United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. VARLAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
criminal case is before the Court on the government's
Motion in Limine to Prohibit Jurisdictional Argument [Doc.
78]. This is the only motion in limine filed in this case,
and the deadline for filing further motions in limine has now
passed [Doc. 77 p. 2]. The Court held a final pretrial
conference on January 12, at which the defendants requested
additional time to review and respond to the government's
motion. The Court granted this request and ordered the
defendants to file any responses to the government's
motion by January 16. Defendant Heather Ann Tucci-Jarraf has
now filed a response brief [Doc. 86], as well as an
additional filing that the Court likewise construes as a
response [Doc. 81]. Defendant Randall Beane has not responded
to the government's motion. For the reasons explained
below, the Court will grant the government's motion in
Standard of Review
in limine allow the Court to rule on evidentiary issues prior
to trial in order to avoid delay and focus pertinent issues
for the jury's consideration.” United States v.
Amir, No. 1:10-cr-439, 2011 WL 3862013, at *1 (N.D. Ohio
Aug. 31, 2011) (citing United States v. Brawner, 173
F.3d 966, 970 (6th Cir. 1999)). Evidence should be excluded
on a motion in limine only if it is clearly inadmissible.
Ind. Ins. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846
(N.D. Ohio 2004) (citing Luce v. United States, 469
U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984)). “If the court is unable to
determine whether or not certain evidence is clearly
inadmissible, it should defer ruling until trial so that
questions of foundation, relevancy, and potential prejudice
can be evaluated in proper context.” Amir,
2011 WL 3862013, at *1 (citing Ind. Ins., 326
F.Supp.2d at 846). Furthermore, “[a] ruling on a motion
in limine is no more than a preliminary, or advisory, opinion
that falls entirely within the discretion of the district
court.” United States v. Yannott, 42 F.3d 999,
1007 (6th Cir. 1994).
Rule of Evidence 401 defines relevant evidence as that which
(1) “has any tendency to make a fact more or less
probable than it would be without the evidence, ” where
(2) that fact “is of consequence in determining the
action.” Rule 402 makes clear that irrelevant evidence
is inadmissible. The Sixth Circuit “applies an
‘extremely liberal' standard for relevancy.”
United States v. Collins, 799 F.3d 554, 578 (6th
Cir. 2015) (quoting United States v. Whittington,
455 F.3d 736, 738 (6th Cir. 2006)). “[W]hen determining
whether evidence is relevant, the district court must not
consider the weight or sufficiency of the evidence.”
DXS, Inc. v. Siemens Med. Sys., Inc., 100 F.3d 462,
475 (6th Cir. 1996). On the other hand, federal district
courts are “accorded wide discretion in determining the
admissibility of evidence challenged as irrelevant.”
McGowan v. Cooper Indus., 863 F.2d 1266,
1271 (6th Cir. 1988). The Court also notes that the Sixth
Circuit has repeatedly rejected arguments by other sovereign
citizens and tax protestors that the federal courts lack
jurisdiction over them as “completely without merit and
patently frivolous.” United States v. Mundt,
29 F.3d 233, 237 (6th Cir. 1994).
Rule 403 grants the Court discretion to exclude
otherwise-relevant evidence if “its probative value is
substantially outweighed by a danger of . . . unfair
prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue
delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative
evidence.” As with relevancy rulings, the Sixth Circuit
“has consistently held that ‘[a] district court
has very broad discretion in making [Rule 403]
determination[s].'” United States v.
LaVictor, 848 F.3d 428, 444 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting
United States v. Semrau, 693 F.3d 510, 523 (6th Cir.
2012)). However, under Rule 403, “it is not sufficient
to suggest that the ‘legitimate probative force of the
evidence' would result in damage to the [movant's]
case.” United States v. Poulsen, 655 F.3d 492,
509 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting United States v.
Newsom, 452 F.3d 593, 603 (6th Cir. 2006)). Rather, the
movant must show “that the evidence would ‘tend
to suggest [a] decision on an improper basis.'”
Id. (alterations in original) (quoting
Newsom, 452 F.3d at 603).
the government moves to exclude evidence that the Court lacks
jurisdiction over the defendants or that the United States is
a defaulted or foreclosed entity without lawful authority
over the defendants, pursuant to Rules 401, 402, and 403
[Doc. 78]. The government expects the defendants to offer
such evidence based on their previous filings and assertions.
The government submits that such evidence would be
irrelevant, confusing, misleading, and incorrect. The
government further argues that the Court's jurisdiction
over the defendants is an issue already litigated and
decided, and that any evidence on this topic would not be
relevant to a material fact under Rules 401 and 402. The
government notes that both U.S. Magistrate Judge C. Clifford
Shirley, Jr., and this Court have already found the
defendants' jurisdictional arguments and many Uniform
Commercial Code (“UCC”) filings frivolous and
devoid of intelligible argument [See Docs. 62, 69].
The government further argues that, even if some of this
evidence were relevant, it would be misleading, confusing,
likely to result in undue delay, and thus subject to
exclusion under Rule 403. The government points in particular
to the defendants' lengthy and ambiguous UCC filings,
which are filled with inappropriately used legal terminology.
first response to the government's motion in limine [Doc.
