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Federal Supervised Release & No Association Condition

Johnny Magdaleno was a high-ranking member of the East Las Casitas Norteño criminal street gang.  He pleaded guilty in United States District Court for the Northern District of California to one count of racketeering conspiracy pursuant to a written plea bargain agreement that he signed.  The underlying activities alleged against Magdaleno included drug trafficking, murder and other acts of violence.

While incarcerated at the Monterey County Jail, he orchestrated and directly participated in seven violent assaults (“removals”) against gang members who had violated the rules of Norteño Familia, a prison gang to which Norteño members pledge loyalty. 

Each “removal” followed a standard formula: a “hitter” would stab the victim repeatedly, after which two or more “bombers” would physically assault the victim, thus giving the “hitter” time to clean himself, hide the weapon and avoid capture.

In one such attack, Magdaleno, serving as the “hitter,” stabbed a victim in the chest and back over twenty times before the “bombers” swooped in and allowed Magdaleno to evade detection. 

The goal of such removals, Magdaleno acknowledged, was to “inflict maximum physical damage to the victim.”

In addition to coordinating and overseeing such removals, Magdaleno oversaw and actively participated in Nuestra Familia narcotics operations within the Monterey County Jail.

The U.S. District Court judge then sentenced Magdaleno to 360 months (30 years) in prison and imposed a special condition of supervised release based on the plea that prohibited him from associating with any member of the Norteño or Nuestra Familia gangs, as well as “associating or having contact with any known gang member” when he was released after serving the 30-year sentence.  The plea agreement also prohibited him from wearing clothing with the colors, clothing or insignia of East Las Casitas Norteño gang or the Nuestra Familia gang.

In the agreement, Magdaleno also waived his right to appeal his conviction, “all order of the Court,” and “any aspect of [his] sentence,” reserving only the right to claim that his sentence violated the plea agreement, applicable law, or the Constitution.”

Magdaleno then appealed this condition of supervised release, arguing that it was unconstitutionally overbroad because it violated his Constitutional and fundamental right to familial association because the condition did not exclude his siblings who might be gang members.

The U.S. Attorney’s office opposed the appeal, arguing that Magdaleno’s appeal should be dismissed under the invited error doctrine.  “The doctrine of invited error prevents a defendant from complaining of an error that was his own fault.”  United States v. Myers (9th Cir., 2015) 804 F. 3d 1246, 1254.  In other words, the error is waived and therefore unreviewable because he induced the error.  The paradigmatic example of inducing or causing error arises when “the defendant himself proposes allegedly flawed jury instructions”  United States v. Perez (9th Cir., 1997) 116 F. 3d 840, 845.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Magdaleno’s appeal without addressing the invited error argument and affirmed the condition of supervised release.

The Ninth Circuit explained that a supervised release restriction on a defendant’s right to free association is substantively unreasonable unless it: (1) is reasonably related to the goals of deterrence, protection of the public, and/or defendant rehabilitation; (2) involves no greater deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary to achieve these goals; and (3) is consistent with any pertinent policy statements issued the Sentencing Commission.

Court have generally found under this analysis defendants have a fundamental right to familial association with those they have an intimate relationship with, including life partners, children and fiancées.

Here, Magdaleno’s relationship with his siblings or half siblings did not constitute an “intimidate relationship” akin to a relationship with a life partner, child or fiancée.  Thus, those relationships did not give rise to a significant liberty interest that would require the district court to undertake additional procedural steps at sentencing.  Moreover, Magdaleno’s familial circumstances could change significantly by the time he is released. 
Therefore, it was inappropriate for the district court to modify the conditions now since he could move to modify the conditions closer to his release.  Accordingly, the condition of supervised release was substantively reasonable and the Ninth Circuit found that the district court did not err in imposing it.

For more information about no association conditions, please click on the following articles:
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