United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER ON MOTION IN LIMINE (ECF No. 75)
LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is set for trial on April 4, 2017. The action proceeds
on an Indictment filed March 13, 2014, charging Defendant
Jeffrey G. Vincent with five counts of attempting to evade or
defeat assessment and payment of a tax in violation of 26
U.S.C. § 7201. ECF No. 1. The Indictment alleges
Defendant has not filed an individual income tax return since
in or about 1988, and describes a continuing offense of tax
evasion by the Defendant beginning as early as October 1991,
when he formed and opened bank accounts for Stafford Group,
and thereafter continued to serve as general partner for and
receive compensation from Stafford Group. Id.,
¶¶ 4-8, 12. It is further alleged that Defendant
formed other entities, including, in January 1994, Global
Business Services, and other trusts, all of which, like
Stafford Group, Defendant used to funnel his income in a
manner that concealed his income and to avoid paying taxes.
Id., ¶ 6, 14-19. Numerous, specific affirmative
acts of evasion undertaken by the Defendant are alleged.
Id., ¶¶ 7-19, 29. The most recent
affirmative acts of evasion pleaded in the indictment
occurred in 2010, when, among other things, the Defendant
signed documents that he caused to be filed with the IRS in
which he deceptively omitted his social security number,
received income he did not report to the IRS, and otherwise
caused monies to be transferred between entities in order to
evade his taxes and conceal his income. See, e.g.,
id. ¶¶ 6, 11-13, 16, 19.
before the Court is the United States' motions in
limine (ECF No. 75), to which Defendant has filed a
response. ECF No. 77. The Court deems these matters
appropriate for resolution without oral argument.
See E.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 230(g). For the reasons
explained below, the Court decides the motions in
limine and the parties' dispute about the statement
of facts for trial as follows.
may use a motion in limine as a procedural mechanism
to exclude inadmissible or prejudicial testimony or evidence
in a particular area before it is introduced at trial.
See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 40 n. 2
(1984); see also United States v. Heller, 551 F.3d
1108, 1111 (9th Cir. 2009). Such motions allow parties to
resolve evidentiary disputes before trial and avoid
potentially prejudicial evidence being presented in front of
the jury, thereby relieving the trial judge from the
formidable task of neutralizing the taint of prejudicial
evidence. Brodit v. Cambra, 350 F.3d 985, 1004-05
(9th Cir. 2003). Pretrial motions such as motions in
limine “are useful tools to resolve issues which
would otherwise clutter up the trial.” Palmerin v.
City of Riverside, 794 F.2d 1409, 1413 (9th Cir. 1986);
accord Jonasson v. Lutheran Child and Family
Services, 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997) (“[A]
motion in limine is an important tool available to the trial
judge to ensure the expeditious and evenhanded management of
the trial proceedings.”).
in limine that exclude broad categories of evidence
are disfavored, and such issues are better dealt with during
trial as the admissibility of evidence arises. See,
e.g., Brown v. Kavanaugh, No.
1:08-CV-01764-LJO, 2013 WL 1124301, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 18,
2013) (citing Sperberg v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber,
Co., 519 F.2d 708, 712 (6th Cir. 1975); see also In
re Homestore.com, Inc., No. CV 01-11115 RSWL CWX, 2011
WL 291176, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 25, 2011) (holding that
motions in limine should “rarely seek to
exclude broad categories of evidence, as the court is almost
always better situated to rule on evidentiary issues in their
factual context during trial”); Cf. Oracle Am.,
Inc. v. Google Inc., No. C 10-03561 WHA, 2012 WL
1189898, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 4, 2012) (concluding that
“a broad categorical exclusion” was unwarranted).
some evidentiary issues are not accurately and efficiently
evaluated by the trial judge in a motion in limine,
and it is within the district court's discretion to defer
ruling until trial when the trial judge can better estimate
the impact of the evidence on the jury. See, e.g., United
States v. Amaro, 613 F. App'x 600, 602 (9th Cir.),
cert. denied sub nom. Stewart-Hanson v. United
States, 136 S.Ct. 276 (2015); see also
Jonasson, 115 F.3d at 440.
raises four issues in its motion in
limine. Having reviewed the authorities
and argument cited by both sides as to all issues, the Court
rules as follows:
1: To Exclude Evidence Regarding Tax Law that Would Confuse
United States argues that statements contained in
Defendant's pleadings and in the government's
discovery suggest defendant may seek to admit at trial
evidence relating to tax protestor ideology. For example,
Defendant previously demanded that the government identify
the tax code provision that “informs the citizen
whether completion of [the] tax form is voluntary or
mandatory.” ECF No. 30 ¶ 12. In addition, the
United States contends that Defendant signed and transmitted
a letter to his former CPA replete with documentary evidence
related to tax protestor ideology. See ECF No. 75 at
3. While the United States agrees that the Court cannot
exclude a defendant's testimony regarding materials
(e.g., statutes or case law) upon which the
defendant claims to have actually relied, the government
seeks to preclude: (1) the admission of the underlying
materials themselves; or (2) any evidence regarding the
constitutionality or validity of the tax laws.
United States' motion is GRANTED as to this issue. Given
that specific intent is relevant to the charges in the
Indictment, Defendant may present evidence of what he relied
on in making his decisions. However, he may not
enter into evidence the underlying materials themselves.
Moreover, he may not enter into evidence any
testimony or documentary evidence regarding his mere
disagreement with tax law, or rely upon constitutional
opinions or congressional statements, all of which are wholly
irrelevant. Finally, depending upon what Defendant wishes to
testify to within these parameters, there may be Fed.R.Civ.P.
403 issues to be resolved.
2 & 4: To Preclude Defendant from Eliciting Testimony
from Witnesses Other than the Defendant about what Defendant
Believed or Said he believed about Tax Laws.
government anticipates that the Defendant, through
cross-examination of government witnesses or through his own
witnesses, may attempt to elicit testimony as to the
witnesses' opinions regarding what the Defendant believed
or what others believed. ECF No. 75 at 6. More generically,
the United States also seeks to preclude Defendant ...