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United States v. Diaz

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 8, 2020

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ANTHONY DIAZ, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          Malachy E. Mannion United States District Judge.

         I. BACKGROUND

         By way of relevant background, on March 13, 2018, defendant Anthony Diaz was charged in a Superseding Indictment with seven counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1343, and four counts of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1341. (Doc. 44).

         On March 20, 2018, Diaz was arraigned and pled not guilty to all counts against him in the Superseding Indictment.

         On June 7, 2018, Diaz filed a motion seeking, in part, to strike surplusage from the Superseding Indictment. (Doc. 55). Diaz moved to strike allegations in the indictment regarding his alleged misrepresentations to his clients about his employment history and, regarding his suspension and debarment from acting as a broker to sell investment products by regulatory authorities. Diaz contended that the stated information should be stricken to protect him against prejudicial allegations that were not relevant and material to the charges contained in the indictment.

         On July 25, 2019, the court[1] issued a Memorandum and Order, (Docs. 80 & 81), and denied Diaz's motion to strike. The court found that the challenged allegations in the indictment were relevant to the elements of the charged offenses of wire and mail fraud, and that they were related to the facts that the government indicated that it would establish at trial.

         On December 24, 2019, Diaz filed a motion in limine, (Doc. 98), seeking to preclude the government from offering at trial evidence of his alleged prior bad acts and/or other wrongs as detailed in several paragraphs contained in the indictment. Diaz simultaneously filed his brief in support. (Doc. 99).

         On January 2, 2020, the government filed its brief in opposition to Diaz's motion in limine. (Doc. 100).

         The trial in this case is scheduled to commence on January 13, 2020.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Diaz's motion in limine is filed pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 404(b) and 403. The motion also seeks, in part, to exclude evidence as irrelevant. It is axiomatic that “irrelevant evidence is not admissible.” Fed.R.Evid. 402. Evidence is relevant if “it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence” and if “the fact is of consequence in determining the action.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. Even if evidence is relevant, the court can exclude it if “its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403.

         Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b)(1) precludes the admission of other crimes, wrongs, or acts “to prove the character of a person in order to show conformity therewith”. However, under Rule 404(b)(2), such evidence is admissible for legitimate evidentiary purposes such as “proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake.”

         “Rule 404(b) is a rule of general exclusion ....” United States v. Repak, 852 F.3d 230, 240 (3d Cir. 2017) (citing United States v. Caldwell, 760 F.3d 267, 276 (3d Cir. 2014); United States v. Brown, 765 F.3d 278, 291 (3d Cir. 2014) (“Rule 404(b) is generally a rule of exclusion.”)). As such, “Rule 404(b) directs that evidence of prior bad acts be excluded-unless the proponent can demonstrate that the evidence is admissible for a non-propensity purpose [i.e., not to show the defendant's propensity to behave in a certain manner].” Id. (citing Caldwell, 760 F.3d at 276) (emphasis original). Thus, “Rule 404(b) is a rule of exclusion, meaning that it excludes evidence unless the proponent can demonstrate its admissibility, but it is also ‘inclusive' in that it does not limit the non-propensity purposes for which evidence can be admitted.” Id. at 241.

         In Repak, id., the Third ...


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