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United States of America v. Christian Gerold Tarantino

April 27, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
CHRISTIAN GEROLD TARANTINO, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

This Memorandum & Order memorializes the Court's onthe-record rulings on the Government's motion to admit evidence of Defendant Christian Tarantino's ("Tarantino" or the "Defendant") uncharged criminal activity and bad acts. (Docket Entry 347.)

DISCUSSION*fn1

Before turning to the specifics of the Government's motion, the Court begins with the general proposition that evidence of Tarantino's involvement in the armored car robbery (including the Baumgardt murder) and the murder of Louis Dorval is relevant, direct evidence of the alleged crimes that are the subject of the coming retrial. Tarantino is charged with committing and conspiring to commit the obstruction-of-justice murder of Vincent Gargiulo. The Government's theory is that Gargiulo secretly recorded Tarantino discussing his involvement in the armored car robbery and the Dorval murder and that Tarantino had Gargiulo killed to prevent him from selling the recording to the FBI.*fn2 Tarantino's involvement in the crimes mentioned on the Gargiulo Tape is therefore inextricably intertwined with the current prosecution, not least because it goes to Tarantino's alleged motive for killing Gargiulo. See generally United States v. Towne, 870 F.2d 880, 886 (2d Cir. 1989) (noting that evidence that is "inextricably intertwined" with evidence concerning the charged offense is direct evidence, not collateral "other crimes" evidence). Moreover, even if evidence of Tarantino's involvement in the armored car robbery or Dorval murder were not direct evidence of the crimes charged, it would be admissible as "motive" evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). See United States v. LaFlam, 369 F.3d 153, 156 (2d Cir. 2004).

With that in mind, the Court turns now to the Government's motion.

I. The March 23 Order

Some, but not all, of the evidentiary rulings set forth in the March 23 Order carry over to the retrial. In its prior decision, the Court reached the following conclusion:

The Government may introduce evidence that

(1) Tarantino and Gargiulo were involved in the 1989-91 scheme to traffic fur coats, except that it may not offer evidence about a sawed-off shotgun; (2) in 1993 Tarantino and others [including Dorval] stole fur coats from Filene's Basement and tried to sell them on the black market; (3) Tarantino and others committed a home invasion robbery, including that they were armed and used stolen cars, except that it may not inquire into the taser incident if Defendant agrees not to raise it during cross-examinations and that the Court will entertain a supplemental request from Defendant to preclude testimony that he pistol-whipped one of the victims; (4) Tarantino and others stole police equipment from a Spy-Mart store; (5) Tarantino and others [including Dorval] participated in a scheme to cash stolen bonds and that they contemplated robbing a jewelry store; (6) Tarantino and others [including Dorval and Mulligan] discussed killing an unnamed drug dealer by shooting him in the head, putting his body in a tool box, and dumping it at sea; (7) Tarantino and others were involved in a marijuana transaction and a cocaine transaction and that they discussed robbing a stockbroker; (8) Tarantino was serving a state prison sentence when his buccal swab was obtained, except that the Government may not introduce evidence that he was convicted of the attempted robbery of a narcotics officer; and (9) Tarantino was involved with John Goetz and others in a scheme to distribute GHB, except that the Government may not refer to GHB as a "date-rape drug."

March 23 Order at 21-22. As to items (1), (2), (4), (5), and (8), these rulings remain an appropriate balance between probative value and prejudice.*fn3 Items (3), (7), and (9), on the other hand, appear to have significantly less probative value to the Government now than they had at the first trial, and they are excluded under Rule 403. The Court reserves judgment as to item (6) subject to an offer of proof from the Government as to Mulligan's testimony on this issue.

II. New Evidence

The Government also seeks to admit evidence that was not covered by the March 23 Order: (1) new evidence concerning Tarantino's involvement in the armored car robbery and the Dorval murder; (2) evidence that Tarantino stole one of the vehicles used in the armored car robbery; (3) evidence that Tarantino and others burgled a jewelry store in early 1994; (4) evidence concerning Tarantino's relationship with Craig Miller; and (5) evidence that Tarantino discussed killing his brother, Steven Tarantino.*fn4

A. New Evidence Concerning the Armored Car Robbery and the Dorval Murder

The Government's new evidence concerning Tarantino's involvement in the armored car robbery and the Dorval murder (see Gov. Br. 11-12) is admissible. Tarantino's participation in those crimes is relevant to his alleged motive for the Gargiulo murder, and the probative value of ...


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