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United States v. Baca

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 31, 2019

ANTHONY RAY BACA, a.k.a. “Pup”; CHRISTOPHER GARCIA; MANUEL JACOB ARMIJO, a.k.a. “Big Jake”; FREDERICO MUNOZ, a.k.a. “Playboy”; SERGIO LOYA RODRIGUEZ, a.k.a “Churro”; MANUEL BENITO, a.k.a. “Panther”; VINCENT GARDUÑO a.k.a. “Fatal”; MANDEL LON PARKER, a.k.a. “Chuco”; DANIEL ARCHULETA, a.k.a. “Smurf”; DANIEL SANCHEZ, a.k.a. “Dan Dan”; ANTHONY CORDOVA, a.k.a. “Antone”; and ARTURO ARNULFO GARCIA, a.k.a. “Shotgun, ” Defendants.

          Fred Federici Attorney for the United States A and John C. Anderson United States Attorney Maria Ysabel Armijo Randy M. Castellano Matthew Beck Assistant United States Attorneys United States Attorney's Office Las Cruces, New Mexico Attorneys for the Plaintiff

          Theresa M. Duncan Duncan, Earnest, LLC and Marc M. Lowry Rothstein Donatelli, LLP Attorneys for Defendant Anthony Ray Baca

          Christopher W. Adams Charleston, South Carolina and Amy Sirignano Law Office of Amy Sirignano, P.C. Attorneys for Defendant Christopher Garcia

          Todd Bruce Hotchkiss Todd B. Hotchkiss, Attorney at Law, LLC Attorney for Manuel Jacob Armijo

          Louis E. Lopez, Jr. El Paso, Texas Attorney for Frederico Munoz

          Donald F. Kochersberger, III Business Law Southwest, LLC Attorneys for Sergio Loya Rodriguez

          Susan Burgess-Farrell Barry G. Porter Burgess & Porter Law, LLC Attorneys for Manuel Benito

          Diego R. Esquibel and R. Scott Reisch Reisch Law Firm, LLC Attorneys for Vincent Garduño

          Marc Grano Attorney for Mandel Lon Parker

          James Baiamonte and Ahmad Assed Ahmad Assed & Associates Attorneys for Daniel Archuleta

          Lauren Noriega and Amy E. Jacks Attorneys for Defendant Daniel Sanchez

          Marcia A. Morrissey and Gregory M. Acton Attorneys for Anthony Cordova

          Scott Moran Davidson and Billy R. Blackburn Attorneys for Defendant Arturo Arnulfo Garcia


         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Anthony Cordova's Amended Motion to Strike Question 54(c) from Supplemental Jury Questionnaire, filed May 17, 2018 (Doc. 644)(“54(c) Motion”). The Court held a hearing on June 14, 2018. See Clerk's Minutes at 1, filed June 14, 2018 (Doc. 743). The primary issue is whether the Court should strike from the Supplemental Juror Questionnaire, filed January 10, 2019 (Doc. 947)(“Baca SJQ”), question 54(c), which asks prospective jurors whether they “would be in fear of retaliation if [they] came to a decision to vote guilty.” 54(c) Motion at 1 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Baca SJQ ¶ 54(c), at 13). Because the Court mailed the Baca SJQ to the venire before Defendant Anthony Cordova filed the 54(c) Motion and, because the Court cannot say that question 54(c) will prejudice Cordova and Defendant Vincent Garduño -- who, by the June 14, 2018, hearing, were the only United States v. Baca (“Baca”) Defendants[1] planning to proceed to trial, the Court will not strike question 54(c). At the hearing, Cordova and Garduño requested that the Court allow them to address in voir dire the potential jurors' fears regarding retaliation. See Transcript of Hearing at 243:20-22 (taken June 14, 2018), filed July 3, 2018 (Doc. 771)(Morrissey) (“June 14 Tr.”). During voir dire, the Court will allow Cordova and Garduño to address such fears, and, if Cordova and Garduño desire to speak with potential jurors individually, the Court will allow Cordova and Garduño to speak individually with potential jurors. Accordingly, the Court will grant Cordova and Garduño's requests in part and deny them in part.


         The Court recounts the factual background and early procedural history in its Memorandum Opinion and Order at 2-4, 2018 WL 5980443, at *1-2, filed November 14, 2018 (Doc. 932)(“MOO”). The Court incorporates that recitation here. The Court includes the footnotes from the MOO.

The Court takes its background facts from the Superseding Indictment, filed March 9, 2017 (Doc. 372)(“Indictment”). The Court does not set forth these facts as findings or for their truth. The Court recognizes that the factual background is largely the Plaintiff United States of America's version of events and that the [Baca] Defendants who have not pled guilty are all presumed innocent.
This case deals with the crimes that the . . . [Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico (“SNM”)] . . . allegedly committed through its members. See Indictment ¶¶ 1, 3, at 1-2. The SNM, through its members, operated in the District of New Mexico at all relevant times, and its members engaged in acts of violence and other criminal activities, “including, murder, kidnapping, attempted murder, conspiracy to manufacture/distribute narcotics, and firearms trafficking.” Indictment ¶ 1, at 2. The SNM constitutes an enterprise “as defined in Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1959(b)(2) and 1961(4), that is, a group of individuals associated in fact that engaged in, and the activities of which affected interstate and foreign commerce.” Indictment ¶ 2, at 2. The enterprise is “an ongoing organization whose members/prospects/associates functioned as a continuing unit for a common purpose of achieving the objectives of the enterprise.” Indictment ¶ 2, at 2.
The SNM is a prison gang formed in the early 1980s at the Penitentiary of New Mexico (“PNM”) after a violent prison riot at PNM during which inmates seriously assaulted and raped twelve correctional officers after taking them hostage. See Indictment ¶ 3, at 2. During the riot, thirty-three inmates were killed, and over 200 were injured. See Indictment ¶ 3, at 2. After the PNM riot, the SNM expanded throughout the state's prison system and has had as many as 500 members. See Indictment ¶ 4, at 2. The SNM now has approximately 250 members, and “a ‘panel' or ‘mesa' (Spanish for [“]table[”]) of leaders who issue orders to subordinate gang members.” Indictment ¶ 4, at 2-3. The SNM controls drug distribution and other illegal activities within the New Mexico penal system, but it also conveys orders outside the prison system. See Indictment ¶¶ 3, 5, at 2-3. Members who rejoin their communities after completing their sentences are expected to further the gang's goals, the main one being the control of and the profit from narcotics trafficking. See Indictment ¶ 5, at 3. The SNM also intimidates and influences smaller New Mexico Hispanic gangs to expand its illegal activities. See Indictment ¶ 6, at 3. If another gang does not abide by the SNM's demands, the SNM will assault or kill one of the other gang's members to show its power. See Indictment ¶ 6, at 3. The SNM's rivalry with other gangs also manifests itself in beatings and stabbings within the prison system. See Indictment ¶ 7, at 4. The SNM further engages in violence “to assert its gang identity, to claim or protect its territory, to challenge or respond to challenges, to retaliate against a rival gang or member, [and] to gain notoriety and show its superiority over others.” Indictment ¶ 7, at 4. “Similarly, a member of the SNM Gang is expected to confront and attack any suspected law enforcement informants, cooperating witness[es], homosexuals, or sex offenders.” Indictment ¶ 8, at 4. To achieve its purpose of maintaining power, the SNM uses intimidation, violence, threats of violence, assault, ...

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