United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
MAVENI ANGILAU, OTUFANGAVALU ANGILAU, and ESTATE OF SIALE ANGILAU, Plaintiffs,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, JANE DOE, et al., Defendants.
J. CLEARY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are the Defendant United States of America's
(hereafter, “Defendant USA” or
“Government”) Motion to File Video Under Seal
(Motion to Seal”) [ECF #12] and Plaintiffs' Motion
to Unseal Courtroom Video and Modify the Court's Interim
Order (“Motion to Unseal”) [ECF
#48]. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Seal is
GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, and the
Motion to Unseal is likewise GRANTED IN PART AND
DENIED IN PART. After balancing the competing
interests of the public and the Government, the Court holds
that ECF #36, Attachment #8/Exhibit “F” shall be
unsealed and made publicly available. The remaining videos and
exhibits at issue shall remain under seal for the protection
of persons who would otherwise be identified.
issue presented by the pending motions is whether a video or
videos of the events that transpired in a federal courtroom
on April 21, 2014, should be made available to the public or
should remain under seal. The videos show Siale Angilau
(“Angilau”) rush an unarmed and handcuffed
witness during that witness' testimony on the first day
of Angilau's criminal RICO trial. A Deputy U.S. Marshal
fired four shots at Angilau during the attack, hitting him
with all four. Angilau died either in transit to or at the
hospital. Angilau's family and estate have filed this
lawsuit, alleging violation of Angilau's civil rights as
the result of the Deputy U.S. Marshal's use of excessive
force. [ECF #2].
investigation that led to Angilau's indictment on RICO
charges began ten to fifteen years ago. In the early
2000's, Salt Lake City law enforcement officials became
aware of a group called the Tongan Crip Gang
(“TCG”). Authorities suspected the TCG of various
criminal activities, including convenience store robberies,
drug trafficking, vehicle theft, assaults, murder, and
attempted murder. In 2007, federal agents began a
racketeering investigation targeting leaders of the TCG. By
that time, Angilau had come to the attention of state and
federal law enforcement officers in Salt Lake City.
became the subject of law enforcement scrutiny due to his
alleged involvement in two crimes: (1) the first (“the
7-Eleven incident”) occurred on July 24, 2007; and (2)
the second (the “assault of a federal officer
matter”) occurred on August 11, 2007. In the 7-Eleven
incident, Angilau and other TCG members entered a Salt Lake
City convenience store and began stealing beer from a cooler
in the rear of the store. During the course of the robbery, a
TCG member shot and critically injured a 7-Eleven store
assault of a federal officer matter, federal law enforcement
officers were following a Jeep Cherokee driven by Angilau.
When the officers turned on their emergency lights and
signaled the Jeep to stop, a passenger in the vehicle fired
several shots at the officers' vehicle. The officers were
forced to abort their pursuit, and Angilau and the others
escaped. Later, however, Angilau and the others were arrested
at a Salt Lake City home.
two specific criminal incidents provided grounds for multiple
criminal filings against Angilau. In March 2008, he was
charged in Utah State Court in connection with the assault of
a federal officer matter. Angilau pleaded guilty to charges
of obstruction of justice and failure to stop at the command
of police. He was sentenced to one to fifteen years on the
obstruction charge and zero to five years on the failure to
stop charge. The sentences were to run
concurrently. As part of the plea proceeding in State
Court, state prosecutors agreed to recommend that no
additional federal charges be filed; nevertheless, federal
prosecutors charged Angilau three times thereafter:
(1) July 2, 2008: In United States v.
Viliami Loumoli, et al., Case No. 08-CR-431, prosecutors
charged Angilau in connection with the 7-Eleven incident
(Hobbs Act robbery and brandishing a firearm in relation to a
crime of violence);
(2) September 17, 2008: In United States
v. Viliami Loumoli and Siale Angilau, Case No.
08-CR-499, prosecutors brought charges related to the assault
on a federal officer matter (assault on a federal officer,
brandishing/discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of
(3) May 2, 2010: In United States v.
Eric Kamahele, et al., Case No. 08-CR-758, Angilau was
one of fifteen defendants charged under the Racketeer
Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“the RICO
was being tried in the RICO case on April 21, 2014, when the
shooting that is the subject of this case occurred. The RICO
trial heightened security concerns at the newly opened U.S.
courthouse. The Court implemented additional security
measures, including seating the jury anonymously. The
prosecution's lead-off witness, a former TCG gang member
identified only as V.T., was not disclosed until the morning
of the trial. About 20 minutes into V.T.'s testimony,
Angilau rose from his seat, grabbed a pen or pencil from in
front of his lawyer, and rushed the witness stand. As Angilau
approached the front of the courtroom, a Deputy U.S. Marshal
fired four shots in quick succession, killing the Defendant.
