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United States v. Hoffman

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 1, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Natalie Renee Hoffman, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE BRUCE G. MACDONALD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Currently pending before the Court is Defendants Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse, and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick's (collectively “Defendants”) Motion to Compel (Doc. 43). The Government has filed its response, and Defendants have replied. Govt.'s Response in Opposition to Defs.' Mot. to Compel (Doc. 50); Defs.' Reply in Support of Defs.' Mot. to Compel (Doc. 51). Defendant Natalie Renee Hoffman is charged with one (1) count of operating a motor vehicle in a wilderness area, and all Defendants are charged with one (1) count of entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit. Information (Doc. 1).

         On April 17, 2018, oral argument was held before Magistrate Judge Macdonald regarding the motion. Minute Entry 4/17/2018 (Doc. 52). The Court took the matter under advisement. Subsequent to the hearing Defendant Oona Holcomb filed a Notice of Declaration in Support of Religious Freedom (Doc. 55). In response, the Government filed a Motion to Strike Defendant's Notice of Declaration (Doc. 56). Defendants Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick also filed a Notices of Declaration in Support of Religious Freedom (Docs. 57 & 61). The Government filed Motions to Strike Defendant's Notice of Declaration (Doc. 59 & 63) for Defendants Huse and Orozco-McCormick, as well. Defendants Holcomb, Huse, and Orozco-McCormick responded to the Government's motion to strike their respective affidavits. (Docs. 60 & 66). Accordingly, the motions are ripe for adjudication.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The Court outlined the relevant factual background in its May 2, 2018 Order (Doc. 62), but reiterates it here for consistency.

         On August 13, 2017 Federal Wildlife Canine Officer (“FWCO”) M. West received information of individuals in an area called Charlie Bell Pass/Well of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Govt.'s Aff. (Doc. 17) at 2. At approximately 11:40 a.m., FWCO West received photographs clearly showing a non-government vehicle being operated in a designated wilderness area of Charlie Bell Pass/Well which is located on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Id. Upon arrival at Charlie Bell Pass, FWCO West observed a green, Ford F150 unattended and legally parked off the roadway, and recorded the vehicle license plate (AZ-BXL9057) and checked for a valid permit, which is to be displayed on the dash, but was not. Id. FWCO observed items in the green F-150 (e.g., water jugs, cans of beans, etc.), as well as discovered a stash of similar items. Id. at 3.

         FWCO West observed a white, Dodge truck, Arizona vehicle license plate BRZ0504 parked off the roadway approximate 0.8 miles west of Charlie Bell Well. Id. Again, the truck did not have a valid permit displayed, and FWCO observed green plastic crates containing water, etc. Id.

         At approximately 2:40 p.m., FWCO West observed four (4) individuals walking out of the desert headed for the white truck. Govt.'s Aff. (Doc. 17) at 4. None of the individuals had a permit, and admitted to leaving the food and water at Charlie Bell Well, but stated that they left it there to lighten their truck while driving on rough roads, and meant to pick it up when they left. Id.

         At oral argument, counsel for Defendants confirmed that they had not sought to obtain permits prior to the August 13, 2017 incident. Hr'g Tr. 4/17/2018 (Doc. 58) at 14:15-15:18.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Defendants seek an order compelling the Government to provide discovery that they allege is relevant to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1, their selective prosecution claim, an entrapment by estoppel defense, and a necessity defense. Defs.' Mot. to Compel (Doc. 43) at 4, 6, 8, 9.

         A. Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 16

         Rule 16, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides, “[u]pon a defendant's request, the government must permit the defendant to inspect and to copy or photograph books, papers, documents, data, photographs, tangible objects, buildings or places, or copies or portions of any of these items, if the item is within the government's possession, custody, or control and . . . the item is material to preparing the defense.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(E)(i). “Materiality is a necessary prerequisite to discovery.” United States v. USDC, Central Dist. of Cal., Los Angeles, Cal., 717 F.2d 478, 480 (9th Cir. 1983) (citations omitted). “Materiality is a ‘low threshold; it is satisfied so long as the information ... would have helped' to prepare a defense. United States v. Soto-Zuniga, 837 F.3d 992, 1003 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting United States v. Hernandez-Meza, 720 F.3d 760, 768 (9th Cir. 2013)). However, “[m]ateriality means more than that the evidence in question bears some abstract logical relationship to the issues in the case. There must be some indication that the pretrial disclosure of the disputed evidence would . . enable[] the defendant significantly to alter the quantum of proof in his favor.” United States v. Maniktala, 934 F.2d 25, 28 (2d Cir. 1991) (citations omitted). “An abstract logical relationship to the issues in the case is not, however, sufficient to force the production of discovery under rule 16.” United States v. George, 786 F.Supp. 56, 58 (D.D.C. 1992) (quotations and citations omitted). “The documents at issue must play an important role in uncovering admissible evidence, aiding witness preparation, corroborating testimony or assisting impeachment or rebuttal.” Id. (quotations and citations omitted).

         B. Religious Freedom Restoration Act ...


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