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Garner v. Cubells

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 2, 2017

YVONNE GARNER
v.
RYAN CUBELLS

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS IN LIMINE

          HOLLY B. FITZSIMMONS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending is defendant Ryan Cubells's Motions in Limine to preclude evidence or testimony regarding FBI recordings from March 13 and 28, 2014, made after the events at issue in this case.[1] Oral argument was held on October 4, 2017. The recordings at issue were submitted for in camera review along with the Internal Affairs Final Report. For the reasons that follow, the motions [Doc. ##68, 80, 90] are GRANTED.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "The purpose of an in limine motion is 'to aid the trial process by enabling the Court to rule in advance of trial on the admissibility and relevance of certain forecasted evidence, as to issues that are definitely set for trial, without lengthy argument at, or interruption of, the trial.'" Palmieri v. Defaria, 88 F.3d 136, 141 (2d Cir. 1996) (quoting Banque Hypothecaire Du Canton De Geneve v. Union Mines, 652 F.Supp. 1400, 1401 (D. Md. 1987)); see Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 40 n.2 (1984) ("We use the term ["in limine"] in a broad sense to refer to any motion, whether made before or during trial, to exclude anticipated prejudicial evidence before the evidence is actually offered."). "A district court's inherent authority to manage the course of its trials encompasses the right to rule on motions in limine." Capital Mgmt., L.P. v. Schneider, 551 F.Supp.2d 173, 176 (S.D.N.Y. 2008).

         "Evidence should be excluded on a motion in limine only when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds." Levinson v. Westport Nat'l Bank, No. 3:09-CV-1955(VLB), 2013 WL 3280013, at *3 (D. Conn. June 27, 2013) (quoting Highland Capital Mgmt., L.P. v. Schneider, 379 F.Supp.2d 461, 470 (S.D.N.Y. 2005)). Courts considering a motion in limine may reserve judgment until trial, so that the motion is placed in the appropriate factual context. See Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. v. L.E. Meyers Co. Grp., 937 F.Supp. 276, 287 (S.D.N.Y. 1996).

         DISCUSSION

         On March 13 and 28, 2014, the FBI recorded defendant Ryan Cubells in a bar with other Waterbury Police Officers while he was on an unpaid suspension from duty and consuming alcohol. Cubells was not the intended subject of the FBI investigation; however, the recordings prompted an Internal Affairs investigation by the Waterbury Police Department that led to the subsequent termination of his employment. Defendant seeks an order precluding his recorded statements made during the FBI recording; evidence of any other wrongful acts uncovered in the recording, Internal Affairs investigation and report; as well as all evidence of the investigation itself. He argues that these recordings are more prejudicial than probative and should be excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. Plaintiff disagrees.

         As a preliminary matter, there is no dispute that the recordings were made after the events at issue in this lawsuit and that none of the statements made by Cubells on the recordings related to any of the allegations Garner has made regarding her interactions with Cubells from April 2012 through May 2013. [Second Amend. Compl. Doc. #85]. "[T]hus they are not directly probative of [Ms. Garner's] claims, and they carry a significant risk of unfair prejudice to Mr. Cubells." Anderson, 2017 WL 3974994, at *4 (citing Jackson v. City of White Plains, No. 05-CV-0491 (NSR), 2016 WL 234855, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 19, 2016) (excluding evidence of defendant police officer's prior uses of force under Rule 404, noting that none of the acceptable uses of such evidence-"motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident"-were relevant to the plaintiff's excessive force claims)).

The admissibility of such evidence is governed by Rule 404 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. With certain exceptions, Rule 404 precludes the admission of "[e]vidence of a person's character or character trait ... to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait, " Fed.R.Evid. 404(a)(1), as well as "[e]vidence of a crime, wrong, or other act ... 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).

Jackson, 2016 WL 234855, at *2.

         Plaintiff contends that she will offer such evidence to show Cubells's "underlying racism, use of excessive force and lack of veracity." [Doc. #71-1 at 2]. The following statements are representative of evidence plaintiff seeks to admit:

1. "You know what else rope is good for hanging?"-clear reference to lynching;
2. [made in context of reporting to Chief's office' "with a white fucking cut out sheet over my fucking head"-clear reference to participating in a KKK ritual;
3. "In the middle of the investigation, she tried to goup with another case where she saw me and ___beating a black guy on Grove St and she had to leave the scene it was so bad."-where Cubells is recorded bragging to his ...

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