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United States v. Cuero

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

June 18, 2014

UNITED STATES of AMERICA,
v.
ROGER MINA CUERO, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES C. CACHERIS, Sr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Roger Mina Cuero's ("Defendant" or "Cuero") Motion in Limine to Exclude 404(b) Evidence at Trial ("Motion in Limine "). [Dkt. 18.] The Court heard oral argument on this motion on June 12, 2014. At oral argument, the Court granted Defendant's Motion as to the alleged violent offenses of a co-conspirator and took the remaining issues under advisement. For the following reasons, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendant's Motion.

I. Background

On April 14, 2014, a federal grand jury returned a three count indictment charging Defendant with the following offenses: (1) conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; (2) interstate transportation of stolen property in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2314, 2; (3) illegal reentry after removal in violation of U.S.C. §§ 1326(a) and (b)(1). Defendant was also provided with a notice of forfeiture pursuant to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 32.2(a). The indictment charges that Defendant and his co-conspirators knowingly agreed to transport cash, jewelry and other items stolen during residential burglaries in Virginia and Maryland to other locations in Texas and Colombia. (Indictment at 2 [Dkt. 13].)

In advance of the jury trial, on May 19, 2014, Defendant filed his motion in limine. [Dkt. 18.] The Government filed its opposition on June 5, 2014. [Dkt. 21.] As a general matter, the Government asserts that this motion is premature because pursuant to the joint discovery order the United States agreed that, no later than seven calendar days before trial it would provide notice, in accordance with Rule 404(b), of the general nature of any evidence of other crimes, wrongs or acts of defendant which it intends to introduce at trial. [Dkt. 17.]

Defendant's motion is now before the Court.

II. Standard of Review

All relevant evidence is admissible unless there are constitutional, statutory, and rule-based exceptions preventing its admission. See Fed.R.Evid. 402. Rule 401 of the Federal Rules of Evidence defines evidence as "relevant" if "(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Fed.R.Evid. 401. Consequently, what constitutes "relevant evidence" depends on the facts of the case, the nature of the claims, and the associated defenses to the claims. Federal Rule of Evidence 403 provides that the Court "may exclude relevant evidence 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.

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. Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 40 n.2 (1984). A court's ruling regarding a motion in limine is "subject to change when the case unfolds, particularly if the actual testimony differs from what was [expected]." Luce, 469 U.S. at 41. A district court's rulings on the admissibility of evidence are reviewed for abuse of discretion. See United States v. Perkins, 470 F.3d 150, 155 (4th Cir. 2006).

III. Analysis

Defendant asks the Court to order the exclusion of the following four categories or pieces of evidence: (1) information and evidence concerning Defendant's use of a false name in the application and lease of an apartment in Ellicott City, Maryland; (2) the alleged violent offenses of an alleged co-conspirator known as Neftali Perea-Zuniga ("Perea-Zuniga"); (3) affidavits of law enforcement officers in Maryland listing burglaries and items lost by the victims of those crimes, some of which occurred eight months before Defendant allegedly joined the conspiracy; (4) affidavits of Maryland law enforcement concerning stolen weapons. (Mot. at 3.) Defendant argues that this evidence is not relevant or necessary to prove the charges against him. He further contends that the probative value of this evidence does not outweigh the prejudice or confusion that would result from its admission. (Mot. at 3.)

The Court will address each piece of evidence in turn.

A. False Name on Lease Application

Defendant moves to exclude evidence of his use of a false name in the application and lease of an apartment located at West Spring Drive in Ellicott City, Maryland. (Mot. at 2.) Defendant argues that his use of a false name for the purposes of securing this apartment has no bearing on the offenses charged. ( Id. ) The government argues that this evidence establishes, inter alia, Defendant's knowing involvement in the scheme to burglarize homes and transport stolen property. (Gov't Opp'n at 2.) The Government contends that use of a false ...


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