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United States v. Rought

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 2, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAMES EUGENE ROUGHT Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Presently before the court are the following motions filed by the defendant James Eugene Rought (“Rought”): (1) motion in limine pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 801 and 802, (Doc. 39); (2) motion in limine pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 404, (Doc. 63); (3) motion in limine pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 16, (Doc. 65); and (4) motion to dismiss Count I of the superseding indictment pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 12(b)(3)(B)(v), (Doc. 67). The matters have been briefed and are ripe for disposition.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the motions will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 16, 2018, Rought was indicted with one count of distribution and possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance that resulted in the serious bodily injury of Cara Giberson and the death of Dana Carichner. (Doc. 1). Rought pleaded not guilty to the indictment. (Doc. 11). On June 25, 2019, a superseding indictment was filed against Rought, charging him with an additional count of possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance that resulted in the serious bodily injury of Ms. Giberson and the death of Mr. Carichner. (Doc. 48). On June 28, 2019, Rought pleaded not guilty to the superseding indictment. (Doc. 56).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         a. Motions in Limine

         “The purpose of a motion in limine is to allow the trial court to rule in advance of trial on the admissibility and relevance of certain forecasted evidence.” United States v. Tartaglione, 228 F.Supp.3d 402, 406 (E.D.Pa. 2017) (citation omitted). On a motion in limine, evidence should only be excluded “when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds.” Id. Evidentiary rulings on motions in limine are subject to the trial judge's discretion and are therefore reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Abrams v. Lightolier, Inc., 50 F.3d 1204, 1213 (3d Cir. 1995); Bernardsville Bd. of Educ. v. J.H., 42 F.3d 149, 161 (3d Cir. 1994). “The Court is vested with broad inherent authority to manage its cases, which carries with it the discretion and authority to rule on motions in limine prior to trial.” Ridolfi v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., 2017 WL 3198006, *2 (M.D.Pa. July 27, 2017) (citations omitted). Further, “[c]ourts may exercise this discretion in order to ensure that juries are not exposed to unfairly prejudicial, confusing or irrelevant evidence.” Id. (citation omitted).

         “A trial court considering a motion in limine may reserve judgment until trial in order to place the motion in the appropriate factual context.” United States v. Tartaglione, 228 F.Supp.3d 402, 406 (E.D.Pa. 2017) (citation omitted). “Further, a trial court's ruling on a motion in limine is ‘subject to change when the case unfolds, particularly if actual testimony differs from what was contained in the movant's proffer.'” Id. (citing Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 (1984)).

         b. Motion to Dismiss

         “In deciding a motion to dismiss, [the court] must accept factual allegations [in the indictment as true] and disregard legal conclusions to determine whether the alleged facts constitute a crime.” United States v. Harder, 168 F.Supp.3d 732, 737 (E.D.Pa. 2016) (citing United States v. Zauber, 857 F.2d 137, 144 (3d Cir. 1988)). Also, the court “must dismiss counts based on a statutory misinterpretation.” Id. at 738 (citing United States v. Enmons, 410 U.S. 396 (1973) (“dismissing indictment when statute does not proscribe the conduct charged”); United States v. Ferriero, 2015 WL 225806, *5 (D.N.J. Jan. 15, 2015) (“[A] district court must find that ‘a charging document fails to state an offense if the specific facts alleged in the charging document fall beyond the scope of the relevant criminal statute, as a matter of statutory interpretation.'”). “A motion to dismiss is ‘not a permissible vehicle for addressing the sufficiency of the government's evidence.'” Id. (quoting United States v. DeLaurentis, 230 F.3d 659, 660 (3d Cir. 2000)).

         In United States v. Rankin, 870 F.2d 109, 112 (3d Cir. 1989), the Third Circuit stated,

An indictment is generally deemed sufficient if it[] (1) contains the elements of the offense intended to be charged; (2) sufficiently apprises the defendant of what he must be prepared to meet; and (3) allows the defendant to show with accuracy to what extent he may plead a former acquittal or conviction in the event of a subsequent prosecution.

See also Hamling v. United States, 418 U.S. 87, 117 (1974); United States v. Olatunji, 872 F.2d 1161, 1168 (3d Cir. 1989). The court in Rankin also stated that “no greater specificity than the statutory language is required so long as there is sufficient factual orientation to permit the defendant to prepare his defense and to invoke double jeopardy in the event of a subsequent prosecution.” Rankin, 870 F.2d at 112.

         III. DISCUSSION

         a. Motion in Limine Pursuant to ...


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