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State v. Inzunza

Supreme Court of Nevada

December 26, 2019

RIGOBERTO INZUNZA, Respondent. 135 Nev.Adv.Op. 69

          Appeal from a district court order granting respondent's pretrial motion to dismiss an indictment. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Carolyn Ellsworth, Judge.

          Aaron D. Ford, Attorney General, Carson City; Steven B. Wolfson, District Attorney, Jonathan VanBoskerck, Chief Deputy District Attorney, and Jacob J. Villani, Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, for Appellant.

          Darin Imlay, Public Defender, and Deborah L. Westbrook and P. David Westbrook, Chief Deputy Public Defenders, Clark County, for Respondent.



          HARDESTY, J.

         The question presented in this case is whether the district court abused its discretion in granting respondent Rigoberto Inzunza's pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment for violation of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The district court applied the factors enunciated in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530-33 (1972), and Doggett v. United States, 505 U.S. 647, 651-54 (1992), and concluded that the State violated Inzunza's right to a speedy trial because the State's gross negligence caused a 26-month delay between the filing of charges and Inzunza's arrest, and the State offered nothing to rebut the presumption that the delay prejudiced Inzunza. We conclude that, given the length of the delay and the finding that it was caused by the State's gross negligence, the district court did not err in concluding that Inzunza was entitled to a presumption of prejudice under the Barker-Doggett factors. The State did not rebut this presumption in its opposition to Inzunza's motion to dismiss or at the evidentiary hearing before the district court, nor has the State explained on appeal how Inzunza was not prejudiced by the delay. Therefore, we affirm the district court's dismissal of the indictment.


         Rigoberto Inzunza lived with E.J.'s mother when E.J. was nine years old. During this time, Inzunza allegedly sexually assaulted E.J. while her mother was at work and her siblings were sleeping. The abuse was alleged to have continued for at least a year until Inzunza eventually moved out and relocated to New Jersey. Six years later, 15-year-old E.J. disclosed to her therapist that Inzunza had sexually assaulted her. The therapist informed E.J.'s mother, and E.J. and her mother both went to the North Las Vegas Police Department (NLVPD) to file a police report. The NLVPD interviewed E.J. and began an investigation into Inzunza. E.J.'s mother informed Detective Mark Hoyt that Inzunza lived in New Jersey. She also gave Detective Hoyt printouts from Inzunza's Facebook profile that depicted his car, New Jersey license plate, and his employer's work truck with the business's name and number. Following an attempt to locate Inzunza locally, Detective Hoyt submitted the case to the District Attorney's (DA's) office to file charges against Inzunza.

         On December 3, 2014, one month after E.J. reported the sexual assault, the State filed a criminal complaint charging Inzunza with 10 counts of sexual assault of a minor under 14 years of age and 5 counts of lewdness with a child under 14 years of age. The NLVPD's records department staff entered the warrant into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, but consistent with NLVPD policy, no one informed Detective Hoyt, and Detective Hoyt made no further effort to follow up on the case. A little over two years later, on January 29, 2017, Monmouth County Sheriffs Department arrested Inzunza in New Jersey . based on the outstanding warrant. He was transported to Nevada, and the State subsequently obtained an indictment, adding another count of sexual assault of a child under 14 years of age.

         Inzunza moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the State had violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and his due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Inzunza complained of the delay between the day he was charged and his arrest, which was approximately two years and two months.

         The State conceded that the NLVPD knew that Inzunza was in New Jersey, but it explained that it would have been futile for the NLVPD to contact New Jersey authorities before the State obtained a warrant for Inzunza's arrest. It further explained that the State's policy does not alert the detective when the warrant issues, so the error was in the NLVPD "failing to check up and then seeing that a warrant was approved and then following up on the information from New Jersey." Detective Hoyt' explained at the evidentiary hearing that he had relied on the DA's office to file charges, and return the case to NLVPD to get a warrant and enter the warrant into the NCIC database. He then "hope[d]" that utilizing the NCIC database would work to apprehend Inzunza, but he never followed up on the New Jersey identification or Facebook information or attempted to contact authorities in New Jersey. He indicated that it was not the NLVPD's policy to follow up on a case once submitted to the DA's office, to call other jurisdictions without a warrant, or to follow up on Facebook leads. Rather, after he submits a case to the DA's office, the case is "out-of-sight out-of-mind" for the department. Finally, Detective Hoyt explained that it was not customary for the already taxed police department to expend additional resources in tracking down the perpetrator in a case that was not "high profile," but rather a "common sexual assault" case.

         The district court concluded that the State had been grossly negligent in pursuing Inzunza. Applying the principles and factors under the Barker-Doggett test, the district court determined that the case should be dismissed because: (1) the delay between the filing of charges and the time of Inzunza's arrest was presumptively prejudicial, (2) the State's gross negligence caused the entire delay, (3) Inzunza was not required to assert his right to a speedy trial earlier when he did not know about the charges or arrest warrant, and (4) the State had not rebutted the presumption that the delay had prejudiced Inzunza.

         The State appeals the dismissal, arguing that the district court abused its discretion because the Barker-Doggett ...

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