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United States v. Valstein Pfeifle

November 26, 2012

UNITED STATES,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
VALSTEIN PFEIFLE,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barry Ted Moskowitz, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART THE UNITED STATES' MOTION IN LIMINE TO ADMIT RULE 404(b) EVIDENCE LIMINE TO EXCLUDE RULE 404(b) AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN EVIDENCE

I. INTRODUCTION

The United States has filed a motion in limine to admit certain Rule 404(b) evidence. Defendant Valstein Pfeifle ("Defendant" or "Pfeifle") has filed a motion in limine to exclude the same Rule 404(b) evidence. For the reasons discussed below, the United States' and Defendant's motions are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

II. DISCUSSION

The United States seeks to introduce evidence of prior bad conduct against Pfeifle. Specifically, the United States seeks to introduce (1) testimony of an undercover agent regarding the underlying facts of Pfeifle's 2008 conviction for possession of cocaine for sale;

(2) testimony of Eric McPeters regarding how he took Pfeifle's place in a drug distribution organization; and (3) testimony of Dean Moya, a pilot, who claims that Pfeifle arranged with people in Mexico to obtain cocaine that was then transported via Moya's airplane to different locations in the United States. The Court finds that the underlying facts of Pfeifle's 2008 conviction are admissible but excludes the other 404(b) evidence.

1. 2008 Conviction

a. Underlying Facts

The United States seeks to introduce the testimony of an undercover agent regarding the events leading up to Pfeifle's 2008 conviction for possession of cocaine for sale. According to the government, a confidential source ("CS") was approached by Jose Valenzuela in Tijuana, Mexico, and was asked whether he could obtain 400 kilograms of cocaine to sell to a business associate of Valenzuela. The CS was told to contact Pfeifle to facilitate the sale.

Subsequently, the CS met Pfeifle at Seau's restaurant in San Diego. Pfeifle told the CS that he wanted 500 kilograms of cocaine a month delivered to California. Pfeifle agreed to start by purchasing 15 kilograms of cocaine for $232,500 at their next meeting. A few days later, Pfeifle met the CS at a Staples store in San Diego. An undercover agent drove up to the CS and Pfeifle with the cocaine. Pfeifle sampled the cocaine then showed the CS a duffle bag with $232,500 in cash. Pfeifle was then arrested.

At the time of his arrest, Pfeifle was in possession of a semiautomatic handgun, eight cellular phones, handcuffs, and a knife. His vehicle had a secret non-factory compartment with a loaded Sig Sauer P226 9mm pistol. Pfeifle pled guilty to Possession for Sale of Cocaine and was sentenced to two years in custody.

b. Admissibility Analysis

Under Rule 404(b), evidence of a prior bad act is not admissible to prove a person's character in order to show that on a particular occasion, the person acted in conformity therewith. However, such evidence may be admissible for other purposes, such as proving motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident. Fed. R. Evid. 404(b).

Prior act evidence is admissible if: "(1) the evidence tends to prove a material point; (2) the prior act is not too remote in time; (3) the evidence is sufficient to support a finding that the defendant committed the other act; and (4) (in cases where knowledge and intent are at issue) the act is similar to the offense charged." United States v. Verduzco, 373 F.3d 1022, 1027 (9th Cir.2004). The district court must also determine whether the probative value of the evidence is ...


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