United States v. Sedaghaty

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 08-23-2013
  • Case #: 11-30342
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; Circuit Judges Schroeder and Tallman
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Brady, the government is obligated to disclose significant impeachment evidence relevant to a critical witness; CIPA provides the government protection of classified documents used as evidence, but requires the government provide an adequate and neutral summary of any information relevant to the defense.

Pirouz Sedaghaty, known as Pete Seda, was convicted of tax fraud charges based on his alleged appropriation of charitable funds to fund Islamic terrorists in Chechnya. Seda challenged multiple findings of the district court. Specifically, that the government violated its obligations set by Brady v. Maryland, and that the district court erred under the Classified Information Procedures Act ("CIPA"), and by admitting evidence obtained outside the scope of the warrant. The Ninth Circuit held that the government did not meet its Brady obligations when it withheld significant impeachment evidence of who the government described as a "critical" witness. The government failed to disclose records of approximately 12 out of 20 interviews conducted with its critical witness, information that would have included evidence the FBI planned to compensate the witness for her testimony. This withholding was significant to Seda's potential impeachment of the witness. Much of the government's evidence was in the form of confidential documents. CIPA allows the government to provide a substitution summary as long as that summary provides the defendant with substantially the same ability to make his defense as would disclosure of the classified document. Here, the panel held the summary was inadequate because summaries must be neutral to all parties and must include all information that could help the defendant. The government's summary of confidential documents did not meet either standard. Evidence challenges based on the taking of computer data outside the scope of the warrant were also granted and remanded for determination of whether the exclusionary rule should apply. Seda's challenge that ex parte, in camera proceedings were violative of his rights to a fair trial were denied. Due to the classified nature of much of the government's evidence, ex parte, in camera proceedings were permissible. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED for a new trial.

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