United States District Court, E.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AFTER COURT TRIAL (ECF NOS. 30,
October 10, 2018, a citation was filed charging Michael A.
Houk (“Defendant”) with a violation of 36 C.F.R.
§ 2.34(a)(1), Disorderly Conduct, Fighting, Threatening,
or Violence. (ECF No. 1.) On July 18, 2019, a superseding
information was filed charging Defendant with violation of 18
U.S.C. § 113(a)(5), Simple Assault within the Special
Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States,
and 36 C.F.R. § 2.34(a)(3), Disorderly Conduct:
trial was conducted before the undersigned on October 10,
2019. Counsel Katherine Schuh and Rule 180 Prosecutor Taylor
Benninger appeared for the Government and counsel Matthew
Lemke appeared with Defendant. During the trial, four
witnesses testified for the Government: Stephanie Houk, Adam
Bree, Ranger Analisa Skeen, and Ranger Elizabeth Dietzen.
Defendant called two witness: Stephanie Houk and Adam Bree.
Four exhibits were admitted into evidence: a photograph of
keys and a keyring and three photographs of the victim's
hand. The Court set a briefing schedule for Defendant to file
a motion to strike testimony and the Government to provide
supplemental briefing on the issue of jurisdiction. On
October 31, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to strike the
testimony of Ranger Skeen for failure to comply with the
Jencks Act and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 26.2. On
November 5, 2019, the Government filed an opposition to
Defendant's motion to strike.
considered the evidence presented during the trial of this
matter, the Court issues the following order finding
Defendant Houk not guilty of a violation of 18 U.S.C. §
113(a)(5), Simple Assault within the Special Maritime and
Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States, and guilty of
a violation of 36 C.F.R. § 2.34(a)(3), Disorderly
Conduct: Unreasonable Noise.
15, 2018, Stephanie Houk (hereafter “Ms. Houk”)
drove to her family's cabin in Mineral Canyon which is in
Sequoia National Park from Fresno, arriving around 8:30 p.m.
(Transcript of Proceedings (hereafter “T.R.”)
13:2-5, 20-14:2, 14:23-15:4, 19-24.) The key to the cabin is
normally kept at the residence, but Ms. Houk removed the key
to make copies when she had opened the cabin for the season
approximately a month earlier. (T.R. 18:14-23; 45:12-22.)
Houk arrived at the cabin after dark and saw a broken window
and a lantern on inside the cabin. (T.R. 15:23-16:9.) She
looked through the window and saw a woman and child that she
did not recognize and yelled that they were not supposed to
be in the cabin. (T.R. 16:19-17:3.) At that time, she saw
Defendant, who is her brother, come out of the bedroom. (T.R.
17:5-22, 24-25. Defendant appeared to be upset and commented
that it would have been nice had she returned his phone
calls. (T.R. 17:24-18:6.)
told Ms. Houk to pick a bed for the night, but she was
worried about staying in the cabin when he was upset with her
and told him that she would just camp. (T.R. 19:3-13.) Ms.
Houk grabbed a flashlight and returned to her car which was
about fifteen steps down the hill. (T.R. 19:14-16, 24-20:12.)
Defendant followed her and demanded that she give him the key
to the cabin. (T.R. 20:15-16.) Ms. Houk was panicked because
she had no cell reception and could not get away from the
situation. (T.R. 20:18-20.) She told Defendant to stop
following her and tried to go as fast as she could to get in
the car and lock the doors. (T.R. 20:20-23.) She got into the
driver's seat but before she could lock the doors,
Defendant opened the passenger door and started struggling
with her for the keys. (T.R. 21:3-9, 18-22, 22:4-8.) Ms. Houk
told Defendant to get out of the car and leave her alone.
(T.R. 22:9-14.) As they were struggling over the keys,
Defendant grabbed Ms. Houk's wrist and pried the keys
from her hand, causing the keys to be separated from the fob
and injuring her pinky finger. (T.R. 22:12-18, 23:1-7.)
Defendant got the keys, he exited the vehicle. (T.R.
27:19-22.) Ms. Houk saw lights from the nearby road and went
to get help to get her keys back. (T.R. 28:7-15.) Adam Bree
was driving by in his truck with his two-and-half to
three-year-old daughter in the vehicle. (T.R. 28:17-22;
71:13-72:2.) He noticed that Ms. Houk was upset and crying
and stopped his truck. (T.R. 72:6-9.) Ms. Houk told him that
she had been attacked by her brother and asked for his help
to get her keys back. (T.R. 30:16-31:22.) Defendant who was
on the porch, started coming toward the truck. (T.R.
31:23-32:2.) Defendant was loud, using inappropriate
language, and calling Mr. Bree out of his vehicle. (T.R.
72:11-13, 73:2-3; 75:14-21.) Mr. Bree told Defendant to quiet
down because he did not want him to use expletives in front
of his child. (T.R. 73:4-6.) Mr. Bree went to drop his
daughter off, telling Ms. Houk that he would return with his
father to get her keys back. (T.R. 34:12-14; 72:13-17.)
Houk locked herself in her car and, while she was waiting,
Defendant came out of the cabin. (T.R. 34:18-35:4.) He told
her to get out of the car to get her keys and that if she
would not then he would throw them into the woods. (T.R.
35:4-8.) When Ms. Houk refused to get out of the car,
Defendant walked into the woods and then went into the cabin.
(T.R. 35:11-15.) When Mr. Bree returned with his father, they
looked in the woods for the keys and Defendant came out
telling them they would not find the keys there and that Ms.
Houk needed to come inside the cabin to talk to him. (T.R.
35:16-11; 73:17-20.) Defendant was still “running his
mouth” as if he wanted a physical altercation. (T.R.
73:21-25.) The woman inside the cabin came out and told
Defendant to give Ms. Houk her keys. (T.R. 36:13-15.)
following day, Ms. Houk went to the ranger station around
mid-day to file a report on the incident. (T.R. 38:17-25;
79:13-17.) Ranger Skeen was working at the ranger station and
sat with Ms. Houk until a law enforcement ranger arrived.
has been charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. §
113(a)(5), Simple Assault within the Special Maritime and
Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States, and 36 U.S.C.
§ 2.34(a)(3), Disorderly Conduct: Unreasonable Noise.