Angilau et al v. USA et al
ORDER re For the foregoing reasons, the defendants objections (Doc. 87 , 100 ) are denied, and their motion to stay (Doc. 101 ) is moot. Judge Cleary's orders granting intervention ( 81 , 84 ) are affirmed. The order (Doc. 98) unsealing the pixelated video is also affirmed. Signed by Judge John E. Dowdell on 3/9/2018. (jwt)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
DISTRICT OF UTAH, CENTRAL DIVISION
MAVENI ANGILAU et al.,
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., )
Case No. 2:16-CV-00992-JED-PJC
Before the Court are motions and objections (Doc. 87, 100, 101) relating to Orders (Doc.
81, 84, 98) by United States Magistrate Judge Paul J. Cleary regarding media intervention and
unsealing of a video excerpt of a shooting that is at the center of this case.
Siale Angilau was on trial on a criminal indictment, which alleged that Angilau was a
member of the Tongan Crips Gang whose members committed murder, attempted murder,
robbery, and assault. During the testimony of the first witness, Angilau grabbed a pen from the
table where he sat with his counsel. Angilau swiftly ran to and jumped over the witness stand, in
an apparent attempt to stab the witness with the pen. The attack was recorded on a courtroom
video monitoring system and an audio recording system. As Angilau launched himself over the
witness stand, a Deputy United States Marshal fired four shots, all of which hit Angilau. The
witness deftly avoided harm. Unfortunately, Mr. Angilau died shortly thereafter. In this suit, his
parents and estate are suing the Deputy Marshal, who is named in the Complaint as “Jane Doe” in
order to protect Doe’s identity, and the United States of America. The plaintiffs assert a claim
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under the Federal Tort Claims Act for wrongful death and, alternatively, they assert that Jane Doe
violated Mr. Angilau’s constitutional rights by using excessive force. (Doc. 2 at 2).
Several media entities – the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional
Journalists, the Associated Press, the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, KSL-TV, KSL
Newsradio, KSL.com, ABC4, KUTV, and Fox 13 KSTU-TV (Media Intervenors) – moved to
intervene in the action for the limited purpose of opposing restriction of access to proceedings and
certain documents filed in the case. (See Doc. 20). Judge Cleary granted the motion to intervene,
after finding that denial of intervention would “impair the opportunity for public access to judicial
records and proceedings.” (Doc. 81 at 16).
Judge Cleary subsequently conducted a hearing regarding the public’s access to the video
recording of Jane Doe’s shooting of Siale Angilau. (See Doc. 88). At issue are two versions of
the 24 seconds of video recording, with synchronized audio recording, which include the events
immediately before, during, and after the shooting. In one version, faces of court personnel,
security and law enforcement personnel, and others are pixelated and thus obscured. That version
was submitted as a part of Exhibit F to the defendants’ dismissal motions. (See Doc. 36-8
[describing Exhibit F]). The other version of the video, which was submitted as part of Exhibit E
to the dismissal motions, is not pixelated. (See Doc. 36-7 [describing Exhibit E]). After fully
considering the issues concerning public access, courtroom security, and the safety of courtroom
and law enforcement personnel, Judge Cleary determined that the pixelated version of the video
should be unsealed and made available to the public. (Doc. 98 at 28). The defendants have filed
objections (Doc. 87, 100) to the orders permitting intervention and unsealing the pixelated video
and have moved to stay (Doc. 101) the effect of the order unsealing the video.
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The defendants’ Objection to the order granting intervention is “limited to the Court’s
finding that the Media Intervenors have a First Amendment right to assert access to certain pretrial
documents submitted to [the] Court.” (Doc. 87 at 1). The Supreme Court has not yet determined
there is a First Amendment right of access to court records. See United States v. Pickard, 733 F.3d
1297, 1302 n.4 (10th Cir. 2013). However, there is a common law right of access to judicial
records, which is not absolute, but imposes a “strong presumption in favor of public access.” Id.
at 1302 (quoting Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1149 (10th Cir. 2007)). Thus, the Court need
not determine the existence or scope of any First Amendment right to access judicial records,
because there is a common law right to seek to have court records unsealed. See id. (“Because we
conclude that Defendants can seek to have the . . . records unsealed under the common law, we
have no occasion here to address whether they also have a First Amendment right to have the . . .
file unsealed.”). The defendants have not objected to Judge Cleary’s determination that there is a
common law right to seek access. (See Doc. 87 at 1).
