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United States v. Vargas

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

January 5, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
LEONEL MICHEL VARGAS, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING THE U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION, AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

EDWARD F. SHEA, Senior District Judge.

The U.S. Attorney's Office (USAO) asks the Court to reconsider its ruling granting Defendant Leonel Michel Vargas' suppression motion. ECF Nos. 112 & 106. Defendant opposes the USAO's reconsideration motion, and also asks the Court to dismiss the Indictment due to insufficient evidence. ECF Nos. 110 & 114. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies both motions.[1]

First, reconsideration is appropriate if the Court 1) is presented with newly discovered evidence, 2) committed clear error or the initial decision was manifestly unjust, or 3) if there is an intervening change in controlling law. See United States v. Alexander, 106 F.3d 874, 876 (9th Cir. 1997). This is a high standard because the "law of the case" doctrine generally precludes a court from reconsidering an issue that has already been decided by that court. Id.

This high standard is not met here. The USAO initially also argued that Defendant's front-yard activities could be viewed by a passerby. Additionally, the USAO initially provided the Court with pictures of the Defendant's residence and nearby property, as well as with the contested recorded video footage, and the USAO had the opportunity at that time to submit additional pictures or video-it did not. The USAO fails to show that its now-proffered evidence is newly discovered or was unknown to it until after the Court's suppression order, or "that it could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced such evidence at the hearing." Frederick S. Wyle Prof'l Corp. v. Texaco, Inc., 764 F.2d 604, 609 (9th Cir. 1985). And the USAO's factual speculations regarding the well house supporting reconsideration are just that.

The Court abides by its initial factual and legal findings. Based solely on suspicion, the government engaged in covert video surveillance of Defendant's home and front yard without a warrant twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for six weeks. As articulated in the Court's suppression order, that covert video surveillance violated Defendant's Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search.

Second, as to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Based on Insufficient Evidence, Defendant asks the Court to dismiss the Indictment because the USAO acknowledges that it will not proceed to trial in light of the Court granting Defendant's suppression motion. ECF Nos. 107 & 110. The USAO opposes the motion, contending that it should be permitted to seek an appeal of the Court's denial of its reconsideration motion. Because Defendant has not identified a legal basis for the Court granting dismissal based on insufficient evidence until after the government closes its case, the Court finds the premature at this time. Accordingly, Defendant's motion is denied at this time.

The filed motions having been addressed by this Order will not be heard at the January 6, 2015 pretrial conference. At the January 6, 2015 pretrial conference before Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr., the parties shall be prepared to advise the Court as to how they intend to proceed in this matter. Trial is presently set for January 20, 2015, with trial-related submissions due beginning January 12, 2015. See ECF No. 108.

For these reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:

1. The USAO's Motion to Reconsider, ECF No. 112, is DENIED.
2. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Based on Insufficient Evidence, ECF No. 110, is DENIED with leave to renew.

IT IS SO ORDERED. The Clerk's Office is directed to enter this Order and provide copies to all counsel.


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