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Yudenko v. Guarini

July 16, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.



Audrey Yudenko, a former inmate at the Lancaster County prison, brought this Americans with Disabilities Act*fn1 case alleging that his treatment while incarcerated exacerbated his pre-existing ankle injury. His motion to exclude his prior convictions at trial will be denied in part and granted in part.


Yudenko alleges that the prison did not properly accommodate his disability, negligently denied him prison services, and failed to maintain his bunk bed, all in violation of the ADA and Pennsylvania tort law. In May 2006, while Yudenko was an inmate at Lancaster County prison, he injured his back by falling down stairs in the Medical Housing Unit. Several months later, on August 4, 2006, while he was leaning against the bunk in his cell, the welding that attached the bunk to the wall broke, causing the bunk to collapse. As a result, Yudenko alleges that he suffered additional injuries, including lower back pain, pain and numbness in his legs, nausea, vomiting, feelings of disorientation, and the inability to walk normally.

On August 11, 2006, Yudenko complained to defendant Dr. Robert Doe, and was told that his pain would be discussed at a later date, although at the time of the filing of this case no such conversation had taken place. Yudenko wrote to the prison medical department on August 25, 2006. He requested that his medicine be brought directly to his cell because he was unable to walk to the medication line as a result of the pain in his legs. The prison authorities allegedly denied the request. Yudenko also submitted a complaint to Associate Warden Bodnar on August 25, 2006, regarding a correctional officer who took away Yudenko's recreational time for walking to slowly. Thereafter, Yudenko claims his pain medication was stopped altogether.

In September 2006, Yudenko filed a complaint with Associate Warden Bodnar regarding the correctional officer. He also filed a complaint with Deputy Warden Seibert about the correctional officer and his lack of medical treatment. The plaintiff contends he still has not received physical therapy or adequate treatment for his pain. Defendant Guarinni is the warden of Lancaster County Prison.


Some of Yudenko's criminal convictions are admissible: those convictions relevant to Yudenko's credibility under F.R.E. 609,*fn3 especially those involving crimes of dishonesty (robbery, receiving stolen property and theft by unlawful taking), will be admitted.

A. The 1995 Convictions in Washington State Are Barred by Rule 609

Yudenko pleaded guilty to robbery and eluding in Washington state on June 15, 1995. He served over three years in prison on those two convictions, after which he withdrew his guilty plea to the robbery charge and it was dismissed. Plaintiff's Mem. at 1. Yudenko was released after about four years of incarceration.

The robbery conviction was dismissed, therefore it is not admissible. The record presented by Yudenko from the Superior Court for King County does not state whether the dismissal of the charges was based on a finding of innocence or some other reason. In any event, it does not appear that the dismissal was a "pardon, annulment, certificate of rehabilitation or other equivalent procedure" as defined by Rule 609 (c)(1) (providing that if a person is "convicted of a subsequent" felony, convictions that were "the subject of a pardon, annulment, certificate of rehabilitation, or other equivalent procedure based on a finding of the rehabilitation of the person convicted" are admissible). Therefore, the rule will be construed in Yudenko's favor and Rule 609(c)(2) will be applied. Subsection (c)(2) prohibits the introduction of convictions that are "the subject of a pardon, annulment, or other equivalent procedure based on a finding of innocence."

The "eluding" conviction from King County is more than ten years old and is not a crime of falsehood. Although it is not apparent from the record, it appears that Yudenko was also released from custody for the eluding conviction more than ten years ago because he pleaded guilty on June 15, 1995 and was incarcerated for about four years. Eluding a police officer is a class C felony in Washington. See Rev. Code Wash. Ann. 46.61.024. Fed. R. Evid. 609(b) provides: "Evidence of a conviction under this rule is not admissible if a period of more than ten years has elapsed since the date of the conviction or of the release of the witness from the confinement imposed for that conviction, whichever is the later date, unless the court determines, in the interests of justice, that the probative value of the conviction supported by specific facts and circumstances substantially outweighs its prejudicial effect." Therefore, this felony is not admissible because it is more than ten years old and the underlying crime was not a crime of falsehood.

Further, the probative value of a conviction for eluding does not outweigh its prejudicial effect. The fact that Yudenko served four years for eluding a police officer is certainly prejudicial. In the absence of any specific facts or circumstances about this crime the probative value of the conviction to Yudenko's credibility is especially difficult to gauge. Therefore, ...

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