The defendants’ objection (Doc. 87) is denied. The orders granting intervention to the
Media Intervenors (Doc. 81, 84) are affirmed. Judge Cleary’s order is sustainable on his wellreasoned analysis regarding intervention for purposes of seeking a right of access to judicial
records under the common law.
Unsealing of the Pixelated Video
Judge Cleary weighed and balanced the competing interests of the public and the
defendants and determined that unsealing the pixelated video would appropriately guard against
the danger posed to Jane Doe, because Doe cannot be identified by the pixelated video. (See
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November 29, 2017 Order, Doc. 98). The defendants objected to Judge Cleary’s November 29,
2017 order (Doc. 100). They argue that Judge Cleary imposed too high of a burden upon the
defendants to keep the pixelated version of the video sealed from public view. (Id. at 6).
The Court has reviewed the in camera submissions supporting the defendants’ safety
concerns with respect to identification of the Deputy, as well as all arguments submitted on these
issues. Judge Cleary’s order appropriately balanced the defendants’ interests in safety and
avoiding pretrial publicity against the common law’s “strong presumption in favor of public
access.” See Pickard, 733 F.3d at 1302.1 While that strong presumption may “be overcome where
countervailing interests heavily outweigh the public interests in access,” id., Judge Cleary properly
weighed “the interests of the public, which are presumptively paramount, against those advanced
by the parties.” Id. (quoting Helm v. Kansas, 656 F.3d 1277, 1292 (10th Cir. 2011)). His ultimate
determination – that the defendants’ interests were significant enough to justify keeping the
unpixelated video under seal, but would be sufficiently protected by release of the pixelated
version which conceals Doe’s identity – properly weighed the circumstances. That determination
is not “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a).
The defendants also argue that Judge Cleary erroneously failed to consider that release of
the video would result in “prejudicial pre-trial publicity” and would “taint . . . the jury pool.” (Doc.
100 at 23). That issue is moot, as the Court has determined that this action will be decided on the
pending summary judgment motions. An order on those issues is forthcoming. Even were a trial
held, the undersigned would have no concerns with respect to the introduction of the pixelated
Again, as in Pickard, the Court need not address defendants’ arguments regarding First
Amendment right of access, because Judge Cleary’s order is sustainable on the common law right
of access. 733 P.3d at 1302, n.4.
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video in open court. The pixelated version of the video does not identify Doe or other court or
In the alternative, the defendants note that the pixelated video to be released under Judge
Cleary’s order “contains an unpixelated image of V.T., the cooperating witness and victim of the
attack [by Mr. Angilau].” (Doc. 100 at 26). The defendants thus request that the federal defendants
be allowed “the opportunity to further redact images on the pixelated video for public viewing to
protect the identity of [V.T.].” (Id.). That alternative request is denied. The defendants did not
redact V.T.’s image from the pixelated version of the video that they submitted. V.T. has been
identified in unsealed documents the defendants filed of record, and he has been named and
pictured in press reports relating to the Angilau trial. Moreover, V.T. is the farthest person from
the camera and his image on the video is not clear enough to identify his specific facial features.
The defendants’ objections (see Doc. 100) to Judge Cleary’s order unsealing the pixelated
video are denied, and that order (Doc. 98) is affirmed.
Motion to Stay
Defendants moved (Doc. 101) to stay the effect of Judge Cleary’s November 29, 2017
order pending this Court’s determination of the defendants’ Objection. Judge Cleary considered
that motion and subsequently continued “the Stay of the Nov. 29 Order until the District Court
completes its review.” (Doc. 102). To the extent the motion to stay is still pending, that motion
is now moot because the Court’s review of these issues is complete.
For the foregoing reasons, the defendants’ objections (Doc. 87, 100) are denied, and their
motion to stay (Doc. 101) is moot. Judge Cleary’s orders granting intervention (81, 84) are
affirmed. The order (Doc. 98) unsealing the pixelated video is also affirmed.
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SO ORDERED this 9th day of March, 2018.
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