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United States v. Benzer

United States District Court, District of Nevada

December 8, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiffs,
v.
LEON BENZER, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

Presently before the court is defendant Leon Benzer’s (hereinafter “defendant”) motion to reconsider. (Doc. # 387). The government filed a response, (doc. # 412), and defendant filed a reply, (doc. # 418).

I. Background

The facts of the instant case are familiar to the court and the parties. Defendant Benzer is accused of directing and facilitating an elaborate scheme to take over homeowners association (“HOA”) boards for financial gain. (Doc. # 335). He is charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud. (Doc. # 1).

On August 18, 2014, the government filed a motion in limine seeking to admit other acts evidence pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). (Doc. # 335). The government sought a ruling on the admissibility of evidence that defendant failed to disclose funds related to the instant conspiracy to the IRS. (Doc. # 335).

Pursuant to the court’s normal briefing schedule, responses to the motion were due on September 9, 2014. Defendant did not file a response. On September 26, 2014, the court granted the government’s motion. (Doc. # 367). Defendant then filed the instant motion to reconsider the court’s order on the motion in limine. (Doc. # 387).

II. Legal Standard

“While the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure do not contain a provision specifically allowing motions for reconsideration, numerous circuit courts have held that motions for reconsideration may be filed in criminal cases.” see United States v. Hector, 368 F.Supp.2d 1060, 1062-63 (C.D. Cal. 2005) (reversed on other grounds); see also United States v. Martin, 226 F.3d 1042, 1047 n. 7 (9th Cir. 2000) (noting that “post-judgment motions for reconsideration may be filed in criminal cases”).

“No precise ‘rule’ governs the district court’s inherent power to grant or deny a motion to reconsider a prior ruling in a criminal proceeding.” United States v. Lopez-Cruz, 730 F.3d 803, 811 (9th Cir. 2013). District courts have judicial discretion to revisit evidentiary rulings at any time. See Id . (applying this standard to district court’s reconsideration of suppression motion).

More specifically, “In limine rulings are not binding on the trial judge [who] may always change his mind during the course of a trial.” Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 758 n.3 (2000); accord Luce, 469 U.S. at 41 (noting that in limine rulings are always subject to change, especially if the evidence unfolds in an unanticipated manner).

III. Discussion

In substance, defendant’s motion for reconsideration simply sets forth defendant’s arguments in response to the government’s initial motion. The government states in its response to defendant’s motion to reconsider that it does “not oppose this Court’s consideration of [defendant’s] legal arguments . . . as his arguments are unavailing and do not change the outcome that this evidence is in fact admissible.” (Doc. # 412).

In light of the court’s flexibility with regard to evidentiary rulings and reconsideration of rulings in criminal cases, the court will consider defendant’s motion in its entirety and address each of defendant’s arguments in turn.

i. Failure to file response

Defendant argues in the instant motion that his counsel inadvertently failed to file an opposition to the motion in limine. (Doc. # 387). As a result, “defendant urges the court not to penalize this defendant due to the ...


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