United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
C. CACHERIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant Jen Seko's
(“Defendant” or “Seko”) Renewed Third
Motion in Limine. [Dkt. 491.] Defendant's Fourth
Motion in Limine [Dkt. 470] and Fifth Motion in
Limine [Dkt. 513] are also before the
Court.Having been fully briefed and argued, these
matters are now ripe for disposition.
following reasons, the Court will deny Defendant's
renewed motion in limine to exclude testimony from
government agents regarding an alleged caution they gave her
in April 2013 about Mr. Araya. The Court will also deny
Defendant's motion in limine to exclude her tax
returns. Finally, the Court will grant her motion in
limine to preclude the Government from asserting she was
uncooperative with law enforcement agents.
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).
Seko's Renewed Third Motion in Limine to Exclude
Testimony Regarding Guilt of Alleged Co-Conspirators
argues that the Court should reconsider its prior Order
denying her third motion in limine to exclude
hearsay testimony from government agents. Def. Mot. [Dkt.
491], ¶¶ 1-2, 6. The disputed testimony involves a
conversation between postal inspectors and Defendant on April
1, 2013, in which the inspectors allegedly cautioned
Defendant against further participation in the processing and
mailing of solicitation mailers for Mr. Araya's company.
Id., ¶ 1. Defendant claims that the
Government's true purpose for introducing this evidence
is not, as it previously asserted, to prove its effect on the
listener, but rather to establish Defendant's guilt by
showing that she knew Mr. Araya was defrauding homeowners.
Id., ¶ 17. Defendant's main point of
contention with this evidence appears to be that the
Government seeks to use it show that she had knowledge of the
existence of a conspiracy. Id. at 8-9.
Government argues that it does not seek to offer the postal
inspectors' statements to Defendant Seko for the truth of
the matters asserted therein, or as opinion testimony by the
postal inspectors themselves as to the question of
Defendant's ultimate guilt. Gov. Mem. in Opp. [Dkt. 505]
at 2. Rather, the Government plans to introduce these
statements to show the effect they had on Defendant as the
listener, as well as to establish her “actual
knowledge, or at the very least her deliberate ignorance,
” that she was working with individuals involved in
criminal activity. Id. at 2-3. The Government points
out that such evidence is, by definition, not hearsay.
Id. at 3. To ensure that the jury does not
substitute the postal inspectors' assessment of the
situation for their own reasoned judgment of the evidence,
however, the Government supports an appropriate limiting
instruction. Id. at 2.
Rule of Evidence 801 defines hearsay as an out-of-court
statement that “a party offers in evidence to prove the
truth of the matter asserted.” Fed.R.Evid. 801(c)(2).
There is an absolute bar on the admission of hearsay unless
an exception or exclusion applies. See Fed. R. Evid.
802. As pointed out by the Government, however, certain
statements do not qualify as hearsay. For example, it is well
established that statements offered to prove the effect of
the statement on the listener, as well as statements offered
to prove a person's state of mind, are not hearsay and
are, therefore, admissible. See United States v.
Martin, 2016 WL 4928669, at *5 (4th Cir. Sept. 16,
2016); United States v. Leake, 642 F.2d 715, 720
(4th Cir. 1981). Accordingly, the Court denies
Defendant's renewed motion in limine. It will
include an appropriate limiting instruction for the jury.
Seko's Fourth Motion in Limine to ...