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United States v. Stagno

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 20, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ERIC STAGNO, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Troy L. Nunley United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Eric Stagno's (“Defendant”) Appeal from Conviction by a Magistrate Judge. (ECF No. 71.) Defendant filed his brief on August 20, 2019. (ECF No. 84.) The Government filed an answering brief on October 1, 2019. (ECF No. 89.) On November 21, 2019, the Court heard oral argument on the matter. After carefully considering the parties' arguments and for the reasons set forth below, the Court AFFIRMS Defendant's conviction.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This case arose from three disturbances caused by Defendant in August of 2017 at a Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) clinic in Stockton, California. (ECF No. 89 at 4.) On all three occasions, Defendant, a VA patient, shouted threatening, angry, and insulting words - including vulgarities and racial slurs - at VA staff and patients. (Id.) Defendant's conduct escalated during the third occasion on August 29, 2017, which prompted the Government to file a criminal complaint on September 1, 2017. (ECF No. 38 at 3.)

         On September 7, 2017, the Government filed a two-count information against Defendant. (ECF No. 10.) Count one charged Defendant with assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111(a). (Id. at 1.) Count two charged Defendant with disorderly conduct in violation of 38 U.S.C. § 901 and 38 C.F.R. §§ 1.218(a)(5) and (b)(11). (Id. at 2.) Both counts are misdemeanors. (Id. at 1-2.)

         The magistrate court held a three-day jury trial on April 16 through April 18, 2018. On April 18, 2018, the jury returned a verdict finding Defendant not guilty on count one and guilty on count two. (ECF No. 60.) The magistrate court sentenced Defendant to three years of probation and 50 hours of community service to be completed within the first year of probation. (ECF No. 70.)

         Defendant filed a notice of appeal directly with the Ninth Circuit on June 5, 2018. (ECF No. 71.) On April 15, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to remand the appeal pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3402. The Ninth Circuit remanded the appeal to this Court on July 9, 2019. (ECF No. 80.)

         II. Standard of Review

         “A defendant is entitled to a jury instruction on a defense theory if the theory has a basis in law and in the record.” United States v. Hayes, 794 F.2d 1348, 1350 (9th Cir. 1986). “We review de novo whether an instruction is ‘supported by law.'” United States v. Anguiano-Morfin, 713 F.3d 1208, 1209 (9th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). “We review for an abuse of discretion whether it has ‘some foundation in the evidence.'” Id. (citation omitted). “The adequacy of the jury instructions, however, is determined by examining the instructions as a whole.” Hayes, 794 F.2d at 1350. “[I]t is not error to refuse a proposed instruction so long as the other instructions in their entirety cover that theory.” Id. “The district court has broad discretion in formulating the instructions and need not give an instruction in the precise language proposed by the defendant.” Id. “Imperfectly formulated jury instructions will serve as a basis for overturning a conviction only upon a showing of abuse of discretion.” Id.

         III. Analysis

         The disorderly conduct regulation at issue is 38 C.F.R. § 1.218(a)(5), which states,

Conduct on [VA] property which creates loud or unusual noise; which unreasonably obstructs the usual use of entrances, foyers, lobbies, corridors, offices, elevators, stairways, or parking lots; which otherwise impedes or disrupts the performance of official duties by Government employees; which prevents one from obtaining medical or other services provided on the property in a timely manner; or the use of loud, abusive, or otherwise improper language; or unwarranted loitering, sleeping, or assembly is prohibited.

         Defendant argues that the magistrate court erred by refusing two of his proposed jury instructions.[1] The Court will address Defendant's proposed jury instructions in turn.

         A. Proposed Jury ...


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