United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS IN LIMINE FILING
NOS. 394, 397, 399, 408, 424 AND 428
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE United States District Court
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motions in
Limine. Defendants Angelica Guzman-Cordoba
(“Guzman-Cordoba”), Miguel Lara-Leon
(“Lara-Leon”), Ricardo Ochoa-Beltran
(“Ochoa-Beltran”), and Joel Alvarado-Santiago
(“Alvarado-Santiago”), have each filed a motion
seeking to limit any evidence that would reveal they are
improperly in the United States. (respectively, Filing
No. 394; Filing No. 397; Filing No.
399; and Filing No. 408). In addition,
Lara-Leon and Ochoa-Beltran have filed Motions in
Limine (respectively, Filing No. 424 and
Filing No. 428), seeking to prevent the Government
from presenting evidence and argument regarding a possible
“hit” on the life of an associate for non-payment
of drugs. For the reasons stated below, the motions are
granted in part and denied in part.
Court excludes evidence on a motion in limine only
if the evidence clearly is not admissible for any purpose.
See Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Technologies,
Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). Unless
evidence meets this exacting standard, evidentiary rulings
must be deferred until trial so that questions of foundation,
relevancy, and prejudice may be resolved in context.
Id. at 1400-01. Moreover, denial of a motion in
limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence
contemplated by the motion is admissible; rather, it only
means that, at the pretrial stage, the court is unable to
determine whether the evidence should be excluded.
Id. at 1401.
Second Superseding Indictment charges Ochoa-Beltran,
Lara-Leon, and Guzman-Cordoba with various drug trafficking
crimes. Specifically, they are charged with conspiring with
one another and others to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine
and heroin, in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. The same
instrument charges Alvarado-Santiago with conspiring with
Ochoa-Beltran, Lara-Leon, and others to launder the proceeds
of the drug trafficking organization. In their first set of
Motions in Limine, the Defendants ask the Court to
exclude any evidence and argument regarding their illegal
status in the United States. In the second set of Motions
Ochoa-Beltran and Lara-Leon seek to suppress any evidence
regarding a “hit”.
Motion in limine regarding Defendants' immigration
post-arrest statements, the Defendants were asked about their
citizenship status as part of the routine booking process.
Ochoa-Beltran, Lara-Leon, Guzman-Cordoba, and
Alvarado-Santiago are all present in the United States
illegally. During the investigation of the two charged
conspiracies, Guzman-Cordoba and others were stopped in a
vehicle by Homeland Security Investigations
(“HSI”) agents and officers who found
approximately $131, 421.00 cash in the vehicle and/or on the
persons of the occupants. (Filing No. 237 at 4.) HSI
agents and officers took photographs of the identification
cards and/or credit and debit cards possessed by the stopped
individuals which appeared to have been issued by foreign
countries. On July 17, 2017, the date of the arrests of
Ochoa-Beltran, Lara-Leon, and Guzman-Cordoba by the Drug
Enforcement Administration, law enforcement found and
photographed numerous identification cards which also
appeared to have been issued by foreign countries.
Defendant has filed a motion in limine asking the
Court to exclude any evidence and argument that Defendants
are in the United States without proper authority. (See
Filing No. 394, Filing No. 397, Filing No.
399 and Filing No. 408.) Defendants each argue
that evidence of their illegal status is not relevant to the
charges filed. They seek exclusion of this evidence under
Federal Rules of Evidence 401. They argue that this evidence
is irrelevant to the issue of each Defendant's knowledge
and intent to commit the charged offenses. If deemed
relevant, the Defendants argue that any probative value of
the evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of
unfair prejudice under Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of
evidence is evidence which has the tendency to make a fact of
consequence more or less likely. Fed.R.Evid. 401. Where the
probative value of relevant evidence is “substantially
outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice”, it may
be excluded. Fed.R.Evid. 401. However, evidence is unfairly
prejudicial only if it will induce the jury to decide the
case on an improper basis, rather than on the evidence
presented. United States v. Pulido, 69 F.3d 192, 201
(7th Cir. 1995).
Government agrees that the Defendants' citizenship status
is not material to the charges being presented to the jury
and responds that it does not intend to offer evidence of the
Defendants' illegal or unlawful immigration status.
(Filing No. 422.) However, the Government does
intend to offer evidence of the Defendants'
identification cards seized and/or photographs of the cards
that were seized at various times during the investigation,
and which appeared to have been issued by foreign countries.
Court grants the Defendants' Motions in Limine,
(Filing No. 394; Filing No. 397; Filing
No. 399; Filing No. 408), noting that evidence
of their illegal status is not relevant and such evidence is
highly prejudicial. The Court will allow the Government to
offer the identification cards which appear to be issued by
foreign countries. These cards are relevant and present no
prejudice as they do not give any indication of whether the
bearer was or was not present lawfully in the United States.
Motion in Limine “regarding a possible
‘hit' on or about July 17,
Government alleges that Ochoa-Beltran, Lara-Leon and other
co-conspirators possessed firearms to protect themselves,
their drugs, and their drug proceeds and that members of the
drug trafficking organization used and threatened violence in
the course of the conspiracy. In July 2017, law enforcement
obtained what they believed to be credible evidence that
Ochoa-Beltran had put a “hit” on the life of one
of his ...