Complaint, filed by Angilau's family, alleges, among
other things, that the Deputy Marshal used excessive force to
stop Angilau's attack. A Motion for Summary Judgment is
presently pending with the Court, and it is that motion that
prompted the motions to seal or unseal the courtroom
video.[ECF # 36]. In the motion seeking to file
the video under seal, Defendant USA seeks to limit both the
public's access and Plaintiffs' access to all
versions - pixelated or un-pixelated - of the courtroom
video. [ECF #12]. Plaintiffs object to the motion to seal
[ECF #14], and a coalition of Utah and other media outlets
have intervened in the case for the limited purpose of
opposing sealing of judicial documents and courtroom
proceedings. [ECF #20]. On December 23, 2016, after multiple
conferences with the parties and the submission of a proposed
interim protective order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig B.
Shaffer entered an Interim Order restricting access to the
courtroom video “as an interim measure.”
[ECF #32 at 12 (emphasis in original)]. Judge Shaffer noted
that Defendant USA was requesting two different types of
relief and, after discussion of the applicable law governing
protective orders, entered an order with respect to
Plaintiffs' access to the video. Plaintiffs and
Plaintiffs' counsel were given access to all of the video
evidence submitted as part of Defendant Jane Doe's Motion
to Dismiss, but they were prohibited from disclosing:
(1) The personal identification of any individuals present in
the video(s) not publicly disclosed; (2) the positioning of
the cameras within the courtroom and areas not covered by the
camera view (blind spots); (3) emergency evacuation
procedures for judges and court staff; (4) the positioning of
court security personnel within the courtroom; and (5) any
emergency response procedures of court security personnel
entering in and out of the courtroom.
Id. at 12-13.
Interim Order also prohibited any public access to the video,
Members of the general public and persons formally or
informally associated with any media or news outlet are
expressly prohibited from having any access to the video(s),
any copies thereof, or the “visual contents” of
the video(s), unless or until the court orders
Id. (emphasis added). Judge Shaffer found that he
did not have sufficient evidence to determine whether the
video should be filed under seal, so his Interim Order also
directed the Defendant to submit for in camera
review “any documents, declarations, or other materials
that it believes support an application of the law
enforcement privilege” that Defendant cited in support
of its Motion to Seal. [ECF #32 at 9].
USA submitted those materials to the Court in January 2017
[ECF #35] and supplemented in June 2017 [ECF
#67]. During a telephonic status hearing held
July 6, 2017, the undersigned advised the parties and the
(then) proposed media Intervenors that the Court would
address the Motion to Seal and Motion to Unseal the courtroom
video together and render one opinion as to whether the video
should remain under seal or be made public in some form. [ECF
#76]. All parties indicated the issue was fully briefed. No
supplemental materials were submitted. On August 29, 2017,
the Court conducted a three-hour hearing in Salt Lake City on
the sealing motions. [ECF #88].
THE DOCUMENTS AT ISSUE
focus of the Motion to Seal, the Media Intervenors'
Objection, and the Plaintiffs' Motion to Unseal is a
group of four security videos taken during Angilau's
trial. The videos were captured by a courtroom
camera operated by the U.S. Marshal Service, pursuant to a
Memorandum of Understanding with the AOUSC.
issues presented to the Court are: First, does the public
have a right of access to the videos described below? Second,
does this right outweigh the countervailing interests
articulated by the Government in favor of sealing? Third, if
the public's right outweighs the Government's
interests, which of the 24-second videos - pixelated or
un-pixelated - should be made public?
exhibits that are the subject of the Court's analysis
herein are ECF #36, Attach. 7/Exh. “E”
(un-pixelated) and Attach. 8/Exh. “F”
(pixelated). These exhibits capture the critical 24 seconds
of the shooting. The un-pixelated video shows the faces of
the judge, court employees, and security and law enforcement
personnel as they clear the courtroom or call for medical
help. In the pixelated version, the faces of people in the
courtroom are blurred and unrecognizable. The 24-second
videos do not show the jurors or their exit from the
courtroom, nor do they show any particular emergency
evacuation or security procedure. The videos begin with
Angilau seated at defense table and end with Angilau lying on
the courtroom floor after being shot. Each exhibit contains a
copy of the respective video with and without synchronized
involved agrees that the 24-second video - whether pixelated
or un-pixelated - is key to this case. The parties and the
Court have all cited the video as the critical document in
resolving this case. The Plaintiffs cited to the video in
their Complaint [ECF #2, ¶32] and Defendant submitted
versions of the video to the Court in support of the Motion
for Summary Judgment [ECF #36, Exh.
