United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
A. BRADY JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Timothy L. Coats is facing gun and drug charges as set forth
in a seven-count Indictment. On November 6, 2019, the Court
granted Defendant's request to proceed pro se. Since
then, Defendant has filed several motions requesting various
forms of relief ranging from dismissal of the Indictment for
vindictive prosecution to exclusion of evidence seized during
the execution of search warrants. Although Defendant has
submitted separate motions, similar themes are weaved
throughout each motion, leading to repetition and overlap.
For the sake of clarity, the Court will address only the main
theme of each motion and the relief sought therein. Any
matters not ruled upon in an opinion, but that are mentioned
in the motion that the opinion addresses, will be resolved by
other orders of the Court.
Opinion and Order, the Court will rule on Defendant's
Motion to Exclude Evidence [ECF No. 47], to which there has
been a response [ECF No. 54] and a reply [ECF No. 64].
became the target of an investigation for distribution of
drugs. During the investigation, agents used informants to
make controlled drug buys of marijuana and pills from
Defendant on dates ranging from January 24 through March 25,
2019. The first four counts of the Indictment charge
Defendant with violations of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) based
on these transactions. As a result of a separate
investigation conducted by the Fort Wayne Police Department,
evidence was discovered on April 11, 2019, that was used as
the basis for Counts 5, 6, and 7 of the Indictment. In Count
5, Defendant is charged with possessing with intent to
distribute a controlled substance and, in Count 6, he is
charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of that drug
trafficking crime. The same firearm is the subject of Count
7, wherein Defendant is charged with unlawful possession of a
firearm due to his prior felony convictions.
Fort Wayne Police Department's investigation was prompted
by a shooting that took place in Fort Wayne on March 25,
2019. Although Defendant became the suspect in that shooting
based on statements from the victim and other witnesses, and
was arrested for attempted murder, aggravated battery, and
possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, the State
of Indiana moved to dismiss the charges on May 29, 2019.
argues that the evidence obtained during and resulting from
the execution of search warrants in connection with the
dismissed attempted murder case are not admissible to prove
the violations charged in Counts 5, 6, and 7. Defendant
invokes Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), which prohibits the
admission of evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts to
prove the character of a person “to show that on a
particular occasion the person acted in accordance with that
character.” Fed.R.Evid. 404(b).
Rule 404(b), nor any other rule of evidence, prohibits the
introduction of evidence on the basis that a different crime
was under investigation when the evidence was discovered.
Defendant has fundamentally misunderstood the purpose of Rule
404(b). The Rule categorically prohibits evidence of other
bad acts offered to prove the character of a person, that is,
his propensity to commit crime. See United States v.
Smith, 103 F.3d 600, 602-03 (7th Cir. 1996); see
also United States v. Schmitt, 770 F.3d 524, 534 (7th
Cir. 2014) (explaining that Rule 404(b) was designed to
prevent introduction of evidence to suggest to a jury that,
because the defendant “was the type of person who would
break the law once, he must be the type of person who would
break the law again”).
the evidence that Defendant asks to be excluded is not
evidence of “other acts, ” and thus only relevant
to show propensity. It is evidence of the very crimes that
Defendant is charged with committing. The Government alleges
that, on April 11, 2019, Defendant illegally possessed drugs
and a firearm. Defendant has pled not guilty to those
allegations. At trial, the Government would have to prove all
the elements of each offense. The evidence at issue goes to
facts that are “of consequence in determining the
action” and have a “tendency to make a fact more
or less probable than it would be without the
evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 401. As such, it is admissible,
absent a separate prohibition. See Fed. R. Evid.
402. As noted above, Rule 404(b) does not provide such a
prohibition. Notably, the Government does not intend to use
the evidence to prove uncharged conduct, or even to elicit
testimony that would identify the other crime that was under
investigation when the evidence supporting Counts 5, 6, and 7
Reply, Defendant argues that the Government “is
misleading the Court to make it seem like relevant evidence
because the government has illegally seized the evidence and
is now using that evidence to vindictively prosecute the
defendant on Counts 5, 6, and 7.” (Reply 1, ECF No.
64.) Defendant's motion to dismiss for vindictive
prosecution and his motion challenging the seizure of the
evidence are subjects of separate motions. The bases for
those motions, and the relevant inquiries, are entirely
independent from those involved in the motion to exclude.
Defendant asserts that the evidence does not directly prove
any fact absent inference. His argument has no bearing on
admissibility. As noted in the Seventh Circuit Pattern
Criminal Jury Instructions, a jury is to consider both direct
and circumstantial evidence, and the law does not say that
one is better than the other. Pattern Criminal Jury
Instructions of The Seventh Circuit, Preliminary Instruction
No. 10.06 (explaining that “[d]irect evidence is
evidence that directly proves a fact” and
“[c]ircumstantial evidence is evidence that indirectly
proves a fact”). Moreover, juries, as the finders of
fact, are instructed that it is appropriate to “look at
one fact and conclude from it that another fact
exists.” Id., Preliminary Instruction No.
10.07 (explaining that inferences must be “based on the
reasons stated above, the Court DENIES Defendant's Motion
to Exclude Evidence [ECF No. 47] on his argued grounds that
it is ...