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United States v. Y.C.T.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

October 13, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
Y.C.T., Male Juvenile, Defendant, Appellant

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Francisco A. Besosa, U.S. District Judge.

Patricia A. Garrity, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Héctor E. Guzmá n, Jr., Federal Public Defender, and Héctor L. Ramos-Vega, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Supervisor, Appeals Division, on brief for appellant.

Juan Carlos Reyes-Ramos, Assistant United States Attorney, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, and Nelson Pérez-Sosa, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, on brief for appellee.

Before Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Lipez, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 357

HOWARD, Chief Judge.

Male juvenile Y.C.T. appeals the district court's decision granting the government's request to transfer him to adult status for criminal prosecution. 18 U.S.C. § 5032. He contends that the court violated his right to due process and abused its discretion by relying on an inadequate factual record developed before the magistrate judge to assess " the nature of the alleged offense," one statutory factor in the overall calculus under § 5032. We have jurisdiction of this interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm the transfer order.

The government filed a juvenile information against Y.C.T. alleging two acts of delinquency stemming from an event that occurred on April 29, 2013. Specifically, it alleged that Y.C.T. committed a carjacking during which the male victim incurred a head injury and the female victim was sexually assaulted, and that Y.C.T. aided

Page 358

and abetted others who brandished a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. See 18 U.S.C. § 2119(2); id. § 924(c)(1)(A). The government moved for a discretionary transfer of Y.C.T. to the district court's criminal jurisdiction. 18 U.S.C. § 5032 (setting forth six statutory factors to consider in deciding whether transferring the juvenile for criminal prosecution is within " the interest of justice" ).

A magistrate judge conducted a transfer hearing at which a federal agent testified about the details of the alleged carjacking learned during the investigation. The agent's description of the alleged events characterized Y.C.T. as fully participating in the carjacking along with three other men, including personally committing acts of violence against both the male and the female victims. The agent identified various sources undergirding his factual description, including interviews of the victims, of the arresting police officers, and of one of the men arrested with Y.C.T. The magistrate judge subsequently issued a written report recommending that Y.C.T. be transferred to adult status, and the district court adopted the recommendation after conducting a de novo review. See 28 U.S.C. § 636.

With respect to the " nature of the alleged offense" factor in particular, the district court exercised its discretion both to assume the truth of the allegations in the juvenile information and to consider other evidence about the specifics of the alleged offense. See United States v. Welch, 15 F.3d 1202, 1208 (1st Cir. 1993); see also 18 U.S.C. § 5032; In re Sealed Case, 893 F.2d 363, 369-70, 282 U.S.App.D.C. 156 (D.C. Cir. 1990). In ruling that the transfer best served " the interest of justice," the district court placed significant weight on the gravity of the charged offenses, emphasizing that the agent's testimony showed that " Y.C.T.'s actions as alleged indicate a prolonged episode of reckless and violent behavior cut short by police intervention." See United States v. Male Juvenile E.L.C., 396 F.3d 458, 463 (1st Cir. 2005); United States v. Smith, 178 F.3d 22, 27 (1st Cir. 1999).[1]

On appeal, Y.C.T. contends that the magistrate judge foreclosed him from testing the veracity of the agent's testimony because the magistrate erroneously believed that the court was required to accept the entirety of the government's version of the facts. More specifically, during the transfer hearing Y.C.T.'s counsel attempted to question the federal agent about whether another alleged participant in the carjacking was a cooperating witness and was gaining a benefit by giving an account that blamed Y.C.T. This prompted objections from the government, which the magistrate judge sustained. Therefore, Y.C.T. argues, the magistrate erroneously circumscribed the record on a vital issue -- the gravity of the charged offenses -- and the district court abused its discretion by relying on that record to render its merits decision. See Male Juvenile ...


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