United States v. Under Seal, No. 15-4539

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtFLOYD, Circuit Judge
Citation853 F.3d 706
Docket Number No. 15-4569,No. 15-4539
Decision Date05 April 2017
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. UNDER SEAL, Defendant–Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Under Seal, Party-in-Interest– Appellant, and Pedro Anthony Romero Cruz, a/k/a Payaso; Jose Lopez Torres, a/k/a Peluca, a/k/a Medio Polvo, a/k/a Peluquin, a/k/a Jose Alejandro Donez, a/k/a Lopez Manuel Torres; Jaime Rosales Villegas, a/k/a Demente, a/k/a Lil Demente; Alvin Gaitan Benitez, a/k/a Pesadilla, a/k/a Lil Pesadilla, a/k/a Lil Tuner, a/k/a Tooner, a/k/a Lil Tunnel; Christian Lemus Cerna, a/k/a Leopardo, a/k/a Bago, a/k/a Vago, a/k/a Gatito, a/k/a Christian Josue Lemus Alfaro; Omar Dejesus Castillo, a/k/a Lil Payaso, a/k/a Lil Slow; Douglas Duran Cerritos, a/k/a Lil Poison, a/k/a Guason, a/k/a Lunche, a/k/a Guadalupe; Manuel Ernesto Paiz Guevara, a/k/a Solitario, a/k/a Colita; Jose Del Cid, a/k/a Duende; Jesus Alejandro Chavez, a/k/a Chuy ; Juan Carlos Marquez Ayala, a/k/a Skinny; Araely Santiago Villanueva, a/k/a Slow, a/k/a Lil Slow, a/k/a Spider; Genaro Sen Garcia, a/k/a Gatuso, Defendants.

853 F.3d 706

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff–Appellee,
v.
UNDER SEAL, Defendant–Appellant.


United States of America, Plaintiff–Appellee,
v.
Under Seal, Party-in-Interest– Appellant,
and
Pedro Anthony Romero Cruz, a/k/a Payaso; Jose Lopez Torres, a/k/a Peluca, a/k/a Medio Polvo, a/k/a Peluquin, a/k/a Jose Alejandro Donez, a/k/a Lopez Manuel Torres; Jaime Rosales Villegas, a/k/a Demente, a/k/a Lil Demente; Alvin Gaitan Benitez, a/k/a Pesadilla, a/k/a Lil Pesadilla, a/k/a Lil Tuner, a/k/a Tooner, a/k/a Lil Tunnel; Christian Lemus Cerna, a/k/a Leopardo, a/k/a Bago, a/k/a Vago, a/k/a Gatito, a/k/a Christian Josue Lemus Alfaro; Omar Dejesus Castillo, a/k/a Lil Payaso, a/k/a Lil Slow; Douglas Duran Cerritos, a/k/a Lil Poison, a/k/a Guason, a/k/a Lunche, a/k/a Guadalupe; Manuel Ernesto Paiz Guevara, a/k/a Solitario, a/k/a Colita; Jose Del Cid, a/k/a Duende; Jesus Alejandro Chavez, a/k/a Chuy ; Juan Carlos Marquez Ayala, a/k/a Skinny; Araely Santiago Villanueva, a/k/a Slow, a/k/a Lil Slow, a/k/a Spider; Genaro Sen Garcia, a/k/a Gatuso, Defendants.

No. 15-4539
No. 15-4569

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

Argued: December 7, 2016
Decided: April 5, 2017


ARGUED: Carmen D. Hernandez, Highland, Maryland, for Appellant. Christopher John Catizone, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Vernida R. Chaney, CHANEY LAW FIRM PLLC, Fairfax, Virginia, for Appellant. Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney, Heather Alpino, Special Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

Before WILKINSON, MOTZ, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed in part, dismissed in part, vacated in part, and remanded with instructions by published opinion. Judge Floyd wrote the majority opinion, in which Judge Wilkinson joined. Judge Motz wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

FLOYD, Circuit Judge:

Appellant, a juvenile during all relevant events in this case, appeals two sets of decisions relating to his juvenile prosecution.1 First, Appellant appeals the district

853 F.3d 713

court's decision to grant the federal government's motion to dismiss the information filed against him in a juvenile delinquency proceeding without prejudice, and its decision to deny Appellant's motion to dismiss the information with prejudice. Second, Appellant appeals the district court's decision to authorize the federal government to disclose two confidential documents and Appellant's identity to third-parties, contending that the disclosed information should have been kept private.

