United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
M. Myatt, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Abingdon,
Virginia, for United States; Jay H. Steele, Lebanon,
Virginia, for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Jones United States District Judge
defendant has filed a Motion in Limine seeking to preclude
the government from introducing certain evidence at trial on
the ground that the evidence is irrelevant to the issues, or
in the alternative, unfairly prejudicial to the defendant.
Based on the government's representations as to the
nature of the evidence that it intends to introduce, I will
deny the motion.
defendant is charged in the Indictment with health care
fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 1347
(Count One), and specific instances of making false
statements relating to health care matters, in violation of
18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 1035 (Counts Two through
government's allegations are that between May 1, 2013,
and September 30, 2017, defendant Patrick was a Virginia
Medicaid provider who was paid by the Virginia Department of
Medical Assistance Services (“DMAS”). Patrick was
known as a Consumer Directed Service Facilitator
offered services through special “waiver”
programs to elderly or disabled Medicaid recipients who
otherwise might be placed in a nursing facility to remain in
their homes. Such individuals, if approved, were permitted to
employ a personal care aide of their own choosing. The
responsibility of the CDSF was to assist the Medicaid
recipient with hiring the caregiver and coordinating the
services provided by the caregiver. The CDSF is responsible
for doing home visits, training, and assessments with the
Medicaid recipient on a regular basis.
persons for whom Patrick was responsible was E.H., a mentally
disabled 17-year-old, who lived with his parents and two
younger brothers. On August 31, 2015, local police visited
the home, leading to the eventual conviction in state court
of E.H.'s parents for abuse and neglect of E.H. and his
brothers. The evidence in that case showed that E.H. and his
brothers were locked in their bedroom for long periods of
time without access to a bathroom, without electricity, with
the window nailed shut, and with nothing in the room except
two soiled mattresses.
government contends that as E.H.'s CDSF, Patrick billed
DMAS for personal visits and assessments with E.H. at the
home on thirteen occasions between January 1, 2014, and
August 31, 2015, the date of the discovery of the conditions
in the home. The latest billing by Patrick was for an alleged
visit on July 3, 2015. The government contends that Patrick
fabricated his visits, thus defrauding DMAS. The government
proposes to introduce evidence as to E.H.'s living
conditions to show that Patrick did not fact visit the home,
or else he would have been aware of the abuse and reported
it, as he was required to do. The government represents that
it will offer the testimony of a police officer as to her
eyewitness view of E.H.'s living conditions on August 31,
and photographs taken at the time. The government asserts
that from this evidence the jury can infer that the inhumane
conditions had existed for an extended period.
that the proposed evidence as represented is relevant to the
government's charge contained in Count One. See
Fed. R. Evid. 401. While nearly two months elapsed from the
date of Patrick's claimed visit to the date of the
witness's observation of E.H.'s living conditions,
that time difference does not appear on the present facts to
be beyond a jury's reasonable inference that the same
conditions existed at the time Patrick claimed to be
remaining question is whether the proposed evidence should be
excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 403, allowing the
refusal of relevant evidence if its probative value is
substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.
Rule 403, “damage to a defendant's case is not a
basis for excluding probative evidence” because
“[e]vidence that is highly probative invariably will be
prejudicial to the defense.” United States v.
Grimmond, 137 F.3d 823, 833 (4th Cir. 1998). As a
general matter, the “balance under Rule 403 should be
struck in favor of admissibility, and evidence should be
excluded only sparingly.” United States v.
Aramony, 88 F.3d 1369, 1378 (4th Cir. 1996). Therefore,
evidence may be excluded “only if the evidence is
unfairly prejudicial and, even then, only if the
unfair prejudice substantially outweighs the
probative value of the evidence.” United States v.
Siegel, 536 F.3d 306, 319 (4th Cir. 2008) (emphasis in
original). Unfair prejudice exists “when there is a
genuine risk that the emotions of a jury will be excited to
irrational behavior, and this risk is disproportionate to the
probative value of the offered evidence.” United
States v. Williams, 445 F.3d 724, 730 (4th Cir. 2006)
(internal quotation marks and alteration omitted); see
also United States v. Dumire, Crim. No. 7:15-cr-00098,
2016 WL 4507390, at *6 (W.D. Va. Aug. 26, 2016).
that the proposed evidence would not be unfairly prejudicial.
Rule 403 does not bar evidence that “did not involve
conduct any more sensational or disturbing than the crimes
with which [the defendant] was charged.” United
States v. Boyd, 53 F.3d 631, 637 (4th Cir. 1995). While
the government does not represent that it has specific
information regarding the consequences of the defendant's
alleged failure to properly carry out his duties to oversee
the care of other elderly or disabled clients, that
possibility in the minds of the jurors might very well be as
disturbing as the alleged consequences to client E.H. I do
not believe that the risk of allowing the contested evidence
is disproportionate to its strong probative value.
these reasons, it is ORDERED that the Motion