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United States v. Reynoso

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

July 3, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on four motions giving notice of the Government's intent to introduce expert testimony and requesting pretrial admissibility rulings on such evidence. First, the Government's Notice of Intent to Offer Expert Testimony of DEA Special Agent Joseph Montoya and Motion in Limine for Ruling on Admissibility of Evidence. (Doc. 41.) Next, the Government's Notice of Expert Witness Testimony of Forensic Chemists/Scientists and Motion in Limine for Daubert/Velarde Ruling on its Admissibility. (Doc. 43.) This motion was followed by two supplemental notices regarding expert testimony of forensic chemists/scientists. (Docs. 71; 79.) In all the motions, the Government provides notice under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(G) that it intends to introduce expert testimony at trial and requests that the Court rule the witnesses are qualified experts and their testimony is admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. (See Docs. 41 at 1; 43 at 1; 71 at 1; 79 at 1.) Defendant has not responded to or opposed the motions. After considering the submissions of counsel and relevant law, the Court will grant the Government's motions and allow the testimony of its four proffered expert witnesses.

         I. Factual Background

         Defendant is charged in a single count Superseding Indictment with “unlawfully, knowingly and intentionally distribut[ing] a controlled substance, 5 grams and more of methamphetamine . . . [i]n violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B).” (Doc. 48 at 1.) The Government bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant knowingly and intentionally distributed the controlled substance as charged, the substance was in fact at least 5 grams of methamphetamine, and that methamphetamine is a controlled substance within the meaning of the law. See Tenth Circuit's Pattern Criminal Jury Instructions (2011 ed., Feb. 2018 update) § 2.85.1.

         The Government asserts that in March 2018, a source of information (SOI) identified an individual named “Mario” to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and informed HSI that Mario was involved in drug trafficking with the Barrio Azteca gang in El Paso, Texas and southern New Mexico. (Doc. 44 at 1.) The SOI then provided Mario with the telephone number of an undercover agent (UC) “under the guise of connecting Defendant with a potential methamphetamine buyer” and provided the UC with Mario's phone number. (Id. at 2.) The UC and Mario coordinated a meeting on May 8, 2018, at the Sunland Park Casino in Sunland Park, New Mexico. (Id.) Upon meeting in the parking lot, the UC entered the backseat of the gray Ford Fusion Mario was driving and asked for the methamphetamine. (Id. at 3.) Mario “pointed to a Band Aid box laying on top of the center console . . . [and t]he UC took the box, opened it, and discovered a translucent plastic bag of what appeared to be two ounces of methamphetamine.” (Id.) The UC gave Mario $800 and concluded the meeting. (Id.) The New Mexico Department of Public Safety Southern Forensic Laboratory analyzed the contents of the bag, but labeled the evidence receipt “HERNANDEZ, MARIO.” (Id. at 3-4.) Defendant's name is Mario Reynoso, and he asserts that he was misidentified and will marshal an alibi defense at trial. (See Docs. 59; 76 at 4-5.)

         The Government has given notice that it will introduce evidence of several “bad acts” Defendant engaged in after May 8, 2018, to prove identity, knowledge, and intent regarding the charged offense. First, possession of 74 grams of methamphetamine, other narcotics, and a digital scale seized from Defendant's gray Ford Fusion as the result of an arrest on August 22, 2018. (Doc. 44 at 5.) Second, possession of seven ounces of methamphetamine divided into seven one-ounce bags seized from Defendant's gray Ford Fusion following his arrest on January 30, 2019, for the charged offense. (Id. at 5-6.) Third, various text messages on a phone seized from Defendant on January 30, 2019, and recorded jail calls between Defendant and his wife using coded language suggesting involvement in narcotics trafficking. (Id. at 6.)

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(G), the Government provided Defendant with a written summary of the testimony it intends to introduce under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which governs expert witness testimony. (See Docs. 41; 43; 71; 79.) At the same time, the Government requested pretrial orders that its proffered witnesses be qualified as experts based on their experience and qualifications, and that their anticipated testimony be ruled admissible based on the briefings. (See Docs. 41 at 5; 43 at 4; 71 at 5-6; 79 at 4). In each of the motions providing notice and seeking pretrial rulings on the admissibility of the expert testimony, the United States submits that the proposed expert witnesses have “a reliable basis in knowledge and experience” in their fields, and that the expert witness testimony they will provide is relevant and admissible under Rule 702. (Docs. 41 at 2; 43 at 3; 71 at 4; 79 at 3.) Defendant has not responded to the Government's motions seeking pretrial admissibility orders, nor objected to the anticipated testimony of any of the proposed expert witnesses.

         The Government has indicated that it will introduce testimony from DEA Special Agent Joseph Montoya regarding:

1. The manner in which individuals and organizations package, conceal, transport, and distribute methamphetamine.
2. The bulk and street values of the methamphetamine seized from the defendant.
3. The quantities of methamphetamine that are typically sold and consumed.
4. That the amount of methamphetamine seized from the defendant is consistent with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.
5. The common ways in which individuals attempt to avoid detection by law enforcement by using prepaid telephones or fictitious names.
6. The coded language and terminology that is typically used by narcotics traffickers and the analysis of specific coded language in communications made over the defendant's telephone and in calls made by the ...

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