81], defendant Tucci-Jarraf has simply obtained a physical
copy of the motion, handwritten ambiguous remarks on each
page, signed and marked each page with a red fingerprint, and
refiled the altered document with the Clerk of Court. The
first of these remarks is exemplary of the rest: “Duly
rejected, without dishonor, for due cause. Lacks due
verification and validation of presenter's due: 1.
identification; 2. authority; 3. authorization; and 4.
indorsement” [Id. at 1]. Defendant
Tucci-Jarraf also lists the CM/ECF numbers of numerous docket
entries in this case, without elaboration. This defendant has
filed many similar alterations of court documents in this
case, and the Court has previously explained why such filings
fail to raise any substantive arguments for the Court to
consider [See Doc. 69 pp. 2-4]. Thus, the
defendant's first response lacks merit.
Tucci-Jarraf's second response [Doc. 86] begins with
three “praecipe”that do not seem to pertain at all
to the government's motion in limine. Next, defendant
Tucci-Jarraf asserts that the government and the Court have
not produced “duly verified, validated, and sworn
documentation, with due signature and seal, of their
authority and jurisdiction over [the defendants]”
[Id. 2-3]. Defendant Tucci-Jarraf thus asserts that
this criminal case is void ab initio. Furthermore,
defendant Tucci-Jarraf appears to argue that the
government's motion in limine should be denied for
several reasons: (1) it seeks to preclude evidence refuting
the requisite element of the defendants' intent to commit
fraud; (2) it seeks to preclude evidence of the unlawful
actions of various government officials in conspiring against
the defendants; (3) it seeks an order validating the U.S.
Attorney's Office's authority over the defendants
“by its very issuance”; (4) it seeks to relieve
the government of its burden to prove the intent element
beyond a reasonable doubt; and (5) granting this motion would
expose the Court to a “risk of reversible error”
[Id. at 3-4]. Finally, defendant Tucci-Jarraf
reiterates that the record is devoid of evidence authorizing
the Court or the government to exercise any authority over
the Court finds that any evidence concerning the Court's
subject-matter jurisdiction or the legal existence of the
United States government would be irrelevant under Rules 401
and 402. Whether this Court has jurisdiction over the
criminal prosecution of these defendants is not “of
consequence” to the trial in this matter, Fed.R.Evid.
401(b), because the Court has already conclusively determined
that it does have jurisdiction [see Docs. 62, 69].
And, as noted above, the defendants' arguments as to the
Court's lack of jurisdiction and the nonexistence of the
United States are frivolous. Mundt, 29 F.3d at 237;
see also 18 U.S.C. § 3231 (“The district
courts of the United States shall have original jurisdiction
. . . of all offenses against the laws of the United
States.”). Any evidence pertaining solely to
jurisdictional issues would thus fail the relevancy test
under Rule 401. See United States v. Schwartz, No.
1:08-cr-10, 2008 WL 2074018, at *3 (W.D. Mich. May 14, 2008)
(granting the government's motion in limine to exclude as
irrelevant evidence from the defendant tax protestors that
the court lacked jurisdiction over them and that the United
States tax and monetary systems were unconstitutional).
the Court finds that exclusion of jurisdictional evidence is
alternatively appropriate under Rule 403. Admitting the type
of jurisdictional evidence the defendants have repeatedly
submitted in this case-i.e., numerous UCC filings and
marked-up copies of court documents-would likely confuse and
mislead the jury and cause undue delay. Fed.R.Evid. 403. The
probative value-if any-of presenting to the jury potentially
hundreds of pages of handwritten documents containing
inapposite legal terminology and ambiguous remarks is
substantially outweighed by these tangible risks to the
orderly administration of the trial in this matter. And,
because the defendants' jurisdictional challenges are
meritless, this evidence could serve only to suggest to the
jury an “improper basis” for deciding this case.
Poulsen, 655 F.3d at 509. Thus, exclusion under Rule
403 is warranted to the extent the defendants wish to admit
jurisdictional evidence of the same type they have previously
submitted to the Court.
the Court finds defendant Tucci-Jarraf's arguments in
opposition to the government's motion unpersuasive. The
Court has previously rejected the defendants' arguments
that the Court and the government's written filings lack
proper signatures, seals, or other modes of verification
[Docs. 62, 69]. Indeed, despite challenging almost every
filing in this case on a similar basis, defendant
Tucci-Jarraf has never explained what other modes of
authorization she thinks necessary. Moreover, nothing in the
government's motion seeks to preclude the defendants from
offering evidence relating to the requisite element of
criminal intent. Nor does this motion seek to negate the
government's burden of proof on the intent element. To
the extent the defendants wish to offer evidence that relates
to both jurisdictional matters and criminal intent
at trial, the Court will consider any Rule 403 objections to
such evidence when offered.
any evidence as to a conspiracy among government officials to
harm the defendants or their property interests would be
irrelevant under Rule 401, at least absent a suppression
motion or the like. This case concerns the alleged crimes of
the defendants, not others. And as for defendant
Tucci-Jarraf's claim that the Court is simply declaring
the government's authority to prosecute her, the
Court's ruling is instead based on the U.S.
Attorney's Office's express statutory authority to
prosecute federal offenses. 28 U.S.C. § 547. ...