USA. .v Coutchavlis

Decision Date15 August 2001
Citation260 F.3d 1149
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Page 1149

260 F.3d 1149 (9th Cir. 2001)
No. 00-10349
Argued and Submitted June 13, 2001
Filed August 15, 2001

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Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Counsel: Oliver E. Vallejo, Assistant Federal Defender, Fresno, California, for the defendant/appellant.

Stanley A. Boone, Assistant United States Attorney, Fresno, California, for the plaintiff/appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California

Page 1152

Anthony W. Ishii, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. CR-00-00547-AWI

Before: James C. Hill,1 Susan P. Graber, and M. Margaret McKeown, Circuit Judges.

McKEOWN, Circuit Judge


James C. Coutchavlis appeals from a conviction for disorderly conduct, in violation of 36 C.F.R. §§ 2.34(a)(2), for which he was ordered to pay a fine of $100 and serve one year of probation. His primary challenge relates to interpretation of the regulation, which defines disorderly conduct as undertaking certain acts "with intent to cause public alarm, nuisance, jeopardy or violence," 36 C.F.R. §§ 2.34(a), and to the sufficiency of the evidence. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §§ 3231, and we affirm.


Coutchavlis was a bartender at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. His long-time friend and sometime girlfriend, Sheryl Peterson, was an employee of a cafeteria operated by Yosemite Concession Services in Curry Village. In early September 1999, the two took a drive in Couchavlis's car to Glacier Point, a scenic spot within the Park. During the drive from Glacier Point back to Yosemite Valley, on a road that is wholly within the boundaries of the Park, they got into an argument; Coutchavlis became agitated and began to yell at Peterson about their deteriorating relationship. According to Peterson, Coutchavlis, while driving, punched the windshield of the car, lengthening a pre-existing crack. He also grabbed her arm and activated the electronic door locks to keep her from leaving the car, and continued to drive.

Later that month, Coutchavlis brought flowers to Peterson at her workplace, but she rejected the offering, and her supervisor ordered him to leave. After her shift ended a few hours later, Coutchavlis was waiting for her in the parking lot. She immediately went back inside, and her supervisor called the park rangers. Yosemite National Park Ranger Arthur Gunzel responded to a report of the incident. He interviewed Peterson, the alleged victim, and learned of her history with Coutchavlis. She told him about the flowers/parking lot incident, as well as the events surrounding the drive down from Glacier Point.

Gunzel was unable to locate Coutchavlis that day, but, early the next day, he showed up unannounced at Coutchavlis's dorm room and informed him that he "was there to investigate an incident that had occurred at Curry Village." Coutchavlis's initial response was, "This involves Sheryl, doesn't it?" Gunzel said that he didn't want to discuss it right then but "needed to get an interview with him on what had happened, what had taken place, and invited him to do so." He let Coutchavlis go back into his dorm room to get dressed, and they proceeded outside. Gunzel suggested that they sit down at a picnic table outside the dorm, but Coutchavlis declined. Gunzel then suggested that they go back to his office, and Coutchavlis said, "That'll be fine. " Gunzel had Coutchavlis sit in the back seat of the police car, but Gunzel informed him "that he was not in custody in any way."

Gunzel testified that he read Coutchavlis his Miranda rights once they arrived at the Yosemite Law Enforcement Office. Coutchavlis said that he wanted to continue with the interview. Gunzel acknowledged

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during cross-examination at the suppression hearing that he did not note in his interview report that he had given the Miranda warnings. After the interview, Gunzel offered to drive Coutchavlis "anywhere he needed to go in the Valley," and Coutchavlis accepted the offer.

During the approximately one-hour interview, Coutchavlis made several incriminating statements. At trial, Gunzel testified as to Coutchavlis's statements:

He admitted to me that he had an inability to let go of the relationship, and further admitted that he had frightened her with his reckless driving behavior on the trip -

He told me that he admitted that he had frightened her with his driving and that he had left her scooter disabled alongside of the road after a fight, an argument they had had.

His statements to me were that she was the instigator of the argument and that he did admit to having kept her from exiting the vehicle because he wished to work things out, in his words.

Coutchavlis was tried before Magistrate Judge Hollis G. Best and convicted of disorderly conduct based upon the incident on the drive back from Glacier Point.2 He was sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and a statutory assessment of $5, and to serve one year of summary probation. Coutchavlis appealed his conviction to the district court, which affirmed.



Coutchavlis first contends that the government did not present evidence sufficient to prove that the violation of the regulation actually took place within Yosemite National Park. See 36 C.F.R. §§ 1.2(a)(1) ("The regulations contained in this chapter apply to all persons entering, using, visiting, or otherwise within: The boundaries of federally owned lands and waters administered by the National Park Service."). This argument ignores the realities of the Park's boundaries. According to Peterson's trial testimony, the windshield incident occurred somewhere between Glacier Point and the intersection at Chinquapin. An examination of a map of Yosemite demonstrates that the only route from Glacier point to the Chinquapin intersection travels entirely within the boundaries of the Park. See (visited Aug. 8, 2001).

The magistrate judge, who actually holds court within the Park, could certainly take judicial notice of such a fact. See Fed. R. Evid. 201(b) ("A judicially noticed fact must be one not subject to reasonable dispute in that it is either (1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned."). We have explicitly held that a court may take judicial notice of a map in determining whether a defendant known to have driven from one location to another passed through a particular jurisdiction. See United States v. Trenary, 473 F.2d 680,

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681 (9th Cir. 1973). Coutchavlis necessarily remained within the Park while driving from Glacier Point to the Chinquapin intersection. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, it is reasonable to conclude that the incident took place within Yosemite -actually, there is no other reasonable conclusion. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979) (articulating standard of review for challenge to sufficiency of the evidence).


Coutchavlis next asserts that the government did not present evidence sufficient to sustain a conviction under the disorderly conduct regulation, 36 C.F.R. §§ 2.34(a)(2). The regulation provides:

(a) A person commits disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public alarm, nuisance, jeopardy or violence, or knowingly or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person commits any of the following prohibited acts:

(2) Uses language, an utterance, or gesture, or engages in a display or act that is obscene, physically threatening or menacing, or done in a manner that is likely to inflict injury or incite an immediate breach of the peace.

Coutchavlis's primary argument is that his actions in the car did not "knowingly or recklessly creat[e] a risk" of "public alarm, nuisance, jeopardy or violence" because acts undertaken inside a car cannot cause public alarm.3 We interpret an administrative regulation de novo. United States v. Albers, 226 F.3d 989, 994 (9th Cir. 2000), cert. denied 121 S. Ct. 859 (2001).

In Albers, we recently had occasion to explicate the word "public" as used in §§ 2.34(a). Id. at 995. Although Albers involved a conviction under subsection (a)(4), the word "public" appears in (a), which is common to both provisions, and thus the discussion is relevant here. The Albers court looked to the Model Penal Code, which defines"public" as "affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access; among the places included are highways . . . ." Model Penal Code §§ 250.2(1) (1962) (emphasis added); see also United States v. Taylor, 258 F.3d 1065, 1068 (9th Cir. Aug. 7, 2001)(relying on Model Penal Code in interpreting§§ 2.34); United States v. Elmore, 108 F.3d 23, 26 (3d Cir. 1997) (accepting Model Penal Code definition of disorderly conduct as "adequate . . . for...

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