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Angilau v. United States

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

March 9, 2018

MAVENI ANGILAU, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN E. DOWDELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are the defendants' motions for summary judgment (Doc. 36, 37).[1] The Court conducted a hearing on the original motions and has considered all related filings and evidentiary submissions made by the parties. (See Doc. 36, 37, 78, 82, 83, 110).

         I. The Evidence

         The following facts are undisputed, except where noted specifically. In April 2014, Siale Angilau was on trial in the District of Utah on three counts of a Second Superseding Indictment. The operative indictment alleged that Mr. Angilau and his co-defendants were members and associates of the Tongan Crip Gang (TCG), which was purportedly a criminal organization engaged in acts of violence, among other things. (No. 2:08-cr-758-TC, Doc. 114 at 2, 6-8). In addition to racketeering charges asserted in Count I, Mr. Angilau was also on trial on Count XVII, for allegedly assaulting two individuals with a dangerous weapon, and Count XVIII, for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. (Id. at 19-20). It is undisputed that the charges included allegations that Mr. Angilau fired at two Deputy Marshals. (See Doc. 78 at 13 [Response to 3]).[2]

         Angilau's criminal trial commenced on April 18, 2014, with jury selection and opening statements. (See No. 08-cr-758-TC, Doc. 1612, 1614). Due to heightened security concerns, jurors were identified by number. Following jury selection and opening statements, the trial reconvened for the government to commence presentation of its case the following Monday, April 21, 2014. The courtroom proceedings were captured on an audio recording and a surveillance camera, and those recordings were preserved. The defendants have submitted those recordings of the day (Doc. 37-3 [Exhibit A], 37-4 [Exhibit B], 37-5 [Exhibit C]). The summary judgment record also includes still images from the video (Doc. 37-7 [Exhibit E, Disc 2] and 37-8 [Exhibit F, Disc 2]) and twenty-four (24) second excerpts of the video with audio, which depict the seconds immediately before, during, and after the events that are at issue in this case (Exhibit E, Disc 1; Exhibit F, Disc 1). For purposes of the motions, plaintiffs have admitted that those recordings and still images “are truthful, accurate, and authentic recordings of the events that transpired on April 21, 2014 that are the subject of [this] action.” (Doc. 78 at 13-14). The courtroom proceedings were also transcribed (see Doc. 37-6 [Exhibit D]) and are an accurate and authentic recording of the events at issue. (See Doc. 78 at 14).

         Mr. Angilau was in custody, but was unrestrained during trial. (See Doc. 78 at 13). V.T., a former TCG member, was the first witness at trial. Jurors were seated in the jury box to the left front of the witness stand, from the witness's perspective. (See Id. at 15 [Response to 10]; Doc. 37-16; Doc. 37-10, Exhibit H). The presiding trial judge was seated on the bench immediately above and to the right of the witness stand, from the witness's perspective. V.T. was being questioned by a federal prosecutor about the TCG. V.T. was wearing leg shackles, a belly chain, and handcuffs while seated in the partially enclosed U-shaped witness stand, just feet from the jury box in front and feet to the right of a rear exit door to the courtroom. (See Doc. 37-10, Exhibit H). The front of the witness box was approximately fourteen feet, eight inches from the rear door of the courtroom, and the back of the witness box is less than seven feet from the rear door of the courtroom. (Id.).

         Deputy United States Marshal Jane Doe was stationed in the courtroom to provide order and security during Mr. Angilau's trial on April 21, 2014. Doe had previously worked on TCG-related court proceedings and understood that safety had been a concern to the Marshal's Service. (Doc. 37-11). Doe was assigned to trial security and to the in-custody witness, V.T. (Id.). Doe had been instructed that Angilau and V.T. must be kept apart. (See id.). Doe was acting within the course and scope of employment and under color of law as a Deputy Marshal. (See Doc. 78 at 16-17 [Response to 16]). Doe was positioned between the witness stand, where V.T. was seated, and the jury. (Doc. 37-11 at 4).

         Minutes after V.T. began to testify about the TCG, Angilau looked over his shoulder, rose up from his seat at the defense table, moved behind his defense attorney's chair, and grabbed a pen or pencil off the table.[3] Armed with the writing instrument, Angilau ran by the prosecutor and reached the witness box in less than two seconds. The court reporter, seated next to the witness stand, backed the reporter's chair away from the area of the witness stand as Angilau approached. (Exhibit E, F at 9:23:39-41). An unknown person yelled “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa” as Angilau bounded toward the witness stand, but Mr. Angilau did not stop. (See Exhibit E, F at 9:23:37-38; Exhibit D at p. 32, lines 13-14). Doe saw that Angilau was rushing at V.T. with a sharp, pointed object in his right hand. (Doc. 37-11 at 5). Angilau jumped over the witness stand, hands first, with an arm raised in a striking motion. While he was airborne with his feet off the floor, and with pen in hand, he swung his extended right hand up in a violent, aggressive manner toward V.T. (Doc. 78 at 17 [Response to 17]; id. at 24 [asserting that the video “shows Angilau diving over the front barrier of the witness stand toward the witness V.T., apparently with a pen in hand”]). Angilau's right hand moved as if he was prepared to stab V.T. (Id. at 17 [Response to 18]). Plaintiffs do not dispute that Angilau “attempted to attack the witness” (see Doc. 78 at 13), and that fact is obvious from the video and series of still images of the incident. (Exhibits E, F).

         In an effort to avoid Angilau's attack, V.T. jumped up and backed out of the witness box, toward the rear door of the courtroom. During Angilau's attempted attack on V.T., Doe fired four shots from Doe's duty-issued gun, in rapid succession. (Exhibits E, F at 9:23:40-42). Each shot hit Mr. Angilau. Doe did not have any other weapon. (Doc. 37-17). Other law enforcement officials ran to the area of the witness stand where the shooting occurred, and an unknown person or persons yelled at Mr. Angilau to “drop the pen, drop the pen out of your hand, drop it out of your hand.” (See id.; Exhibits E, F at 9:23:49-52). All of Doe's shots were fired less than two seconds after Angilau began to cross over the witness stand, and all shots were fired while Angilau was airborne or moving.[4] Both the audio (Exhibit C) and the video with aligned audio (Exhibit E, F) establish that all four shots were fired in less than one and one-half seconds, as measured from the first shot to the last. (See Exhibit C at 37:15 to 37:17; Exhibits E, F at 9:23:40 to 9:23:42). Plaintiffs state that they dispute the timing of the shots, but they admit that those recordings and still images “are truthful, accurate, and authentic recordings” of the courtroom proceedings on April 21, 2014. (Doc. 78 at 13-14).[5]

         II. Summary Judgment Standards

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine, ' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for a nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The courts thus determine “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 251-52. All justifiable and reasonable inferences from the evidence are to be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Id. at 255.

         III. Discussion

         A. Deputy Doe's Motion

         Doe moves for summary judgment on grounds of qualified immunity. Where a summary judgment motion is premised upon an assertion of qualified immunity, “the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that: (1) the defendant violated a constitutional right and (2) the constitutional right was clearly established.” Thomson v. Salt Lake County, 584 F.3d 1304, 1312 (10th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). As with all motions for summary judgment, the Court will construe the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. However, “a plaintiff's version of the facts must find support in the record, ” id., and “[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

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