September News!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Case, Staff & Intern News



Case News:

Defense Team Secures Case Dismissal!


A client of the Federal Defender’s Office, charged with hate crimes, along with two co-defendants represented by CJA counsel, Robert Flennaugh and Cynthia Jones, Michael Iaria, Neil Fox, and George Davenport, had their case dismissed by the government after an amazing legal and investigative effort led by Seattle AFDs Jennifer Wellman, Greg Geist, & Ann Wagner, as well as Seattle investigator Jennifer Davis, Seattle paralegals Janet Stanton & Barbara Hughes and Tacoma investigator Stacey Brownstein.  Originally, the Seattle Times reported on the case when the client was charged nearly three years ago. But, after the dismissal, the Seattle Times issued a new report: (article) that placed the case in its proper context. The defense investigation, which spanned into Cameroon, uncovered a number of lies made by the complaining witness. The defense team is overjoyed that the government made the right choice and finally dismissed the case without further litigation. After the client received the news, he told us that he was so happy, he was speechless and couldn’t believe that the truth finally came out. He then thanked his defense team for their hard work and for giving him hope. Congrats to our client!



This past week, a marathon of a case, came to a fantastic and just end. In February 2019, our client was charged with a series of drug and firearm offenses that took place on two different days, for which he faced a 20-year mandatory minimum if convicted. The last incident involved the client in a motorcycle accident and he almost lost his life. The litigation included the “kitchen sink:” (1) a complicated competency proceeding initiated by former Seattle AFPD Chloe Akers; (2) a motion to withdraw as counsel that was later withdrawn; (3) pretrial motions hearings and a trial led by Seattle AFDs Jennifer Wellman and Mohammad Hamoudi, along with Tacoma Research & Writing Specialist, Alan Zarky, who was the incomparable and learned counsel behind most if not all motions (pre, during and after trial), as well as now-retired paralegal Donna Maxwell, and Seatt;e paralegals Charlotte Ponikvar and Barbara Hughes, and Seattle investigator Debra Malcolm; (3) a host of moving parts, including Seattle AFD Vicki Lai stepping in to assist with voir dire last minute, Seattle Paralegal Janet Stanton stepping in when technology went awry, Debra creating clips of body cam footage, and uncovering key information about the government’s evidence up to the eve of trial, IT staff jumping in to assist with the technology each day, and Seattle AFD Dennis Carroll stepping in as co-counsel from the galley when Mohammad was not available for the bifurcated trial; (4) an office holiday party the night before closing arguments, during which Seattle AFD Greg Murphy gave counsel a great line from which to fashion the argument; (5) a hung verdict on the most serious counts that carried mandatory minimums; (6) double jeopardy litigation both in district court and in the Ninth Circuit, led by Alan; (7) motions to reopen the detention hearing and to allow the client to attend his mother’s memorial, led by Mohammad; (8) negotiations before the second trial was scheduled to begin, which resolved the case with a sentencing range of 6 to 8 years on the Felon in Possession and simple possession counts, an appeal waiver, and a dismissal of the remaining mandatory minimum counts; and (9) a contested sentencing hearing. At the sentencing, the Court was empathetic of the client’s history, marked by trauma, neglect and abuse, as well as his current mindset and effectively told the client that if he surrounds himself with good people and takes advantages of opportunities, he can turn it around, before imposing the low end of the agreed upon range.

Throughout this process, the client was grateful for the fierce advocacy, but also the respect and grace shown him over the course of the proceedings, not only by the defense team and entire office, but also by the Court, the marshals and the probation department. For that, the defense team is grateful and proud. Jennifer and Mohammad are also so grateful for Alan, Deb and the whole team, who worked tirelessly to help us tell the client’s story throughout the litigation, and for our exemplary colleagues at the FPD, all of whom had our backs these past almost three years and in one way or the other, helped us and our client every step of the way.


Last month a client of the Federal Defender Office was charged with multiple violations of her parole and was remanded back into state custody. A very lengthy telephonic hearing was held in early September, during which both Darrel Lahtinen, an attorney with Jean Schiedler-Brown and Associates, and Seattle AFD Jennifer Wellman joined. One week later, the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board granted the client’s request for reinstatement. The defense team, which includes Seattle investigator Debra Malcolm, and Seattle paralegal Barbara Hughes, as well as Sherilyn Peterson, Of Counsel at Perkins Coie LLP, is grateful for Darrel’s work on the client’s behalf, as well as her treatment providers who were also instrumental to our client having this opportunity.



Client Received Probationary Sentence!

A client of the Federal Defender Office received a rare probationary sentence for possession of child pornography. The government sought a sentence of 78 months in prison but due to the client’s rehabilitation and engagement with treatment, while out of custody on an appearance bond, the Court concluded that any amount of prison would be a sentence greater than necessary. Congrats to the client!


