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United States v. Narvaez

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 29, 2015



AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

The government has moved in limine to admit certain evidence at trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). For the reasons discussed below, the government's motion is granted.


On January 8, 2015, the grand jury returned an indictment against Defendants Abelardo Dominguez, Francisco Narvaez, and Montrail Key. Count One of the Indictment charges Defendant Dominguez with knowingly and intentionally attempting to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, namely, a quantity of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Count Two charges Defendant Narvaez with forcibly assaulting a federal agent with a deadly or dangerous weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 111(a) and 111(b). Count Three charges Defendant Key with forcibly assaulting a federal agent with a deadly or dangerous weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 111(a) and 111(b). The indictment also contains forfeiture allegations against Defendant Dominguez.

The government has proffered that its evidence will show that in October 2014, Defendant Dominguez had discussions with a Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") undercover agent ("UC") regarding the purchase of approximately 10 pounds of methamphetamine. Law enforcement recorded these conversations. On October 3, 2014, the UC met Dominguez in Oak Lawn, Illinois and Dominguez told the UC that he wanted to purchase the methamphetamine from him. Dominguez told him, "Let me make a call for the papers and see if he wants to bring them." Dominguez then placed a call to a telephone subscribed to by Defendant Narvaez. During that call, Dominguez said: "Where are you at? Are the tacos there?" Dominguez told the UC that his associate did not want to bring the money then "because he is waiting on another person. Not all of them [the pounds of methamphetamine] are for one person." He then agreed to meet the UC later that day to finalize the details of the transaction.

On that same day, Dominguez and the UC had several additional recorded telephone conversations. During these conversations, Dominguez told the UC that he was waiting for his associates to get the money together to purchase the methamphetamine. He further told him that he currently had enough money to purchase three pounds of methamphetamine at the price of $15, 000 per pound. Dominguez and the UC agreed to meet thereafter at a restaurant.

Narvaez subsequently drove Dominguez to the restaurant where Dominguez was meeting the UC. While Dominguez went into the restaurant, Narvaez remained in the truck. Defendant Key trailed the truck into the parking lot in a Chevrolet Malibu with Individual A in the passenger's seat of the Malibu. Key parked the Malibu near the truck in the parking lot. Individual A then exited the Malibu carrying a draw-string bag containing $30, 000 in cash, entered the rear of the truck, and handed the bag with the cash to Narvaez.

In the meantime, Dominguez and the UC remained inside the restaurant discussing the transaction. Dominguez told the UC that he only had part of the money, and asked the UC to wait after the transaction so that Dominguez could return with more money to purchase the remainder of the methamphetamine. Dominguez said, "Yes, I'm parked in the back, but he's going to want more, wait for me another hour, yes, and I'll return with the rest." The UC told Dominguez that he had four pounds of methamphetamine waiting in a cooler. Dominguez told the UC, "I'm there in a Dodge truck, a grey truck." Dominguez also told the UC that the buy money was in the truck - "It's there with my partner.... in a bag." The UC then told Dominguez that he wanted to see the money, and would then turn over the cooler of methamphetamine to Dominguez. The phone subscribed to by Narvaez then called Dominguez. During the call, Dominguez said "No, he's already here. Are you in the truck? I have this other guy with me and he wants to see the papers."

Dominguez and the UC then left the restaurant and walked over to the truck. Narvaez was still in the truck. When the UC opened the rear door to the truck, Narvaez passed the draw-string bag containing the $30, 000 to the rear of the truck where the UC opened it and examined the money in front of Narvaez, Individual A, and Dominguez. The UC then called for the cooler to be brought over to the truck. After Dominguez looked at it, the cooler was loaded into the bed of the truck. While Dominguez went back into the restaurant, Narvaez drove the truck out of the parking lot. Individual A remained in the rear seat of the truck. In addition, Defendant Key followed Narvaez out of the parking lot in the Malibu. DEA agents executed a traffic stop on both vehicles about one black from the restaurant at a traffic light. DEA vehicles surrounded the truck and the Malibu on three sides. Approximately seven agents who were wearing bullet proof vests identified themselves as law enforcement, exited their vehicles, and commanded Key and Narvaez to exit their vehicles. Narvaez did not abide by the command. Instead, he put the truck in reverse, bumping into the Malibu. Key jumped the curb with the Malibu, drove around the truck and headed toward one agent. The Malibu pinned the agent to a pole and then swerved and proceeded in the direction of another DEA agent. Narvaez, driving the truck, followed the Malibu up onto the curb and headed directly toward the agent. The other agents fired shots at Defendants Key and Narvaez in order to prevent them from running over the agents.

Both Key and Narvaez escaped the scene and led the officers on a high speed chase. Local law enforcement ultimately pulled Key over and arrested him. Narvaez had pulled the truck over and fled on foot. Agents found him hiding in a nearby apartment building. In the same stairwell where he was hiding, agents found an additional $5, 000 in cash.

The government moves the Court to introduce evidence of the drug transaction with which Defendant Dominguez is charged in Count One against Narvaez and Key. Neither Narvaez nor Key is charged with the drug transaction in Count One. Specifically, the government seeks to introduce this drug transaction evidence pursuant to Rule 404(b) to prove Defendant Narvaez's and Defendant Key's motive to assault the officers as charged in Counts Two and Three. Defendant Key does not object to the introduction of this evidence pursuant to Rule 404(b). Defendant Narvaez, however, objects to its admission pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 403.


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 ...

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