Author: Federal Public Defender, CDCA

Air Force Veteran and victim of workplace bullying found not guilty

Posted on July 28, 2017

Today our client was found not guilty of creating a disturbance at a federal facility by physically assaulting a co-worker. The complaining witness, a man who was 6 inches taller and 100 pounds heavier than our female client, accused our client of chest bumping him, repeatedly hitting him, and pinning him against a wall. During trial, Deputy Federal Public Defender Angela Viramontes presented evidence that the complaining witness had been actively targeting our client with unfounded threats, accusations, and complaints about her work performance. Attorney […]..

75 year old man with dementia can return to Santa Monica Mountains National Park

Posted on July 28, 2017

Following a verbal altercation with park rangers at Paramount Ranch in the Santa Monica National Park, our 75-year-old client was tasered and dragged out of his car, elbowed in the face, handcuffed, taken to the hospital, and then driven to Orange County to spend a night in jail. He was given six citations. Prosecutors refused to dismiss the case against him even after receiving neurological evidence of his dementia. The case went to trial. Our client was acquitted on the four most serious counts. He […]..

Is STAR a Drug Court?

Posted on July 28, 2017

Yes.  STAR is a specialty court that seeks to help individuals who are on federal supervised release or probation and who are struggling with alcohol, drug or mental health issues.  Like other “problem-solving” or therapeutic courts, drug courts have been in state criminal court systems for over 25 years and they have had very good results – helping people to overcome their addictions, become productive, working members of our community, and not return to prison.  For more information on the history and track record of […]..

Categorical Approach Update

Posted on July 20, 2017

United States v. Ochoa, __ F.3d __, 2017 WL 2836820 (9th Cir. July 3, 2017): The Court held that a conviction for conspiring to export defense articles without a license under 18 U.S.C. §371 and 22 U.S.C. §2778 was not categorically a firearms offense providing grounds for deportation (under either 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(43)(C) or 8 U.S.C. §1227(a)(2)(C)), and the statute was not divisible, so the modified categorical approach could not be used. United States v. Strickland, __ F.3d __, 2017 WL 2723926 (9th Cir. June […]..

New Evidence Helps Free Client From Life Sentence for Attempted Robbery

Posted on July 10, 2017

A Los Angeles man represented by the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Central District of California was freed from state prison this week after serving 10 years of a 40-years-to-life sentence for attempted robbery.  The FPD-CDCA identified new evidence concerning the offense and the client’s culpability, which led to negotiations with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.  With assistance from Loyola’s Project for the Innocent, the parties agreed to modify the client’s sentence to result in his release from custody.  The agreement also […]..

How can I apply to STAR?

Posted on July 1, 2017

Anyone, including the court, the prosecutor, defense counsel or probation officer can make a referral to STAR.  However, STAR is currently limited to portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and meets in the Los Angeles and Riverside federal courthouse. To apply, defense counsel should prepare and submit a STAR Program Referral Form. For the Los Angeles program, email the completed form to STAR U.S. Probation Officer Kristie Rzonca (; for the Riverside program, send to STAR U.S. Probation Officer Sherry Harrision (  […]..

What is an arraignment?

Posted on June 9, 2017

Once the prosecutor files an indictment against you, you will appear before the magistrate judge to be arraigned on the formal charges. For some people, their initial appearance and their arraignment will happen on the same day if they are arrested after an indictment is filed. You will be asked to read and sign a statement of your constitutional rights. The magistrate judge will also read a statement of your constitutional rights. The magistrate judge will ask if you understand what the prosecutor claims that […]..

Who qualifies for CASA?

Posted on June 9, 2017

The CASA Program is an alternative to traditional prosecution and sentencing that seeks to address some of the primary causes of criminal offenses – substance use disorders, mental health issues, and deficient life-skills. Thus, to qualify for application to CASA, a client must demonstrate that he or she has had an alcohol or drug problem, suffers from a mental health issue (including depression and anxiety disorders), or has deficient life-skills issues (particularly for the younger applicants). Of particular importance is the applicant’s ability to show […]..

How does someone apply to the CASA program?

Posted on June 9, 2017

Any defense counsel may apply on behalf of their client by submitting a letter to the CASA team closest to where the applicant may reside, regardless of where the case has been filed.  It is suggested that letters cover the following items: Client’s personal history Role in the offense Prior criminal history Motivations for his or her involvement in the current offense Substance abuse, mental health and/or life-skills issues that may be addressed in CASA (including restorative justice and second chance arguments) Any and all […]..

How are the CASA participants selected?

Posted on June 9, 2017

CASA team members – representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO), the Federal Public Defenders Office (FDO) and the U.S. Pretrial Services Agency (PSA) – for each court meet regularly to review and discuss applications.  While all team members have a right to accept or reject a prospective applicant, the U.S. Attorney’s Office makes the final decision regarding admission and track designation.   If rejected by the CASA USAO representatives, the only recourse is a request for reconsideration with the USAO Criminal Chief. In some cases […]..