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United States v. Antonio

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

September 4, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JEFFREY ANTONIO, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO (D.C. NO. 1:16-CR-01106-JMC-1)

          Irma Rivas, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Office the Federal Public Defender, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Appellant.

          John C. Anderson, United States Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Appellee.

          Before TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, EBEL, and LUCERO, Circuit Judges.

          TYMKOVICH, CHIEF JUDGE.

         This appeal requires us to consider the boundaries of the Sandia Pueblo north of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Resolving that question answers whether the federal court had jurisdiction to hear the underlying criminal case on appeal. We conclude the crime occurred within the exterior boundaries of the Sandia Pueblo, and therefore the federal court for the District of New Mexico was the proper forum for the prosecution.

         I. Background

         Jeffrey Antonio was driving his pickup truck a few miles north of Albuquerque when he was involved in a car accident. He was driving north but drifted into the southbound lane where he collided head-on with another vehicle. Antonio had been drinking, and at the time of the accident, he was significantly over the legal limit for driving. He had been convicted of driving under the influence on two occasions prior to his arrest in this case. This time, a passenger in the other vehicle was killed.

         A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Antonio with one count of second-degree murder. As an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, Antonio could be charged and tried in federal court if the accident occurred in Indian Country. The United States alleged that the accident occurred within the exterior boundaries of the Sandia Pueblo.

         Prior to trial, the United States filed a motion in limine asking the district court to rule that the site of the accident was in Indian Country to conclusively establish federal jurisdiction. Antonio then informed the district court of his ongoing investigation into the question of the land status.

         The parties presented arguments to the district court during pre-trial hearings. The government presented testimony from a land surveyer who determined the land was within Indian Country. After hearing the evidence, the district court judge stated he was "inclined to find" the site of the accident took place in Indian Country. R. Vol. 5 at 63.

         One week before trial, Antonio filed a motion to dismiss the indictment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(2). He argued that, as a matter of law, the accident site was on privately owned land and not in Indian Country. Therefore, there was no federal jurisdiction.

         The issue was revisited at a motions hearing prior to trial. The government objected to exhibits listed by Antonio, which he was planning to introduce to show that the accident site was not within Indian Country. The district court stated

Right at the moment, I'm inclined to put it in the instruction that it is within Indian Country. And with that, since I'm making a determination pretrial, I'm putting it in the jury instructions and instructing, then[, ] those exhibits will not be allowed for the purpose of contesting that this is Indian Country.

R. Vol. 5 at 318. The district court indicated it planned to deny Antonio's motion.

         At trial, Antonio objected to Proposed Instruction No. 12, which instructed the jury that, as a matter of law, the site of the accident took place in Indian Country. The court stated it was going to incorporate this instruction, or a similar instruction, into the final jury instructions. Antonio responded, "I understand the Court is going to rule that it is within Indian Country. . . . And to that extent, we object to the instruction that includes the consequence of that decision." R. Vol. 5 at 738.

         At the close of the government's case, Antonio moved for a judgment of acquittal under Rule 29 and argued there was insufficient proof that the accident took place in Indian Country. The district court judge denied the motion, noting that he was "going to tell the jury that the land is Indian Country so that . . . they will make their decision based upon [the district court's] instruction that the Court has jurisdiction." R. Vol. 5 at 886.

         At the close of Antonio's case, Antonio renewed his motion for judgment of acquittal, which the district court denied. The district court instructed the jury "that the alleged murder occurred within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, if you find beyond a reasonable doubt that such offense occurred at the intersection of Highway 313 and Wilda Drive, in Bernalillo County, in the District of New Mexico." R. Vol. 1 437-38.

         Several weeks after trial, the district court issued its opinion denying Antonio's motion to dismiss. The district court concluded it had jurisdiction based on the Indian Pueblo Lands Act Amendments of 2005. Antonio was subsequently sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 240 months and now appeals.

         II. Analysis

         Antonio raises four issues for reversal. First, whether the government met its burden to prove the accident occurred in Indian Country. Second, whether the jury was presented with sufficient evidence that the offense was committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Third, whether the district court violated Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(d) by waiting until after trial to issue a written memorandum and order denying the motion to dismiss. And fourth, whether the district court erred in instructing the jury.

         We address each in turn, concluding the district court committed no error.

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Indian Country

         The United States has jurisdiction over crimes committed within Indian Country as defined by 18 U.S.C. ...


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