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United States v. North

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

November 9, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JEFF NORTH, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Jeff North's (“Defendant”) Motion to Exclude evidence of his prior felony convictions [73]; Motion In Limine to prohibit impeachment regarding evidence of his prior convictions [74]; and Motion to Sever Counts [75]. Also before the Court is the Government's Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence and Testimony to preclude Defendant from impeaching a government witness [76].

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 26, 2016, a grand jury in the Northern District of Georgia returned a three-count indictment [13] charging Defendant with Carjacking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2119(1) (Count 1); Discharging a Firearm During a Federal Crime of Violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A)(i), (ii), and (iii) (Count 2); and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 9224(e) (Count 3). The Indictment alleges that, on or about March 23, 2015, Defendant shot Johnny Dansby (“Dansby”) and stole his vehicle.

         Defendant has six prior felony convictions:

1. On April 8, 1985, Defendant pled guilty to aggravated assault, simple battery, and criminal interference with property. (See [70] at 3).
2. On February 9, 1987, the Defendant pled guilty in Fulton County, Georgia Superior Court to aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. (See [79.1]).
3. On October 9, 1995, the Defendant pled guilty in Fulton County, Georgia Superior Court to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. (See [79.2]).
4. On November 12, 1998, the Defendant pled guilty in Fulton County, Georgia Superior Court to armed robbery, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. (See [79.3]).
5. On August 6, 2004, the Defendant was convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. (See [79.4]).
6. On October 3, 2013, the Defendant pled guilty in Fulton County, Georgia Superior Court to possession of cocaine and heroin with the intent to distribute. (See [79.7]).

         October 16, 2017, Defendant filed three motions. The first was his Motion to Exclude Evidence of Mr. North's Prior Felony Convictions. ([73]). In its Response [79], the Government noticed its intent to introduce evidence of Defendant's three prior felon-in-possession convictions to show the Defendant's “motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, ” and to establish “the absence of mistake or accident” in the Defendant's conduct.

         Defendant also filed his Motion to Sever, seeking to sever Counts One and Two from Count Three. ([75]).

         Defendant next filed his Motion in Limine - Impeachment by Mr. North's Criminal History [74] to prohibit the Government from impeaching Defendant with evidence of his prior convictions.

         Also on October 16, 2017, the Government filed its Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence and Testimony to prohibit Defendant from impeaching Dansby regarding certain prior convictions as well as his failure to appear at evidentiary hearings held on January 12, 2017 [35] and March 1, 2017 [43], causing Defendant to obtain a material witness warrant. ([76]). These motions are addressed separately below.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Defendant's Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence of Mr. North's Prior Felony Convictions

         Defendant moves the Court to exclude evidence of his six prior convictions for various drug, assault, and firearms charges. Defendant argues that he will be unfairly prejudiced if the jury learns of these convictions. He has offered to stipulate to his status as a felon. ([73] at 1).

         1. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 404(b), “[e]vidence of a crime, wrong, or other act is not admissible to prove a person's character in order to show that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character.” Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)(1). However, “[t]his evidence may be admissible for another purpose, such as proving motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident.” Id. 404(b)(2).

To admit evidence under Rule 404(b), three conditions must be met: (1) the evidence must be relevant to an issue other than the defendant's character; (2) the act must be established by sufficient proof to permit a jury finding that the defendant committed the extrinsic act; and (3) the probative value of the evidence must not be substantially ...

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