Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

U.S. v. CRUZ

November 8, 2004.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JOSE CRUZ, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR MARRERO, District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

Defendant Jose Cruz ("Cruz") was charged in a one-count indictment with possession of a weapon after having been convicted in any court of a crime punishable for a term of at least one year, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 922 (g) (1) (the "felon-in-possession statute"). Trial on this matter has been scheduled to commence on November 15, 2004. The parties have filed several pre-trial motions in limine seeking to admit or exclude certain evidence at trial. The Court considers each of the motions below.*fn1

I. BACKGROUND

  On April 24, 2003, while driving in Bronx County, New York, Cruz was stopped by two officers of the New York City Police Department (the "NYPD Officers") for apparent traffic violations. During the stop, the NYPD Officers placed Cruz under arrest after seizing a Panther Model 103 Tazer Stun Gun (the "stun gun") from inside Cruz's vehicle.*fn2 A subsequent inventory search of the vehicle yielded a ski mask and a loaded 9mm handgun. Cruz was also later found to be in possession of a handcuff key which he carried with other keys on his keychain.

  In connection with his arrest, Cruz was interviewed on April 25, 2003 by an Assistant District Attorney for Bronx County. This interview was recorded on videotape. On that occasion, Cruz allegedly discussed two previous arrests for armed robbery. In the first incident, Cruz, then sixteen years old, was arrested along with three other individuals on December 28, 1994 for armed robbery after taking money from the victim while one of the offenders displayed a handgun. Cruz pleaded guilty to robbery in the first degree*fn3 on September 20, 1995, was adjudicated a Youthful Offender, and was sentenced to serve sixteen months to four years in prison. On September 25, 1995, Cruz was arrested for a second time after he and a companion committed an armed robbery of a cab driver. Cruz again pleaded guilty to robbery in the first degree, and was sentenced to three to nine years in prison. In neither of these cases was Cruz alleged to have been the robber who displayed the firearm.

  Based on the seizure of the 9mm handgun from Cruz's van and evidence of his prior convictions, a federal grand jury returned a one count indictment against Cruz for a violation of the felon-in-possession statute.

  Cruz previously filed a motion to suppress the physical evidence seized from his vehicle, arguing that the evidence was obtained as a result of an unconstitutional search of the vehicle. This Court denied Cruz's previous motion after a suppression hearing. See United States v. Cruz, 314 F. Supp. 2d 321 (S.D.N.Y. 2004).

  The Government has stated that at trial it will seek to introduce several pieces of physical evidence recovered from Cruz's vehicle, including the stun gun, ski mask and handcuff key; evidence concerning Cruz's prior arrests for robbery in the first degree for the purpose of establishing Cruz's knowledge of, and intent and motive for, possessing the 9mm handgun;*fn4 and Cruz's videotaped statement.

  Cruz challenges the admission of the stun gun, ski mask and handcuff key on the bases that: (1) the evidence is irrelevant under Fed.R. Evid. 404(b), and (2), even if relevant, the probative value of this evidence is substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect, as Fed.R. Evid. 403 provides. Cruz contests the admission of his prior convictions for armed robbery on the grounds that: (1) the Government lacks admissible evidence to establish proof of these prior convictions, (2) the prior convictions are not sufficiently similar to the charged conduct and are thus irrelevant to proving either knowledge or intent, (3) the convictions are irrelevant due to their having occurred eight and nine years prior to the conduct with which he is now charged, and (4) that the probative value of this evidence is substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect.

  Cruz also challenges the admissibility of his prior convictions for impeachment purposes, should Cruz take the stand. Finally, Cruz requests that the elements of the felon-in-possession statute be bifurcated.*fn5

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. EVIDENTIARY CHALLENGES UNDER RULES 403 AND 404 (B)

  "All relevant evidence is admissible." Fed.R. Evid. 402. Fed.R. Evid. 401 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." Even relevant evidence, however, "may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice." Fed.R. Evid. 403 ("Rule 403").

  Evidence of a defendant's other crimes or actions is subject to additional limitations on its admissibility. Such evidence of "other crimes, wrongs, or acts" cannot be admitted for the purpose of proving a defendant's criminal propensity, but may be admitted "for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, . . . [or] knowledge." Fed.R. Evid. 404(b) ("Rule 404(b)"). The Second Circuit follows an "inclusionary" approach to evidence of "other crimes, wrongs, or acts." Under that doctrine, such evidence is admissible "unless it is introduced for the sole purpose of showing the defendant's bad character, or unless it is overly prejudicial under Fed.R. Evid. 403 or not relevant under Fed.R. Evid. 402." United States v. Pascarella, 84 F.3d 61, 69 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal citations omitted); United States v. Inserra, 34 F.3d 83, 89 (2d Cir. 1994) (noting that Rule 404(b) evidence is admissible under the inclusionary rule "for any purpose other than to show a defendant's criminal propensity," subject to its relevance and the Rule 403 balancing ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.