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United States v. Pringle

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

November 2, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
WILLIAM B. PRINGLE, III.

          ORDER

          ROY B, DALTON JR. United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is the United States' Motion in Limine to Admit Evidence of Defendant's Prior Tax Liabilities. (Doc. 42 (“Motion”).) Defendant opposed. (Doc. 43.) The Court orally granted the Motion on October 30, 2017, at Defendant's trial. (Doc. 45.) This Order memorializes the Court's ruling and briefly summarizes its reasoning.

         I. Procedural History

         On June 14, 2017, a federal grand jury returned an Indictment charging Defendant with tax evasion under 26 U.S.C. § 7201. (Doc. 1.) The Indictment alleges that from January 2002 to July 26, 2011, Defendant “willfully attempted to evade and defeat the payment of substantial income tax due and owing . . . for the years 2002 to 2010 by committing [nineteen] affirmative acts, among others.” (Id. ¶ 8.) Defendant pleaded not guilty (Doc. 6), and the case was set for trial commencing October 30, 2017 (Doc. 33).

         On October 20, 2017, the Government filed the Motion seeking to admit evidence of: (1) Defendant's tax liabilities for the calendar years 1993-1996 and 1998-2001; and (2) the IRS's efforts to collect these taxes. (Doc. 42 (collectively, the “Evidence”).) The Government argued that the Evidence is admissible: (1) as relevant, intrinsic evidence (“Intrinsic Evidence Argument”); or, alternatively, (2) as “other acts, ” extrinsic evidence under Rule 404(b) (“404(b) Argument”). (See id.) Defendant opposed these arguments and argued that the Government's notice and production of the Evidence violated Rule 404(b), the Court's Criminal Scheduling Order (Doc. 7 (“CSO”)) and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 (“Notice Argument”). (See Doc. 43.)

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Relevance

         Generally, relevant evidence is admissible unless it falls under an exclusion rule. Fed.R.Evid. 402. “Relevant” means having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence in the proceeding more or less probable. Fed.R.Evid. 401. But relevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence. Fed.R.Evid. 403.

         For a criminal defendant, unfair prejudice “speaks to the capacity of some concededly relevant evidence to lure the factfinder into declaring guilt on a ground different from proof specific to the offense charged.” Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172, 180 (1997). “While it is true that all evidence which tends to establish the guilt of a defendant is, in one sense, prejudicial to the defendant, . . . that does not mean that such evidence should be excluded.” United States v. Norton, 867 F.2d 1354, 1362 (11th Cir. 1989) (internal citation and alterations omitted). Applying Rule 403, courts must therefore: (1) balance the evidence's probative value against its potential for undue prejudice, keeping in mind the factual and legal context; and (2) exclude it only if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger it poses. See Old Chief, 519 U.S. 181-84.

         B. Intrinsic Evidence

         One type of admissible relevant evidence is “intrinsic” evidence. See United States v. Troya, 733 F.3d 1125, 1131 (11th Cir. 2013). Intrinsic evidence is evidence of a defendant's prior bad acts, committed outside the period charged in the offense, that is “inextricably intertwined with the evidence regarding the charged offense.” See United States v. Maclean, 227 F. App'x 844, 851 (11th Cir. 2007).[1] Because of its close relationship with the charged offense, intrinsic evidence may be admissible as “an essential part of the chain of events” leading to the charged crime. See United States v. Fortenberry, 971 F.2d 717, 721 (11th Cir. 1992). In evaluating whether evidence is intrinsic, courts consider whether it: (1) “is linked in time and circumstances with the charged crime; (2) “forms an integral and natural part of an account of the crime”; or (3) “is necessary to complete the story of the crime for the jury.” See Maclean, 227 F. App'x at 852 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). But even if it qualifies as intrinsic, the evidence is still subject to Rule 403's balancing test. See United States v. Larios-Trujillo, 403 F. App'x 442, 444 (11th Cir. 2010).

         C. Rule 404(b) Evidence

         Beyond intrinsic evidence, Rule 404 governs the admissibility of a defendant's prior bad acts or other crimes. If Rule 404 applies, the evidence is considered extrinsic to the charged offense and it is generally inadmissible when offered to prove a defendant's character or action in conformity therewith. See Fed. R. Evid. 404(b)(1). But this kind of evidence may be admissible if offered to prove something else, such as the defendant's “motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.” Fed R. Evid. 404(b)(2). If the Government offers such evidence for one of these purposes, then it is admissible under Rule 404(b) if: (1) it is relevant for one of these alternative purposes; (2) there is sufficient proof to show that the defendant committed the prior act; and (3) the government meets Rule 403. See Maclean, 227 F. App'x at 851-52 (internal citation omitted).

         Beyond these requirements, the Government must also notify the defendant in advance when it intends to offer 404(b) evidence at trial. Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)(2)(A)-(B); see United States v. Perez-Tosta, 36 F.3d 1552, 1561 (11th Cir. 1994). This is so “to reduce surprise and promote early resolution on the issue of admissibility.” Id. When analyzing “the reasonableness of pretrial notice, ” a court considers: “(1) when the [Government] could have learned of the availability of the evidence; (2) the extent of the prejudice to the ...


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