For the reasons that follow, we dismiss as interlocutory the appeal over the dismissal of the information without prejudice and the denial of Appellant's motion for dismissal with prejudice. However, we affirm the district court's authorization of disclosure of the aforementioned confidential documents. Finally, because we believe that the controversy surrounding the disclosure of Appellant's identity is moot on appeal, we vacate the district court's decision to authorize disclosure of that information.

I.

A.

On October 7, 2013, Nelson Omar Quintanilla Trujillo—a member of the MS–13 gang—was murdered in Fairfax County, Virginia, by several of his MS–13 associates. Subsequently, a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia returned an indictment against multiple adult MS–13 members (the "Adult Defendants") for taking part in Trujillo's murder. The prosecution of some of these individuals (the "Adult Prosecution") remains ongoing. The Adult Prosecution was assigned docket number 1:14–CR–306, and was assigned to the Honorable Gerald Bruce Lee.

Appellant was an MS–13 gang member who took part in Trujillo's murder, but was only sixteen years old at the time the murder took place. On October 16, 2014, the federal government filed under seal a juvenile delinquency information against Appellant in connection with his role in Trujillo's murder (the "Juvenile Prosecution"). In accordance with the jurisdictional requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (the "JJDPA"), Pub. L. No. 93–415, 88 Stat. 1109, codified as amended in relevant part at 18 U.S.C. § 5032, the information was accompanied by the federal government's certification that Appellant's case was a felony "crime of violence" implicating a "substantial Federal interest," and that Virginia prosecutors had declined to exercise their jurisdiction over Appellant. J.A. 104–05.

Appellant was detained the same day that the information against him was filed. The Juvenile Prosecution was assigned its own docket number, 1:14–CR–349, and was also assigned to the Honorable Gerald Bruce Lee.

On October 16, 2014, the federal government filed a motion pursuant to § 5032 to transfer Appellant for prosecution as an adult for murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1). To decide whether to transfer the case, the district court held a hearing that addressed the six statutory factors relevant to the transfer decision under § 5032. On April 21, 2015, the district court issued an order denying transfer. On April 24, 2015, the federal government filed an interlocutory appeal of the district court's order denying transfer.

853 F.3d 714

On July 14, 2015, Appellant's attorney attended a meeting with federal and state prosecutors. During the meeting, the federal prosecutors indicated that the federal government had decided to defer to the Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney's Office in the prosecution of Appellant. Accordingly, the federal prosecutors informed Appellant's counsel that they intended to dismiss the federal government's interlocutory appeal and then move to voluntarily dismiss Appellant's information in the district court. During the meeting, state prosecutors indicated that they would proceed against Appellant in state court following the completion of the federal government's Adult Prosecution. State prosecutors also presented plea offers to Appellant's attorney requiring Appellant to plead to an adult murder charge, although those offers were never accepted.

On July 16, 2015, the federal government moved to voluntarily dismiss the interlocutory appeal of the denial of transfer. On August 11, 2015, this Court granted the federal government's motion to dismiss.

On August 17, 2015, the federal government moved to voluntarily dismiss Appellant's information pursuant to Rule 48(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which provides that "[t]he government may, with leave of court, dismiss an indictment, information, or complaint." On August 18, 2015, the district court responded by dismissing the information without prejudice. Later that day, Appellant filed a request for a hearing regarding dismissal, which the district court immediately denied.

On September 1, 2015, Appellant filed a motion entitled "Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration or in the Alternative Objections to the United States' Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 48(a) and the Court's Order Granting the Dismissal." J.A. 704. In that motion, Appellant objected to dismissal of the information without prejudice, on the grounds that such a dismissal was part of an improper effort by the federal government to circumvent the JJDPA by using state prosecutors as a proxy to pursue adult charges. Additionally, Appellant sought dismissal of the information with prejudice, citing a violation of his "right to a speedy trial pursuant to 18 U.S.C. [§] 5036." J.A. 710. The district court denied Appellant's motion on September 3, 2015.

Upon dismissal of the information, Appellant was released to the custody of immigration authorities. Appellant has since been deported to his native country, El Salvador; however, he remains subject to prosecution in the United States in connection with his role in Trujillo's murder.

B.

