Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Reversal required because trial court refused to review in camera information about informant

U.S. v. Arechiga-Mendoza, 2014 WL 1876244 (5/12/14) (Col.) (unpub'd) - Reversals and remands with respect to a couple of issues that might ultimately benefit Mr. Arechiga-Mendoza (hereinafter "Mr. A-M" with sincere apologies to Mr. A-M and his family). The court abused its discretion when it refused to conduct an in camera review of information regarding the compensation [in terms of money and leniency for her son-in-law] the government gave the CI. Since Mr. A-M already knew who the CI was and where she lived, the government couldn't justify its refusal to disclose based on the need to keep the CI's ID confidential. It didn't matter that the government did not present the CI as a witness. The defense called the CI and her testimony conflicted with that of Mr. A-M, who asserted an entrapment defense. The CI's compensation is material to resolving the dispute between the witnesses. On remand the court must review the information in camera and balance the public interest in protecting informants against Mr. A-M's right to mount a defense. The 10th ordered that, if the district court determines disclosure is required, the drug conviction must be vacated.

The district court also erred when it imposed an enhancement for illegal firearm trafficking under ยง 2K2.1(b)(5) solely based on the notion that exporting firearms into Mexico is always unlawful. In fact, firearms can be legally exported to Mexico. On remand the court is free to consider whether Mr. A-M knew or had reason to believe the men to whom he gave the shotguns intended to take them to Mexico unlawfully.