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United States v. Ivins

March 31, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
DAVID IVINS, DEFENDANT.



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

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is the Government's Motion to Admit Evidence of Other Crimes under Fed. R. Evid. 414 and Fed. R. Evid. 404(b). (Doc. No. 23). On May 7, 2009, a federal grand jury returned an Indictment charging Defendant David Ivins (hereinafter "Defendant") with one count of possession of child pornography in violation of Title 18, United States Code Section 2252(a)(4). The charges stem from evidence seized after the execution of a search warrant at Defendant's home in July 2006. The search resulted in the seizure of Defendant's computer, which contained images of child pornography.

On September 1, 2009, the Government filed a Motion to Admit Evidence of Other Crimes Under Fed. R. Evid. 414 and Fed. R. Evid. 404(b). (Hereinafter "Doc. No. 23"). In this Motion, the Government seeks to admit evidence of Defendant's sexual relationship with a minor, K.R. On September 23, 2009, a hearing was held on the Motion. During the hearing, Government counsel said that it was not proceeding under Fed. R. Evid. 414 and instead was seeking to admit the evidence only under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b). (Trans. of 9/23/09 Hearing, at 3:12-15 (hereinafter "Trans.")).

The Government seeks to admit evidence that during 2007 and 2008, when K.R. was 17 years of age and Defendant was 31, Defendant engaged in a sexual relationship with her. (Id. at 3:23-4:9). Their relationship resulted in the birth of a daughter in the fall of 2008.*fn1 (Doc. No. 23, at 2). In addition, K.R. was found naked in Defendant's bed when agents arrived at Defendant's home to execute the search warrant in July 2006. (Trans., at 4:11-13). K.R. was 17 at the time.*fn2 (Doc. No. 23, at 2). The Government asserts that this evidence is relevant to prove motive, intent, opportunity and absence of mistake with respect to the charge of possession of child pornography and is therefore admissible under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b). For the following reasons, the Court is not persuaded that the Government has demonstrated a proper purpose under Rule 404(b) for the admission of evidence concerning Defendant's relationship with K.R., and also finds that the probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice. Accordingly, the Motion will be denied in its entirety.

II. DISCUSSION

All relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Rules of Evidence, the Constitution of the United States or an Act of Congress. Fed. R. Evid. 402. Evidence is relevant if it has "any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fed. R. Evid. 401. Evidence, though relevant, "may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence." Fed. R. Evid. 403.

Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), which governs the admission of evidence of prior crimes, wrongs, or acts, provides as follows:

Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show conformity therewith.

It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity or absence of mistake or accident.

This list is neither inclusive nor exhaustive. United States v. Givan, 320 F.3d 452, 460 (3d Cir. 2003). If evidence is offered for a proper purpose under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b), it is subject only to the limitations of Fed. R. Evid. 402 and 403. United States v. Scarfo, 850 F.2d 1015, 1019 (3d Cir. 1988).

In determining whether evidence of a defendant's prior crimes, wrongs, or bad acts is admissible a court engages in a four-part analysis. Huddleston v. United States, 485 U.S. 681, 691-92 (1988); United States v. Sampson, 980 F.2d 883, 888 (3d Cir. 1992). First, it must determine whether the evidence is being offered for a proper purpose under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b). Id. at 691. Second, it must determine whether the evidence is relevant under Fed. R. Evid. 402. Id. Third, it must determine whether the probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by its risk of unfair prejudice as provided by Fed. R. Evid. 403. Id. And finally, if the evidence is deemed admissible, upon request, the court must "instruct the jury that the similar acts evidence is to be considered only for the proper purpose for which it was admitted." Id. at 691-92. See also United States v. Sriyuth, 98 F.3d 739, 745-46 (3d Cir. 1996) (articulating this four-part analysis). Resolution of the instant motion turns on the analysis under the first and third prong of this four-part inquiry -- whether the evidence offered by the Government is being offered for a proper purpose and whether the probative value is substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice.

A. Prong One: Proper Purpose

In this matter, the Government asserts that Defendant's relationship with K.R. is evidence of his "sexual orientation toward young children," which is probative of his motive, intent and opportunity to engage in the crime charged. (Doc. No. 23, at 12.) The Government also argues that evidence of this relationship demonstrates Defendant's "sexual interest in pubescent children," ...


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