The federal government requested authorization from the district court to disclose three pieces of information to the attorneys for the Adult Defendants (the "Adult Defense Attorneys"). Although these items were subject to confidentiality protections under 18 U.S.C. § 5038, the federal government nonetheless requested disclosure authorization in order to fulfill what it perceived to be potential Brady2 obligations. The items at issue included:

1) The portion of Appellant's testimony from the transfer hearing (the "Transfer Transcript") related to gang activity in the United States and the murder of Trujillo. The original transcript was approximately sixty-five
853 F.3d 715
e pages long; however, to avoid disclosing personal or extraneous information, the federal government only sought disclosure of approximately twenty-four pages of the testimony.

2) An FBI investigative report (the "Investigative Report") containing statements about Trujillo's murder made by Appellant in an interview with the FBI. The report was approximately five pages long, with approximately one page of redactions.

3) Appellant's identity (which had been redacted from the transcript and report).

The federal government began by requesting—in the case number for the Adult Prosecution—authorization to disclose the Transfer Transcript and the Investigative...

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7 practice notes
  • Hill v. Coggins, No. 16-1457
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • 14 Agosto 2017
    ...we must determine whether Plaintiffs possess Article III standing to bring this suit against the Zoo. See United States v. Under Seal , 853 F.3d 706, 721 (4th Cir. 2017). We conclude that they do.A. To satisfy Article III's standing requirements, a plaintiff must have "(1) suffered an injur......
  • United States v. C.S., Nos. 19-1254
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 15 Mayo 2020
    ...951 F.2d 549, 555 (3d Cir. 1991).4 We review the District Court's notification order for abuse of discretion. United States v. Under Seal, 853 F.3d 706, 725 (4th Cir. 2017) (reviewing order disclosing juvenile records under the JDA for abuse of discretion); 968 F.3d 244 In re W.R. Huff Asse......
  • Hartford Courant Co. v. Carroll, Docket No. 20-2744-cv
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • 1 Febrero 2021
    ...approval of the juvenile court , the name of any youth charged as a juvenile offender" (emphasis added)); United States v. Under Seal , 853 F.3d 706, 713 (4th Cir. 2017) (juvenile delinquency proceeding); In re Gault , 387 U.S. 1, 4, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 18 L.Ed.2d 527 (1967) (juvenile delinquenc......
  • Woods v. City of Greensboro, No. 16-1044
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • 5 Mayo 2017
    ...did not have the benefit of Lexmark when it evaluated the corporate plaintiff's standing under § 1981. Cf. United States v. Under Seal, 853 F.3d 706, 722 n.5 (4th Cir. 2017) (mentioning the impact of Lexmark ).7 As § 1981 protects from race discrimination all persons, whites as well as blac......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • Hill v. Coggins, No. 16-1457
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • 14 Agosto 2017
    ...we must determine whether Plaintiffs possess Article III standing to bring this suit against the Zoo. See United States v. Under Seal , 853 F.3d 706, 721 (4th Cir. 2017). We conclude that they do.A. To satisfy Article III's standing requirements, a plaintiff must have "(1) suffered an injur......
  • United States v. C.S., Nos. 19-1254
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 15 Mayo 2020
    ...951 F.2d 549, 555 (3d Cir. 1991).4 We review the District Court's notification order for abuse of discretion. United States v. Under Seal, 853 F.3d 706, 725 (4th Cir. 2017) (reviewing order disclosing juvenile records under the JDA for abuse of discretion); 968 F.3d 244 In re W.R. Huff Asse......
  • Hartford Courant Co. v. Carroll, Docket No. 20-2744-cv
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • 1 Febrero 2021
    ...approval of the juvenile court , the name of any youth charged as a juvenile offender" (emphasis added)); United States v. Under Seal , 853 F.3d 706, 713 (4th Cir. 2017) (juvenile delinquency proceeding); In re Gault , 387 U.S. 1, 4, 87 S.Ct. 1428, 18 L.Ed.2d 527 (1967) (juvenile delinquenc......
  • Woods v. City of Greensboro, No. 16-1044
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • 5 Mayo 2017
    ...did not have the benefit of Lexmark when it evaluated the corporate plaintiff's standing under § 1981. Cf. United States v. Under Seal, 853 F.3d 706, 722 n.5 (4th Cir. 2017) (mentioning the impact of Lexmark ).7 As § 1981 protects from race discrimination all persons, whites as well as blac......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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