United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.
Defendants Adriana Gallardo and Angel Aguilar are charged in a nine count indictment with a conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, and structuring currency transactions. (R. 1, Indictment.) The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation. In advance of trial, the government has filed various motions in limine. (R. 70.) For the reasons discussed below, the government's motions are granted in part and denied in part.
On August 15, 2013, a grand jury returned a nine count indictment against Defendant Adriana Gallardo ("Defendant" or "Gallardo") and her co-defendant Angel Aguilar. Count One charges both Defendants with a conspiracy to commit money laundering. Counts Two through Four charge Defendant Gallardo with money laundering offenses. Counts Five through Seven charge both Defendants with money laundering offenses. Counts Eight and Nine charge Defendant Gallardo with structuring currency transactions. (R. 1, Indictment.) The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation.
Trial courts have broad discretion in ruling on evidentiary issues before trial. See Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002); United States v. Lillie, No. 08 CR 717, 2009 WL 3518157, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 28, 2009). "Trial courts issue rulings on motions in limine to guide the parties on what evidence it will admit later in trial." Perry v. City of Chicago, 733 F.3d 248, 252 (7th Cir. 2013). Accordingly, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in limine rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to the district court's inherent authority to manage the course of trials." Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4, 105 S.Ct. 460, 83 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984). An in limine ruling avoids delays and allows the parties an opportunity to prepare themselves and witnesses for the introduction or exclusion of the evidence at issue. See Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562, 566 (7th Cir. 1999); Jonasson v. Lutheran Child & Family Servs., 115 F.3d 436, 440 (7th Cir. 1997) ("The prudent use of the in limine motion sharpens the focus of later trial proceedings and permits the parties to focus their preparation on those matters that will be considered by the jury."); United States v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989). Ultimately, an in limine motion "performs a gatekeeping function and permits the trial judge to eliminate from further consideration evidentiary submissions that clearly ought not be presented to the jury because they clearly would be inadmissible for any purpose." Jonasson, 115 F.3d at 440.
A party seeking to exclude evidence has the burden of demonstrating that the evidence is inadmissible for any purpose. United States v Brown, No. 08 CR 1009, 2011 WL 43048, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 6, 2011). Regardless of a court's initial ruling on an in limine motion, the court may adjust its ruling during the course of the trial. See Farfaras v. Citizens Bank & Tr. of Chicago, 433 F.3d 558, 565 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Luce, 469 U.S. at 41-42); Perry, 733 F.3d at 252 ("As a trial progresses, the presiding judge remains free to alter earlier rulings.") Furthermore, the court may defer ruling on a motion in limine until trial if the parties' arguments "cannot be evaluated accurately or sufficiently... in such a procedural environment." Jonasson, 115 F.3d at 440.
I. Motion to Admit Evidence Regarding Recorded Conversation
The government moves in limine to admit a recorded conversation that took place on January 31, 2013 (the "January 2013 Conversation") between Gallardo and an undercover law enforcement officer. The government alleges that Gallardo laundered approximately $200, 000 that the undercover officer and a confidential informant represented to be the proceeds of illegal drug activity, which they delivered to Gallardo at her currency exchange in two bundles on August 1, 2012 and September 21, 2012. The government contends that the January 2013 Conversation is relevant to the charged money laundering counts and thus the Court should admit it into evidence against Gallardo. Specifically, the government argues that the majority of the January 2013 Conversation constitutes direct evidence of money laundering, and that the remainder of the conversation, which relates to Gallardo's request to purchase narcotics from the undercover officer, is admissible under Rule 404(b) to establish Gallardo's knowledge that the funds at issue were drug proceeds.
"Rule 404(b) prohibits evidence of a defendant's other crimes, wrongs, or acts as proof of his propensity to commit the charged offense, but allows such evidence for other purposes, including (but not limited to) motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident." United States v. Lee, 724 F.3d 968, 975 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)). "Rule 404(b) is not just concerned with the ultimate conclusion, but also with the chain of reasoning that supports the non-propensity purpose for admitting the evidence." United States v. Gomez, 763 F.3d 845, 856 (7th Cir. 2014) ( en banc ) (citing United States v. Reed, 744 F.3d 519, 524-25 (7th Cir. 2014)). "In other words, the rule allows the use of other-act evidence only when its admission is supported by some propensity-free chain of reasoning." Gomez, 763 F.3d at 856. "[T]he district court should not just ask whether the proposed other-act evidence is relevant to a non-propensity purpose but how exactly the evidence is relevant to that purpose-or more specifically, how the evidence is relevant without relying on a propensity inference." Id. Further, if the proponent of the evidence "can make this initial showing, the district court must in every case assess whether the probative value of the other-act evidence is substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice and may exclude the evidence under Rule 403 if the risk is too great." Id. at 860. "The court's Rule 403 balancing should take account of the extent to which the non-propensity fact for which the evidence is offered actually is at issue in the case." Id.
First, the government argues that the majority of the January 2013 Conversation is direct evidence of Gallardo's criminal conduct. "Rule 404(b) is inapplicable where the bad acts' alleged are really direct evidence of an essential part of the crime charged.'" United States v. Alviar, 573 F.3d 526, 538 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Lane, 323 F.3d 568, 579 (7th Cir. 2003)). "Rule 404(b) is not concerned with direct evidence of a charged crime." United States v. McKibbins, 656 F.3d 707, 711 (7th Cir. 2011).
The government proffers the following with respect to the January 2013 Conversation. The undercover agent informed Gallardo that the confidential informant was "no longer in the picture, " and Gallardo responded by confirming the financial transactions that she performed for the confidential informant: "[b]ut I was gonna start telling [the confidential source], listen don't forget all of the money that I [unintelligible] to you, and all of the money that I'm sending to the accounts that you gave me.'" Gallardo also stated that she tried to reach the confidential source regarding the receipts of the transactions: "I tried calling him back... I tried calling you many times, and I asked you if I should throw away the receipts.'... And I told him, I said, you know what, I'm just gonna throw them away. I don't want to save stuff here, cause, shit if anything ever happens [unintelligible].'" Later in the conversation with the undercover agent, Gallardo stated that the confidential informant had told her that "next time" the confidential informant was not going to pay her, and was going to instead give her "work" to compensate her. The government anticipates offering evidence that "work" meant narcotics. Finally, the undercover agent told Gallardo that "in a couple of weeks I'm gonna have more money [to be laundered]... [i]t's gonna be awhile, cause I still got a lot of work [narcotics] out there, that's... the money is still there [tied up in the narcotics]." The undercover agent then said, "[h]owever you want payment, too. Don't matter to me... I'd rather have you deposit all the money and give you work [narcotics], because it's a lot easier for me." Gallardo responded by saying "okay." (R. 70, at 5-7.)
The Court agrees with the government that this portion of the January 2013 Conversation is direct evidence of the charged money laundering counts. First, Gallardo references sending money to the accounts given to her by the confidential informant, and throwing away receipts of the transactions. Both of these statements reference the charged transactions and thus are directly relevant to the charged counts. In response, Gallardo argues that "work" does not necessarily mean narcotics, and that she had a legitimate reason for stating that she was going to throw away the receipts. These arguments, however, go to the weight of the evidence, not its admissibility. See Fed. R. Evid 401; 402. Defendant is free to make these arguments to the jury. In addition, Defendant's statement that she did not want to keep the receipts "if anything ever happens" is relevant to her knowledge and state of mind. ...