Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, July 10, 2020


Page 1


Ninth Circuit:

FOIA Request by Man Convicted of Murders Properly Spurned by ICE Based on Sealing


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed a summary judgment in favor of the Department of Justice and other federal entities in an action by a state prisoner to compel the release of sealed documents relating to a search of premises in Oceanside, with that search leading to evidence upon which he was convicted of murder.

Edward Dean Hohner brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California after his Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) was not timely acted upon. District Court Judge George H. Wu ruled in favor of the defendants.

Hohner was convicted in 2012 of the Feb. 21,1997 first degree murders of two marijuana dealers, Rolando Cebreros and Francisco Villalobos. He allegedly dumped their bodies, which have not been recovered, in the Arizona desert.

In his FOIA request, Hohner said he “has a personal interest in the disclosure and release of agency records improperly withheld from plaintiff by defendant,” noting he was found guilty of murder “with no physical evidence—no bodies, no DNA, and no gun—only the testimony of drug addicts and a paid government informant.”

Yesterday’s memorandum decision notes that the records in question were sealed in 1998 by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. The nature of the records is not disclosed.

The opinion says:

“The government bears the burden of showing that a sealing order prohibits disclosure of relevant agency records requested under FOIA….Here, in support of its motion for summary judgment, the government submitted the district court’s sealing order and the subsequent order clarifying that the sealing order was intended to prohibit disclosure of the documents at issue. Considering both the sealing order and the clarifying order, there was no genuine issue on whether ICE lacked discretion to disclose the documents and thus, the agency properly withheld the documents.”

The case is Hohner v. U.S. Department of Justice, 18-55886.


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