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United States of America v. Joseph Ligambi

November 2, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JOSEPH LIGAMBI, ANTHONY STAINO, JR., JOSEPH MASSIMINO, GEORGE BORGESI, DAMION CANALICHIO, GARY BATTAGLINI, AND JOSEPH LICATA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

I.INTRODUCTION

Several Defendants have challenged the admissibility of the Government's proffered expert testimony regarding the identities and alleged La Cosa Nostra ranks of other, non-defendant individuals mentioned in a consensual recording made by then-acting government informant, Nicholas Stefanelli, at the La Griglia Restaurant, in Kenilworth, New Jersey, on May 19, 2010 (the "La Griglia Tape").*fn1 In addition to oral objections raised during trial, Defendant Borgesi filed a Motion in Limine to Restrict the Testimony of the Government's Expert.*fn2

In considering Defendant Borgesi's motion in limine, the Court must decide whether admitting the Government's proffered expert testimony comports with the Third Circuit's holding in United States v. Gibbs, 190 F.3d 188 (3d Cir. 1999). For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Defendant Borgesi's Motion in Limine to Restrict the Testimony of the Government's Expert.*fn3

II.BACKGROUND

Defendant Borgesi is one of fourteen Defendants charged in a fifty-two count Third Superseding Indictment. ECF No. 723. This case emerged from a criminal investigation spanning approximately ten years and was twice designated a complex case due to the number of Defendants and the nature and quantity of evidence, which includes over 14,000 intercepted wire and oral communications. See ECF Nos. 177, 520. Among other counts, Defendants are charged with conspiring to conduct and participate in the conduct of the affairs of the criminal enterprise, the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra ("LCN") Family, through a pattern of racketeering activity and through the collection of unlawful debts. Seven Defendants are currently on trial.*fn4

During discovery and in accordance with the Court's Third Scheduling Order (ECF No. 521), dated May 15, 2012, the Government submitted its Pretrial Tape List, identifying the recordings of intercepted communications that the Government may introduce in its case-in-chief. Gov't's Tape List, ECF No. 650. This list included the La Griglia Tape. Id. Thereafter, the Government provided transcripts of the La Griglia Tape, which Defendants had an opportunity to review. Trial began on October 9, 2012.

The La Griglia Tape includes references to several otherwise unidentified individuals, including, for example: Lance; Blaise; Eric; Joe Grande; Charlie White; Frankie Narducci; and Joey Pung. La Griglia Tape Tr., Segment 2, 8:9-11:15, May 19, 2010. The Government has proffered expert testimony regarding the identities and alleged LCN ranks of these non-defendant individuals. The basis of the expert's opinion regarding the above-referenced category of individuals includes, in part, reliance on court documents, judicial opinions, Pennsylvania Crime Commission reports, information from the New Jersey State Commission on Investigations, and the like, all of which was made available to Defendants during discovery. See Order 3, Aug. 21, 2012, ECF No. 816.

Several Defendants voiced oral objections to this expert testimony during trial, on October 31, 2012, at sidebar.*fn5

After hearing oral argument, the Court permitted the parties to file supplemental written submissions. Defendant Borgesi filed a Motion in Limine to Restrict the Testimony of the Government's Expert. Def. Borgesi's Mot. in Limine, Nov. 1, 2012. The Government filed a Memorandum Regarding the Admission of Expert Testimony. Gov't's Mem., Oct. 31, 2012, ECF No. 986. This motion is now ripe for disposition.*fn6

III.DEFENDANT BORGESI'S MOTION IN LIMINE TO RESTRICT THE TESTIMONY OF THE GOVERNMENT'S EXPERT

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, an expert may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise where such testimony would "help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue." Fed. R. Evid. 702. Trial courts have broad discretion to admit or exclude expert testimony, based on whether such testimony would be helpful to the trier of fact. Id.; Gibbs, 190 F.3d at 211 (citations omitted).

Rules 703, 704, and 705 of the Federal Rules of Evidence govern the foundation and scope of expert testimony. Rule 703 provides:

An expert may base an opinion on facts or data in the case that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed. If experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in forming an opinion on the subject, they need not be admissible for the opinion to be admitted. But if the facts or data would otherwise be inadmissible, the proponent of the opinion may disclose them to the jury only if their probative ...


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