United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
C. CACHERIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant Sammy Araya's
(“Defendant” or “Araya”) First Motion
in Limine on any 404(b) Allegations. [Dkt. 495.]
Defendant's Second Motion in Limine on Untimely
Rule 16 and Exhibits is also before the Court. [Dkt. 504.] For
the following reasons, the Court will deny Defendant's
motion in limine to exclude evidence involving his
other business ventures, with one exception. The Court will
grant Defendant's request to exclude any videos showing
him throwing money into the air. The Court will also deny
Defendant's motion in limine to exclude his tax
returns. Finally, the Court will deny Defendant's motion
in limine to exclude untimely Rule 16 materials and
Standard of Review
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. Such evidentiary rulings
“are entitled to substantial deference and will not be
reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion." United
States v. Moore, 27 F.3d 969, 974 (4th Cir. 1994);
see also United States v. Perkins, 470 F.3d 150, 155
(4th Cir. 2006). "[The Court of Appeals] will find that
discretion to have been abused only when the district court
acted 'arbitrarily or irrationally.'"
Id. (quoting United States v. Ham, 998 F.2d
1247, 1252 (4th Cir. 1993)).
general matter, all relevant evidence is admissible unless
there are constitutional, statutory, or rule-based exceptions
preventing its admission. See Fed. R. Evid. 402.
Rule 401 of the Federal Rules of Evidence defines
“relevant” evidence as “evidence having any
tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of
consequence to the determination of the action more probable
or less probable than it would be without the
evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. What constitutes
“relevant evidence” depends on the facts of the
case, the nature of the claims, and the associated defenses
to those claims.
example of a rule-based exclusion to the admission of
relevant evidence is Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of
Evidence. This Rule states that “[t]he 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.
addition, the Rules also contemplate the exclusion of
evidence of “‘other crimes, wrongs, or acts'
solely to prove a defendant's character.”
United States v. Basham, 561 F.3d 302, 326 (4th Cir.
2009) (quoting Rule 404(b)). At the same time, however, Rule
404(b) recognizes that this same evidence “may
‘be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of
motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge,
identity, or absence of mistake or accident.'”
Id. In order for proffered evidence to be
admissible, the evidence: (1) “must be . . . relevant
to an issue other than character, ” such as motive,
intent, or knowledge, United States v. Siegel, 536
F.3d 306, 317-18 (4th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks
omitted); (2) “must be necessary to prove an element of
the crime charged, ” United States v. Queen,
132 F.3d 991, 995 (4th Cir. 1997), or to prove context,
see Id. at 998; and (3) “must be reliable,
” id. at 995. Finally, the evidence must not
otherwise be subject to exclusion under Rule 403. United
States v. Lighty, 616 F.3d 321, 352 (4th Cir. 2010).
Araya's Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of his
Other Business Ventures under Rule 404(b)
argues that the Government plans to introduce inadmissible
evidence regarding his other business ventures under the
exceptions to Rule 404(b)'s prohibition on character
evidence. Def. Mot. [Dkt. 495] at 2. He objects to the
introduction of this evidence as both irrelevant and unfairly
prejudicial. Id. Defendant also asserts that the
Government's notice of its intent to introduce this
evidence was insufficiently detailed. Id. at 1. As a
result, Defendant claims that he is unable to prepare a
Government argues that Defendant's prior business
ventures “are admissible as intrinsic to the charged
fraud offenses, or at a minimum admissible under Rule
404(b)” to prove the Defendant's motive,
opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity,
absence of mistake, or lack of accident.Gov. Mem. in Opp.
[Dkt. 514] at 1. It seeks to introduce evidence about
Defendant's use of other companies-including
MakeItRain.TV and Currency Productions-to allegedly launder
profits derived from the victim homeowners' payments.
Id. at 2. The Government asserts that such evidence
is admissible, even without regard to Rule 404(b), because
the companies were in operation during the charged fraud
scheme, many of the alleged co-conspirators worked for these
two companies, and Defendant used these companies' names
on documents created in furtherance of the conspiracy.
Id. at 2-3. The Government also claims that such
evidence, including the videos showing Defendant throwing
money onto a boardwalk, is not unfairly prejudicial under
Rule 403 because it is proof of what Defendant “was
doing with the ill-gotten gains” and depicts
interactions between Defendant and his co-conspirators.
Id. at 3.
the Court finds that the evidence regarding Defendant's
other business ventures-specifically, MakeItRain.TV and
Currency Productions-is admissible. Such evidence is relevant
under Rule 401. Moreover, given the connections the
Government intends to prove at trial between these two
companies and the charged fraud scheme, such evidence is
intrinsic to the crimes charged. See United States v.
Chin, 83 F.3d 83, 87-88 (4th Cir. 1996) (finding that
“acts intrinsic to the alleged crime do not fall under
Rule 404(b)'s limitations on admissible evidence”).
The Court therefore denies Defendant's motion to exclude
the Court admitting this evidence, it nevertheless grants
Defendant's motion in limine insofar as it
relates to the MakeItRain.TV videos on YouTube. The Court
finds that these videos, depicting Defendant literally
throwing money into the air to “make it rain”
along with some of his co-conspirators, create unfair
prejudice under Rule 403. This prejudice arises from the
videos' ability to inflame the passions of the jury, who
may rightly or wrongly conclude that the money being thrown
around by Defendant originated from the victim homeowners. As
a result, the MakeItRain.TV videos are inadmissible.
Araya's Motion in Limine to Exclude ...