“E”-“F” and ECF #37
“E”-“F”]. The Court itself noted the
significance of the video when it limited discovery in this
The Court has viewed the 24-second video with audio, and it
is clear enough to show what happened and in what sequence.
And it is certainly clear enough to determine the events that
immediately preceded the shooting, the number of shots fired,
the timing between the shots, and which figure in the video
shot Mr. Angilau. Assuming that Plaintiffs were able to
obtain testimony that contradicts the video, it would be
impermissible for the Court to credit such testimony in
considering the defendants' summary judgment motions.
See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378-80 (2007).
[ECF #68, at 5-6].
contends that disclosure of the video to the general public
will endanger the lives of law enforcement personnel and
compromise U.S. Courthouse security procedures. The Media
Intervenors seek the pixelated copy of the courtroom
video, contending that its disclosure furthers the goals of
educating the public and building confidence in the operation
of the judicial system. Plaintiffs seek release of the
APPLICABLE LEGAL PRINCIPLES
USA makes two general arguments in support of its motion to
seal the video: (1) that the safety and security of those
present in the courtroom that day - including Deputy U.S.
Marshals, court security officers, the judge, and the jurors
- will be compromised if the video is made publicly
available; and (2) that the law enforcement privilege applies
“to protect and maintain confidential courtroom
security measures and law enforcement procedures.” [ECF
# 12 at 7-9].
Intervenors argue that Defendant USA has failed to meet its
burden to overcome the presumption of access to a judicial
document, particularly one as critical as an exhibit to a
motion for summary judgment. [ECF # 21 at 3]. The Intervenors
contend that they are entitled to access under both the
common law and the First Amendment. Id.
Common Law Right of Access
clear that the public holds a long-recognized common law
right to access judicial and other government records.
See Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S.
589, 597 (1978). See also U.S. v. Pickard, 733 F.3d
1297, 1302 (10th Cir. 2013) (quoting Colony Ins. Co. v.
Burke, 698 F.3d 1222, 1241 (10th Cir. 2012)); U.S.
v. McVeigh, 918 F.Supp. 1452, 1457 (W.D.Okla. 1996)
(noting that “Records of all agencies of government
have historically been open to public inspection under the
common law of this country.”) Under the common law
doctrine, judicial documents are presumptively open to the
public, but may be closed or sealed if “countervailing
interests heavily outweigh the public interests in
access.” Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140,
1149 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Rushford v. New Yorker
Magazine, Inc., 846 F.2d 249, 253 (4th Cir. 1988).
Tenth Circuit has held that, in deciding whether judicial
records should be sealed, the court must first determine if
the document at issue is a judicial document. A judicial
document is a filed item “relevant to the performance
of the judicial function and useful in the judicial
process.” Bernstein v. Bernstein Litowitz, et
al., 814 F.3d 132, 139 (2d Cir. 2016) (quoting
Lugosch v. Pyramid Co. of Onondaga, 435 F.3d 110, 119
(2d Cir. 2006)). It is enough that the document was submitted
to the court for use in adjudication; it is not necessary
that the court actually cite the document as the basis for
its decision. See Lugosch, 435 F.3d at 123
(citing In re Coordinated Pretrial Proceedings in
Petroleum Prods. Antitrust Litig., 101 F.R.D. 34, 43
(C.D.Cal. 1984)) (“documents that the judge
should have considered or relied upon, but did not,
are just as deserving of disclosure”) (emphasis in
document is found to be a judicial document, there is a
“strong presumption in favor of public access.”
Pickard, 773 F.3d at 1302. The presumption is not
absolute and may be outweighed by other countervailing
interests. See Id. See also Colony, 698 F.3d at
1241. If the document is a judicial document, subject to a
presumption of public access, a court must then determine the
weight to be given to the presumption. The weight varies with
the significance of the document in the court's exercise
of its Article III powers. Courts recognize that there is a
spectrum of documents of varying significance that may be
submitted to a court. Some are submitted only to determine
their evidentiary relevance; here, the presumption would
carry little weight. However, documents submitted for the
court's consideration in determining the parties'
substantive rights would carry a heavy presumption in favor
of public access. See, e.g., Stern v. ...