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National Crime Victim Law Institute

United States v. Gatewood, No. CR. 11-08074-PCT-JAT, 2012 WL 2286999 (D. Ariz. June 18, 2012) (slip copy)

June 28, 2012

During the course of criminal proceedings, the government provided defendant with certain documents from which personal information—including names, addresses, and social security numbers—relating to the victims had been redacted.  Defendant filed a motion requesting that the court give him access to unredacted versions of materials in the government’s possession, alleging that the material provided “contains heavy redaction, which renders it essentially incomprehensible.”  Defendant also objected to the redaction of the names and addresses of his adult victims.  Defendant asserted that he requires the redacted information in order to “research the criminal and public records of the witnesses and victims,” but refused to provide additional information about his need for the information, citing that doing so would reveal defense strategy.  The government argued in response that the victims of defendant’s acts of rape were afraid of defendant and that the friends and family of defendant had contacted several victims and witnesses and had attempted to “intimidate them and keep them from cooperating.”  The government noted that it had unredacted specific information when requested by defendant and contacted victims and witnesses on behalf of defendant to convey requests for defense interviews, but the government refused to comply with defendant’s request to provide unredacted copies of the material in the absence of a justified request for specific information.  Defendant chose not to specify which of the redacted material he requires because the “process is too cumbersome, time-consuming and costly to continue.”

In deciding defendant’s motion, the court noted, inter alia, that Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), govern the disclosure of information in the government’s possession and that the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3771 (CVRA), and the Child Victims’ and Child Witnesses’ Rights Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3509, provide victims with the right to privacy.  The court then rejected defendant’s argument that the redacted information was favorable to defendant and material to his case and that the government’s refusal to provide this information inappropriately interfered with defendant’s investigation.  To the contrary, the court noted that the government “has delivered, on the behalf of the defense, requests to interview the witnesses and victims, requested criminal histories, and has, so far as this Court can ascertain from the record, complied with all specific and justified requests for information.”   The court held that “logistical issues” do not entitle defendant to unredacted discovery.  The court further observed that “[s]imply because Defendant is unable to convince witnesses and victims to consent to an interview does not imply that the Government is interfering with defense access to witnesses.”  In fact, the court noted that defendant located and contacted a child-victim in the case by email, even without access to the child-victim’s redacted information.  The court also rejected defendant’s argument that he need not provide justification for his request for the redacted information for strategic reasons.  Rule 16 requires that the government disclose information only when it is “material” to defendant’s case, and defendant failed to show that the redacted information was material or favorable; to the contrary, defendant merely asserted that requesting specific material was “too difficult a process to follow.”  Because defendant had no general right to discovery, because the government complied with all discovery rules and all supported,  specific requests for redacted information, and in light of the sensitive nature of the case and defendant’s refusal to justify his request, the court denied defendant’s motion.