United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Barry Fischer United States District Judge
NOW, this 16th day of March, 2017, upon review of
Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of
Prior Convictions (Docket No. 283), Defendants’
Response (Docket No. 298), and Plaintiff’s Reply
thereto (Docket No. 305), the Court makes the following
the extent that Plaintiff seeks to exclude evidence of
convictions prior to 2007, Defendants have conceded that said
convictions are “too remote,” and any reference
to same should be redacted from Defendants’ exhibits.
(Docket No. 298 at 5).
respect to the admissibility of Plaintiff and Raymond
Rabreau’s 2007 convictions, Rule 609(a) of the Federal
Rules of Evidence is subject to Rule 403; thus, the Court
must weigh four factors against the potential for prejudice
before admitting evidence of a conviction: “(1) the
nature of the conviction; (2) the time elapsed since the
conviction; (3) the importance of the witness’s
testimony to the case; and (4) the importance of credibility
to the claim at hand.” Sharif v. Picone, 740
F.3d 263, 272 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing United States v.
Greenidge, 495 F.3d 85, 97 (3d Cir. 2007)).
to the first element, there is no dispute that Plaintiff was
convicted on the charges of conspiracy to distribute and
possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of
marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance, in violation of
21 U.S.C. § 846; possession with intent to distribute
100 kilograms of more of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(vii); and, unlawful
possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of
18 US.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e). Potential witness
Rabreau was similarly convicted of conspiracy to distribute
and possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms of more
of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Both
individuals served significant, multi-year sentences as a
result. While these 2007 convictions were directly related to
“the very incident at the center of”
Plaintiff’s civil claim, weighing in favor of
Plaintiff, Sharif, 740 F.3d at 273, this point,
alone, is not dispositive. Wise v. Washington Cnty.,
2014 WL 1235835, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 25, 2014). The Court
notes that Plaintiff’s arrest, detention, and ultimate
conviction resulted, in part, from evidence that he
personally moved hundreds of pounds of marihuana in bundles
weighing approximately eleven pounds, each. Plaintiff somehow
managed this feat in spite of his allegations of back pain.
The nature of Plaintiff’s conviction, as well as his
role in the events preceding his arrest, detention, and
conviction, are therefore pertinent. Hence, analysis of the
first element does not weigh in Plaintiff’s favor.
to the second element, a prior conviction is more relevant to
a case when it is “not ‘remote in time’
from the time of trial.” Sharif, 740 F.3d at
273 (quoting Greenidge, 495 F.3d at 96. Presently,
the convictions at issue are not prohibitively old, as same
are within the ten year limit in Rule 609(b). Nevertheless,
the convictions are approaching this threshold, which often
weighs in favor of a finding of diminished relevance.
Id. (citing U.S. v. Paige, 464 F.Supp. 99,
100 (E.D. Pa. 1978)). While the age of these convictions
might otherwise tip the second element in Plaintiff’s
favor, the Court has taken into consideration that the
Complaint in the instant case was filed on April 10, 2006
– before the convictions. Plaintiff has
provided no reason for the Court to conclude that the
convictions have been rendered irrelevant simply because same
aged along with this civil case. Thus, the second element
does not weigh strongly in Plaintiff’s favor.
terms of the third and fourth elements, the Court notes that
Plaintiff and Rabreau, having both been detained during the
same time period in question as part of the same
investigation, were both convicted as participants in a drug
distribution conspiracy. While their testimony has been
presented as being vital to establishing the facts necessary
to sustain Plaintiff’s claim, their credibility should
be tested given their roles as co-conspirators. A jury may
very well decide that they worked together to traffic drugs;
hence, they may be working together to put on this case and
potentially reap a monetary award? As such, the Court
believes the jury should be informed of these prior
convictions. See Sharif, 740 F.3d at 273 (“The
final two Greenidge factors…overlap.”).
Consequently, the third and fourth elements do not weigh in
Notwithstanding the above analysis, the Court will provide a
limiting instruction as a “countermeasure to any
improper uses of the” conviction evidence that the jury
may be tempted to make. Greenidge, 495 F.3d at 98.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine
to Exclude Evidence of Prior Convictions (Docket No. 283) is
GRANTED, to the extent that references to any convictions
prior to 2007 shall be redacted from Defendants’
exhibits, and DENIED, to the extent Defendants seek to use
evidence of Plaintiff and Rabreau’s 2007 convictions to
impeach their credibility.
FURTHER ORDERED that the parties shall meet and confer, and
submit a joint proposed limiting instruction regarding use of
evidence of the 2007 convictions by ...