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United States v. Rodriguez

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

December 16, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
RODOLFO RODRIGUEZ, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISCLOSE SPECIAL AGENT PERRY'S PERSONNEL FILE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Defendant's Motion to Disclose Special Agent Perry's Personnel File, filed October 21, 2019 (Doc. 64). Having reviewed the parties' pleadings and the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendant's motion is not well-taken and, therefore, is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant was traveling on an eastbound AMTRAK train through Albuquerque New Mexico in February 2018 when he was approached by Special Agent Jarrell Perry (“Agent Perry”) and Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) task force officer Seth Chavez. Defendant was charged with possession and distribution of heroin as a result of a search conducted by Agent Perry. In this motion, Defendant seeks the following from Agent Perry's personnel file:

• qualifications and any disciplinary actions,
• any training Special Agent Perry has attended, and
• a list of any individuals Special Agent Perry has arrested on an AMTRAK train or a Greyhound Bus during an alleged consensual encounter from February 1, 2017, through February 1, 2018.[1]

         Defendant has also filed a Motion to Suppress (Doc. 27) and a Motion to Dismiss Indictment (Doc. 56), both of which are set for hearing on January 7, 2020 at 9:30. Doc. 71 In those motions, Defendant disputes the voluntariness of his responses to Agent Perry's questions and the legality of Agent Perry's search of his backpack. The Court rules on this motion first, assuming that the information Defendant seeks would arguably be relevant to the credibility of Agent Perry's testimony at the hearing on the motion to suppress.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant seeks Agent Perry's personnel file under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963). He claims that he is entitled to any exculpatory materials that may explore Agent Perry's motives (including discriminatory or prejudicial motives) in continuing to question Defendant after Defendant allegedly declined to speak with him. In Brady, the Supreme Court held that “the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.” 373 U.S. at 87; see also Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 437-38 (1995) (government has a duty to disclose evidence material to guilt or punishment even when the prosecutor personally did not know of that evidence); U.S. v. Velarde, 485 F.3d 553, 558-59 (10th Cir. 2007) (accord).

         The Government claims that Brady allows Defendant to obtain information that is “material” to guilt or punishment but does not entitle him to information that explores an agent's motives. For that reason, the Government addresses Defendant's request under Rule 16 but contends that Defendant has not shown that the requested items are “material” to preparing the defense, as required under the rule. Fed.R.Crim.P.16 (a)(1)(E).[2]

         I. Items Regarding Agent Perry's Training, Qualifications and Disciplinary Actions

         The Government is correct that Brady does not entitle a defendant to information that addresses the “motive” of a law enforcement officer, although potential impeachment evidence would be discoverable under Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 153 (1972) (prosecution's disclosure obligation extended to evidence that is useful to the defense in impeaching government witnesses, even if the evidence is not inherently exculpatory). However, a defendant has no Brady or Giglio right to sift through an agent's personnel file to see if he can find any potentially impeaching information; rather, it is the Government “that decides which information must be disclosed.” Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, 480 U.S. 39, 59 (1987) (A defendant's right to discover exculpatory evidence does not include the unsupervised authority to search through the Government's files).

         The Government notes that personnel files are subject to the Privacy Act under 5 U.S.C. §552(a) and cites to other cases in the District of New Mexico denying defense motions ...


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