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State v. Sotelo

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department B

July 25, 2013


Not for Publication – Rule 111, Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court.

Appeal from the Superior Court in Yuma County Cause No. 1400CR201200163 The Honorable Lawrence C. Kenworthy, Judge.

Thomas C. Horne, Attorney General Phoenix by Joseph T. Maziarz, Acting Chief Counsel, Criminal Appeals/Capital Litigation Section and Andrew Reilly, Assistant Attorney General Attorneys for Appellee.

Yuma County Public Defender's Office Yuma by Edward F. McGee, Deputy Public Defender Attorneys for Appellant.



¶1 Defendant Enrique Sotelo appeals his conviction and sentence for transportation of marijuana, a class two felony. He contends the trial court erred by denying his motion to compel. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.


¶2 Sotelo was observed driving a commercial utility truck in an unusual manner near Interstate 8. He was stopped by a U.S. Border Patrol Agent after learning from dispatch that there was a Treasury Enforcement Communications Systems ("TECS") alert associated with the truck. The agent became suspicious about Sotelo's story and requested assistance from a canine agent. The dog alerted on the truck indicating the presence of illegal drugs, and the truck was taken to a Border Patrol checkpoint for x-raying. The x-rays revealed some bundles and a hidden compartment in the auxiliary gas tank. After the search, more than 700 pounds of hidden marijuana were discovered.

¶3 Sotelo was charged, tried, and convicted of transportation of marijuana for sale. This appeal followed.


¶4 Sotelo contends the court erred by denying his motion to compel disclosure of the unredacted TECS message and the agent's training records. Specifically, he contends that because the TECS message contained material tending to exonerate him, disclosure was required under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure ("Rule") 15.1. We review a ruling on discovery matters for an abuse of discretion, Cervantes v. Cates, 206 Ariz. 178, 181, ¶ 11, 76 P.3d 449, 452 (App. 2003); see also State v. Robles, 182 Ariz. 268, 272, 895 P.2d 1031, 1035 (App. 1995) (applying abuse of discretion to challenges under Brady), keeping in mind that the "trial court is in the best position to rule on discovery requests." State v. Fields, 196 Ariz. 580, 582, ¶ 4, 2 P.3d 670, 672 (App. 1999).

¶5 "There is no general federal constitutional right to discovery in a criminal case." State v. Tucker, 157 Ariz. 433, 438, 759 P.2d 579, 584 (1988). "However, the Constitution does impose on the prosecution a due process obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence that is material on the issue of guilt or punishment." Id. (citing Brady, 373 U.S. at 87-88, and United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 676-84 (1985)). "Under this doctrine, the defendant is denied a fair trial only if there is a reasonable probability that, had the exculpatory evidence been disclosed, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Tucker, 157 Ariz. at 438, 759 P.2d at 584 (citing Bagley, 473 U.S. at 682). Because "the Constitution is not violated every time the government fails . . . to disclose evidence that might prove helpful to the defense, " Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 436-37 (1995), a defendant alleging a Brady violation must demonstrate that the exculpatory evidence has been suppressed by the State, and that prejudice has ensued. Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 281-82 (1999). "Mere speculation that a government file may contain Brady material is not sufficient to require . . . reversal for a new trial." State v. Acinelli, 191 Ariz. 66, 71, 952 P.2d 304, 309 (App. 1997) (quoting United States v. Navarro, 737 F.2d 625, 631 (7th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1020 (1984)). And, the prosecutor's duty to disclose extends to "any favorable evidence known to the others acting on the government's behalf, " Kyles, 514 U.S. at 437, or evidence within its possession. State v. O'Dell, 202 Ariz. 453, 457, ¶ 11, 46 P.3d 1074, 1078 (App. 2002) (holding that "the state did not violate Brady by failing to disclose evidence it no longer had . . . [and] never possessed . . . in any useable form"); see also State v. Rivera, 152 Ariz. 507, 511, 733 P.2d 1090, 1094 (1987) (holding that defendant's due process rights were not violated because "the State chose not to gather [potentially exculpatory] evidence" to prove its case).

¶6 Here, Sotelo sought disclosure of the federal government's TECS alert to demonstrate that he had been an innocent driver with no knowledge of the hidden compartment. The State received the redacted TECS alert from Border Patrol and provided an identical copy of the document to Sotelo. The State never saw or possessed the unredacted version, despite its numerous attempts to procure it. Sotelo has not demonstrated that the unredacted version of the TECS alert contained exculpatory evidence or that any prejudice ensued by the State's failure to disclose that version of the TECS alert. Moreover, because the State cannot disclose evidence it never possessed, see supra ¶ 6, we find no Brady violation here.

¶7 Additionally, we find no discovery violation under Rule 15. Although Rule 15.1(b) requires a prosecutor to disclose all reports "prepared by a law enforcement agency in connection with the particular crime with which the defendant is charged, " the requirement is specifically limited to law enforcement agencies "under the prosecutor's direction or control." Rule 15.1(f)(2). Because Border Patrol and the U.S. Department of the Treasury are not under the direction and control of the State and because the State did not have "any better access" to the unredacted version, we find no ...

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