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United States v. Donahue

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 22, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOSEPH P. DONAHUE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before me is Defendant Joseph Donahue's ("Donahue") Motion in Limine. (Docs. 279; 300.) In his motion, Donahue requests that he be permitted to introduce certain evidence and testimony at trial relating to his justification defense and defense that government agents planted a magazine and firearm in his automobile and belongings because they harbored bias and animosity towards him. For the reasons that follow, Donahue's motion in limine will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

On March 4, 2010, Donahue was convicted after a jury trial in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania of multiple federal offenses. On December 2, 2010, Donahue was sentenced to 121 months imprisonment. He was scheduled to surrender at the Federal Correctional Institution, Fort Dix, New Jersey, to commence serving his sentence on January 4, 2011.

On January 4, 2011, Donahue failed to appear at the institution designated for the service of his sentence. The United States Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania, thereafter applied for, and obtained, a warrant for Donahue's arrest.

On January 20, 2011, Donahue was arrested by the United States Marshals Service in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Donahue's vehicle was taken to the U.S. Marshals' facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where the car was searched, pictures of the vehicle and its contents were taken, and the contents of the car were inventoried pursuant to the United States Marshals Service Policy Directives. During a subsequent search of the vehicle, a Glock.40 caliber magazine with an extender was discovered in the automobile. Subsequently, the bags seized from Donahue's vehicle were opened and searched, and a Glock semi-automatic pistol was found.

On July 24, 2012, the Grand Jury returned the Four-Count First Superseding Indictment against Donahue. Specifically, Donahue was charged with: (1) knowingly failing to surrender for service of a federal sentence pursuant to a court order in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3146(a)(2) and (b)(1)(A)(i) (Count One); (2) knowingly possessing, in and affecting commerce, a firearm (Glock, Model 27, .40 caliber semi-auto pistol, serial number GTB989) which had been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2) (Count Two); (3) being a fugitive from justice and knowingly possessing, in and affecting commerce, a firearm (Glock, Model 27, .40 caliber semi-auto pistol, serial number GRB989) which had been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(2) and 924(a)(2) (Count Three); and (4) knowingly possessing a stolen firearm (Glock, Model 27, .40 caliber semi-auto pistol, serial number GTB989) which had been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce, knowing and having reasonable cause to believe the firearm was stolen in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(j) and 924(a)(2) (Count Four).

Thereafter, the Government filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence of alleged misconduct of others and evidence attacking the validity of Donahue's underlying felony conviction. (Doc. 255.) By Memorandum and Order dated December 12, 2014 (Docs. 264; 265), the Government's motion was granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, I granted the Government's motion to prevent Donahue from re-litigating his contention that his underlying convictions were the product of unlawful or unconstitutional conduct in this case because those claims had already been raised and rejected before this Court and the Third Circuit. (Doc. 264, 5.) However, I denied the Government's motion in limine to the extent that it sought to preclude Donahue from introducing evidence supporting his defense that government agents harbored animosity against him, thus motivating those officials to plant and/or conspire to plant the magazine and firearm in his automobile and belongings. (Id. ) In denying the Government's motion in that regard, I stated that "the admissibility of any evidence offered relating to this defense will be determined at the time of trial." (Id. ) Moreover, the Government's motion in limine to preclude Donahue from presenting a justification defense was denied without prejudice. (Id. at 8.)

Following the issuance of the December 12, 2014 Memorandum and Order, Donahue filed the instant motion in limine. (Doc. 279.) Donahue seeks a pretrial determination on the admissibility of specific evidence he intends to offer at trial in support of his defense that government agents planted evidence in his vehicle and belongings. (Doc. 280, 2.) The Government filed a timely brief in opposition to the motion on February 18, 2015 (Doc. 283), and Donahue filed a reply brief in further support of his motion on March 3, 2015. Oral argument was held on the motion in limine on April 6, 2015. Thereafter, Donahue filed a brief clarifying the evidence he intends to submit at trial in support of his defense, (Doc. 300), and the Government filed a supplemental brief in opposition thereto. (Doc. 302.) Donahue's motion in limine is now ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion

I previously stated that a ruling on the admissibility of specific evidence implicating Donahue's defenses would not be rendered until the time of trial. (Doc. 264, 5.) Donahue has since indicated that he "is unable to adequately plan a strategy for trial without the benefit of pre-trial rulings" on his motion in limine. (Doc. 285, ¶ 5.) As such, I will outline the substance of testimony in support of Donahue's defenses that will be permitted at trial.[1]

First, though, I will briefly detail the evidence Donahue contends is necessary to the presentation of his defenses. The relevant events cited by Donahue include:

In the late 1980s, Donahue was convicted of crimes relating to his participation in a money laundering scheme. The prosecuting attorney in that case was Gordon Zubrod ("Zubrod"). During that time, Donahue publically criticized Zubrod, and he also "exposed to the press information which could prove to be permanently detrimental to Zubrod's career." (Doc. 300, ¶¶ 1-2.)

Years later, in May 2008, Donahue was indicted in the underlying case involving the crimes he was convicted of on March 4, 2010. The prosecuting attorney in that case was also Zubrod. According to Donahue, Zubrod enlisted FBI Special Agent Michael Baumgardner ("Baumgardner") to assist in the investigation and conviction of Donahue to enhance his career. Donahue insists that Zubrod had a personal vendetta against him, which caused Zubrod to manipulate Baumgardner during the course of the prosecution. Moreover, the ...


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