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United States v. Blakeslee

April 5, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court

(Chief Judge Kane)


Before the Court is a motion in limine filed by Defendant Robert Blakeslee ("Blakeslee") seeking to exclude any evidence of prior convictions to impeach pursuant to Rule 609 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. (Doc. No. 72.) The motion is ripe for consideration. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.


Blakeslee was charged by indictment on December 13, 2007, with three counts of receiving and possessing material constituting or containing child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A. (Doc. No. 1.) The indictment also charged that Blakeslee had been previously convicted for an offense under Chapter 110, which raised the applicable mandatory minimum sentences for these offenses. (Id.) Trial in this matter is currently set to commence on April 5, 2010. On March 25, 2010, Blakeslee filed the present motion in limine. The Court will consider the motion as argued by the parties.


Blakeslee argues that the Court should exclude evidence of four prior criminal convictions for purposes of impeachment. (Doc. No. 73 at 2.) In particular, Blakeslee seeks to exclude his: (1) March 1999 conviction for loitering and prowling at night, (2) July 1999 conviction for possession of child pornography, (3) April 2006 conviction for criminal trespass, and (4) June 2006 convictions for criminal attempt to lure a child and criminal trespass. (Id.) Blakeslee argues that evidence of the prior convictions would be more prejudicial than probative of his veracity. (Id. at 4.) The Government opposes this contention and counters that, by testifying, Blakeslee will place his credibility in issue such that impeachment by these prior convictions would be highly probative. (Doc. No. 77 at 5-8.)

There does not appear to be any dispute between the parties that the prior crimes at issue are all considered felony convictions and that none involved dishonesty as contemplated under Rule 609(a)(2). Accordingly, the Court must conduct the balancing inquiry provided by Rule 609(a)(1), which provides that, for the purpose of attacking a defendant witness' character for truthfulness, "evidence that an accused has been convicted of . . . a crime [punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year] shall be admitted if the court determines that the probative value of admitting this evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect to the accused . . . ." In undertaking the required balancing under Rule 609, the Court should consider: "(1) the kind of crime involved, (2) when the conviction occurred, (3) the importance of the witness' testimony to the case, and (4) the importance of the credibility of the defendant." Government of Virgin Islands v. Bedford, 671 F.2d 758, 761 (3d Cir. 1982); see also United States v. Greenidge, 495 F.3d 85, 97 (3d Cir. 2007). The Government bears the burden of persuading the Court that evidence of Blakeslee's prior convictions should be admitted for impeachment. Bedford, 671 F.2d at 761.

A. Kinds of Crimes Involved

Blakeslee argues that the first factor weighs against admission of these prior convictions for impeachment because the crimes involved do not specially reflect upon his veracity. (Doc. No. 73 at 3.) Blakeslee further argues that, taken together, the prior convictions will unfairly prejudice him because they are "reflective of [his] sexually charged stalking-type behavior directed at juveniles." (Id. at 4.) The Government has not argued that the crimes in question are, by their nature, particularly probative of veracity, but has cited to cases from other Circuits for the proposition that mere similarity between past convictions and current charges should not render prior convictions inadmissible. (Doc. No. 77 at 6-7.)

1. Probative of Veracity

While Rule 609(a)(1) presumes that all felonies are somewhat probative of a witness' propensity to testify truthfully, "different felonies, even those that do not constitute crimen falsi, bear on credibility to varying degrees." United States v. Estrada, 430 F.3d 606, 616-17 (2nd Cir. 2005). Generally, "convictions which rest on dishonest conduct relate to credibility whereas those of violent or assaultive crimes generally do not." Id. at 618. Crimes of stealth, such as theft or burglary, have also been found to reflect a significant lack of credibility. Id. at 619. On the other hand, "crimes involving public morality, such as prostitution, may be less probative of veracity." Id.

Here, Blakeslee's criminal trespass conviction does bear somewhat more heavily on his veracity. Additionally, the child-luring charge is suggestive of an abuse of trust, bearing more heavily on veracity. The reflection on veracity of Blakeslee's loitering and prior child pornography convictions are less clear. Because the Government has not argued or cited to any authority suggesting that these convictions are especially probative of Blakeslee's ...

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