Staff News:

Tacoma Hires Two Assistant Federal Defenders and Seattle Hires a Paralegal!

We are happy to announce that Becky Fish and Christian Izaguirre have joined our Tacoma office as Assistant Federal Defenders and Luzevelia Vargas has joined our Seattle office as a Paralegal.

Becky Fish worked in our Seattle FPD office as an Administrative Assistant for four years while attending law school at Seattle University, where she graduated 2nd in her class. She was the editor-in-chief of the Seattle Journal of Social Justice, and the winner of the Fred Tausend Moot Court competition. Her undergraduate honors and work at Brown University were equally impressive. Her public defender roots in King County include multiple externships and more recently, she worked as a staff attorney with the King County Public Defender Association in their LEAD (Let Everyone Advance with Dignity/Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program. Before that, Becky was a trial attorney with the Federal Defenders of San Diego for five years, an office with a national reputation for its outstanding training program. We are thrilled to have her back in the Western District of Washington.

Christian Izaguirre joined the Marine Corps at age 17 and spent four years overseas with deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. He earned the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with Combat “V”) for valor under enemy fire while leading a squad in Iraq. After the Marines, Christian went to undergraduate school at East Tennessee State University. Christian graduated in three years while also maintaining a full time job. Christian then attended law school at Howard University and graduated cum laude in the top 10% of his class and was the Captain of the Charles Hamilton Houston National Moot Court Team. While in law school Christian clerked for the esteemed D.C. Public Defender Service, and after law school was a white-collar litigation associate with Kirkland & Ellis, LLP in D.C. Christian then began his public defender career with Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem. After four years in New York, he headed west to Colorado where he was a public defender in Arapahoe County for four years. He is an avid runner, hiker, and outdoor enthusiast.

Luzevelia (Luz) Vargas comes to us from the FPD Office in Las Cruces, New Mexico where she worked for four and a half years. Before that, she worked in the private sector as a legal assistant and paralegal from 2009 to 2016. While working, she earned her bachelor of applied studies degree from New Mexico State University, an associate of applied science in paralegal studies from the Dona Ana Community College and is now finishing a master of legal studies degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. She is a certified paralegal as well and also fluent in Spanish. Luz has an advanced paralegal certification in criminal litigation. She enjoys trial prep and being the paralegal in the ‘hot seat’ during trials and hearings.



Intern News:

We are so proud of the skillful and tenacious advocacy of our undergraduate intern, Marina Nack, who took on several challenging warrant clearing cases for people incarcerated at FDC SeaTac deemed ineligible for BOP Early Release due to active warrants. These cases are referred to our office by FDC SeaTac case managers through the collaborative efforts of our office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Probation providing reentry planning services for individuals returning to our community after completing federal sentences. Most recently, Marina helped coordinate local counsel, arranged telephonic hearings from FDC SeaTac, resolved warrants in Oregon and confirmed the status of warrants that had already been resolved in Idaho and California. Marina, along with our other amazing undergraduate interns, dedicated a lot of time to this project, which offers tremendous benefits to these individuals. With their warrants resolved, they are able to face the challenges of resuming their lives, find work and housing without the worry that a warrant from another jurisdiction could send them back into custody. It is extremely important work and we celebrate Marina’s recent successes.



Please Welcome our Two New Social Work Interns!

Haley Brunner:

Hi All! Thank you for welcoming me into the FPD office as one of your 2021-22 MSW Interns. My name is Haley Brunner (They/Them pronouns). For a little background, I was born and raised in Seattle where I attended the University of Washington for both undergrad and now graduate school. As an undergraduate, I received a bachelor's in Art History and Psychology and I'm now studying in the Community-Centered Integrative Practice concentration at UW's School of Social Work. Over the past 7 years I have worked in direct social services as a high school health center coordinator and as a housing case manager supporting youth and families experiencing homelessness. I am particularly interested in trauma-informed resource advocacy and restorative responses to harm for community members with experiences of incarceration and intersectional barriers to stability. On the side, I love getting into creative woodworking projects, whipping up delicious meals, and exploring the outdoors- whether I'm hiking, camping or paddle boarding. I can also be found seeking out a good local comedy show. Looking forward to collaborating with you all soon!


Tess Musolino:

I am a native of upstate New York who relocated out to the Pacific Northwest after my very first visit (I just could not resist how much bigger the mountains are on this side of the country). I have an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice, though I took a career detour to work in the animal care field, first as the manager of a large animal rescue and then as a wildlife rehabilitator. Now, I am in my second year of the MSW program at UW, and hope to work

within the criminal justice system after graduation. I am a huge animal lover and most enjoy spending time outdoors hiking with my two dogs, or hanging out working on some sort of projects with the “help” of my two cats; my current favorites are sewing clothes and refurbishing old furniture. I am so excited to join the team here at the Federal Public Defender’s office, and I look forward to meeting and learning from all of you!

Archive Date: 
September, 2021