United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
April 11, 2018, Defendant David J. Pinchotti was convicted of
failing to stop at a stop sign, in violation of the
Transportation Article of the Maryland Code, Md. Code Ann.,
Transp. 9 27-707(c) (2010), after a bench trial on Joint Base
Andrews before a United States Magistrate Judge. Pinchotti
now appeals on the basis that the evidence at trial was
insufficient to sustain the conviction and on other grounds.
For the reasons set forth below, the conviction is affirmed.
following facts were presented at trial before United States
Magistrate Judge Thomas M. DiGirolamo on April 10, 2018 in a
courtroom on Joint Base Andrews. On the evening of January
22, 2018, Officer Aaron Moss, a Response Force Leader on
Joint Base Andrews, was parked at the intersection of F
Street and Alabama Avenue on Joint Base Andrews. The United
States Government has exclusive jurisdiction over Joint Base
Andrews, which is located within the state of Maryland. Moss
was parked between 25 and 50 meters away from the
intersection to . monitor traffic, because many stop-sign
violations had been reported at that intersection. At about
10:14 p.m., he saw a silver Honda Accord approach the
intersection from F Street and turn onto Alabama Avenue
without stopping at the stop sign and without using a turn
signal. Moss stopped the Honda and issued two violation
notices, for turning without using a turn signal, Md. Code
Ann, Transp. S 21-604(c), and failure to stop at a stop sign,
Md. Code Ann, . Transp. S 21-707(c).
trial, Moss testified, and Pinchotti had an opportunity to
cross-examine him. Pinchotti also testified in his own
defense. He testified that he did not fail to stop at the
stop sign and had used his turn signal, that Moss was hostile
to him and incompetent as a law enforcement official, and
that, in his opinion, Moss had not acted in good faith. After
hearing the testimony, the Magistrate Judge found Pinchotti
guilty of failing to stop at a stop sign and not guilty of
turning without using a turn signal because no other car had
been affected by the lack of a turn signal. Pinchotti was
ordered to pay a fine of$85.00 plus additional fees for a
total of$12000.. Pinchotti timely appealed the conviction.
appeals his conviction on five grounds. First, he argues that
the officer did not have the authority to charge Pinchotti
with a violation of Maryland law. Second, he argues that the
Magistrate Judge erred by limiting his cross-examination of
Moss regarding the Posse Comitatus Act. Third, he argues that
the Government did not present sufficient evidence to support
his conviction. Fourth, he argues that Moss's testimony
must be excluded pursuant to Horton v. California,
496 U.S. 128 (1990). Finally, he asserts that his right to a
public trial under the Sixth Amendment to the United States
Constitution was infringed.
Standard of Review
all cases of conviction by a United States magistrate judge
an appeal of right shall lie from the judgment of the
magistrate judge to a judge of the district court of the
district in which the offense was committed." 18 U.S.C.
S 3402 (2012). An appeal to a district judge is not a
"trial de novo." Fed. R. Crim. P.
58(g)(2)(D). Instead, "[t]he scope of the appeal is the
same as in an appeal to the court of appeals from a judgment
entered by a district judge." Id; see also United
States v. Bursey, 416 F.3d 301, 305-06 (4th Cir. 2005);
United States v. Lofton, 233 F.3d 313, 317 (4th Cir.
conducting review on the issue of sufficiency of the
evidence, the Court does not "weigh the evidence or
assess the credibility of witnesses." United States
v. Kelly, 510 F.3d 433, 440 (4th Cir. 2007). The Court
must sustain a guilty verdict if, viewing the evidence in the
light most favorable to the Government, and drawing all
reasonable inferences and resolving all contradictions in the
testimony in the Government's favor, the verdict is
supported by "substantial evidence." United
States v. Moye, 454 F.3d 390, 394 (4th Cir. 2006);
United States v. Smith, 451 F.3d 209, 216 (4th Cir.
2006). "Substantial evidence" is "evidence
that a reasonable finder of fact could accept as adequate and
sufficient to support a conclusion of a defendant's guilt
beyond a reasonable doubt." Smith, 451 F.3d at
216; see also United States v. Strayhorn, 743 F.3d
917, 921 (4th Cir. 2014). A conviction may be reversed based
on insufficient evidence only when "the
prosecution's failure is clear." Moye, 454
F.3d at 394 (quoting United States v. Jones, 735
F.2d 785, 791 (4thCir. 1984)).
evaluating the sufficiency of evidence presented at a bench
trial, a reviewing court must be mindful of the "great
discretion accorded to the trial judge," who
"weighs the evidence, determines the credibility of the
witnesses, and finds the facts." United States v.
Bales, 813 F.2d 1289, 1293 (4th Cir. 1987). A reviewing
court may reverse a trial judge's factual finding only if
it is "clearly erroneous." Id. "A
finding is 'clearly erroneous' when although there is
evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire
evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a
mistake has been committed." United States v.
Hall, 664 F.3d 456, 462 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting
United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395
court reviews "rulings on matters of trial
management," United States v. Beckon, 740 F.3d
303, 306 (4th Cir. 2014), and "limitations on a
defendant's cross-examination of a prosecution
witness," Smith, 451 F.3d at 220, for abuse of
discretion. Rulings regarding questions of law are reviewed
de novo. Bursey, 416 F.3d at 306. A claim that the
defendant's right to a public trial was violated is also
reviewed de novo. United States v. Shryock, 342 F.3d
948, 974 (9th Cir. 2003).
Assimilative Crimes Act
argues that the violation notice was improper because it
charged him with a violation of Maryland state law, rather
than the Assimilative Crimes Act ("ACA"), 18 U.S.C.
§ 13(a), and made no mention of the ACA. Under the ACA,
on lands that are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the
United States and also wholly within a state, a person who
commits an offense that would be punishable by that state if
the offense took place within the state's jurisdiction
"shall be guilty of a like offense and subject to a like
punishment." 18 U.S.C. § 13(a). The ACA therefore
makes state criminal violations "federal crimes when
they occur on" land within federal jurisdiction.
United States v. Raffield,82 F.3d 611, 613 (4th
Cir. 1996). Since the ACA, "not the charging document,
makes a violation of certain Maryland laws on federal land
under federal jurisdiction a federal crime," the