...


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