Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Synopsis: On May 9, 2014, the Mules were arrested by the National Park Service and issued three citations for camping outside of designated area, violating order of a government agent, and conditions concerning use of pack animals. On July 16, 2014, the Mules attended an arraignment at the United States District Court in Los Angeles and pleaded not guilty and a trial date was set for November 6, 2014. At the trial on November 6, 2014, the Mules were charged with 1) not obeying an order of a federal employee; and 2) camping in an undesignated area on national park land, while the third charge related to the pack animals was dropped. If found guilty on these charges, the maximum penalty for this petty offense was term of six months imprisonment,  $5000 maximum fine, $10 special assessment for misdemeanor conviction, $25 processing fee payable to the Central Violations Bureau, and five year probation period. The Mules pleaded not guilty and were found guilty on both charges with no imposed penalties or fines, but were assessed a $35 court fee. On May 2, 2016, the Mules attended Oral Arguments before a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court of Appeals Ninth District in Pasadena. The defense for the Mules and the government prosecution each had 15 minutes to provide their argument in front of a three-panel judge.
 
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9th District Court Ruling: On June 15, 2016, the 9th District U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the magistrate judge’s finding that the Mules were guilty of violating two National Park Service regulations. Read ruling 9th District Decision 6/15/16
 

My pro bono attorney Dan Kapelovitz and myself

My pro bono attorney Dan Kapelovitz and myself

To hear post-court discussion between John Sears and pro bono attorney Dan Kapelovitz, click here: https://youtu.be/eNIc2_TjcME
 

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Trial transcript: 020315 Trail Transcript USA v John Sears.pdf
Appellant Opening Brief: Appellant’s Opening Brief.pdf
Governments Answering BriefGovernment’s Answering Brief.pdf
Reply Brief: Reply Brief.pdf
U.S. Court of Appeal Ninth Circuit Oral Argument: Court video recording 5/2/2016
9th District Decision: 9th District Decision 6/15/2016

For the case appeal against the United States government, the Mules are being represented by attorney Daniel I. Kapelovitz.  We asked Mr. Kapelovitz to explain why he has volunteered to appeal this case for us.

Attorney Dan Kapelovitz: Why I am helping John Sears appeal his case pro bono


Recap of Events:

May 9, 2014: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Citations Issued
The Mules were arrested by the National Park Service on May 9, 2014 and issued three citations.  This is his recollection of what happened:

Screenshot 2014-07-15 18.46.46

Where the citations were issued.

Violations in Natl Forrest 3 blurred   Violations in Natl Forrest 2 blurred   Violation in Natl Forrest 1 blurredNPS court appear 1 blurredNPS Court appear 2 blurredNPS court appear 3 blurred

July 16, 2014: U.S. District Court Arraignment
The Mules attended arraignment at United States District Court in Los Angeles for the three citations received in May while spending the night on land under jurisdiction of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. A “not guilty” plea was entered and trial date is set for November 6, 2014 at which time the Mules will return to Los Angeles. Below are the documents that were handed to us in court.

Citation 1 Santa Monica Mtns NRA-blurredCitation 2 Santa Monica Mtns NRA-blurredCitation 3 Santa Monica Mtns NRA-blurredCVB Hearing DocumentMotion Briefing ScheduleTrial Appearance details P1Trail Appearance details P2Proceedings Sheet on Violatin NoticeProceedings Sheet on Violation Notice P2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 4, 2014 U.S. District Court trial paperwork
Going to trial on Thursday, Nov. 6 at the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles for the 3 citations received in May while spending the night on land under jurisdiction of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.  Below is the latest paperwork from the court, postmarked Oct. 29, 2014.

jonhs court papersjonhs court papers 2jonhs court papers 3jonhs court papers 4jonhs court papers 5

 

 

 

 

 

November 6, 2014: U.S. District Court trial results
At the trial today at U.S. District Courthouse in Los Angeles, we were charged with 1) not obeying an order of a federal employee; and 2) camping in an undesignated area on national park land. We pleaded not guilty. We were found guilty on both charges with no imposed penalties or fines, but were assessed a $35 court fee.
Trial transcript: 020315 Trail Transcript USA v John Sears.pdf

 

February 6 2015: Appeal submitted
Mule’s legal representative Daniel Kapelovitz has submitted an appeal to the United States District Court, which has ten days to respond.
Appellant Opening BriefAppellant’s Opening Brief.pdf

 

February 19 2015: Government’s Answering Brief
The government sent back their response to the Appellant Opening Brief.
Governments Answering BriefGovernment’s Answering Brief.pdf

 

March 2, 2015: Reply Brief
Mule’s legal representative Daniel Kapelovitz has submitted the Reply Brief to the Government’s Answering Brief
Reply Brief: Reply Brief.pdf
Outcome: The Judge stood by the initial ruling and rejected the appeal.

 

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Oral Argument Before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. John Sears, Regarding Mr. Sears’s Constitutional Right to Travel  With Mules, is scheduled

When: May 2, 2016, 9:30 am

Where: The Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals, Courtroom 1

40 Arroyo Drive, Pasadena, California 91105

Click here for Press Release
U.S. Court of Appeal Ninth Circuit Oral Argument: Court video recording 5/2/2016

 
Oral Argument Notice
 
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May 2, 2016: Oral Arguments from the defense for the Mules and the government prosecution each had 15 minutes to provide their argument in front of a three-panel judge in the U.S. District Court of Appeals Ninth District in Pasadena. We were the first case heard. No final decision was made today by the judges. The time period to receive a decision is unknown. Again, thank you all who follow our journey, share and like our posts, and continue to send us positive messages and energy.
 
Thank you to Kevin who once again brought his energy and support to the Mules by taking care of the kids by watching them and our belongings while I was in court for the initial trial in Los Angeles and this Oral Argument in Pasadena.
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