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United States v. Goodwin

United States District Court, D. Idaho

May 13, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
LEX BENNETT GOODWIN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DAVID C. NYE CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff United States of America's (“United States” or “Government”) Motion in Limine to Admit “Other Act” Evidence. Dkt. 40.[1]

         Having reviewed the record and briefs, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the Court will decide the Motions without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2)(ii).

         For the reasons outlined below, the Court will GRANT in PART and DENY in PART the Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         On July, 24, 2018, the federal grand jury sitting in Pocatello, Idaho returned an eight-count Second Superseding Indictment against Defendant Lex Goodwin. Dkt. 17.

         In Counts one through four, the Indictment alleges that Goodwin produced child pornography images of “Jane Doe I” on or about August 3, 2017, August 12, 2017, August 13, 2017, and September 30, 2017. In count five, the Indictment alleges that Goodwin attempted to produce child pornography images of “Jane Doe II” on or about August 13, 2017. In count six, the Indictment alleges that on or between August 12, 2016, and September 20, 2017, Goodwin knowingly transported child pornography in interstate commerce. In count seven, the Indictment alleges that Goodwin possessed images of child pornography on his Samsung Galaxy S7 cellphone, on a Gateway laptop computer that he used and accessed, and within two separate Google accounts. In count eight, the Indictment alleges that Goodwin committed the felony offenses charged in count one through count five at times when he was required by law to register as a sex offender.

         On August 7, 2018, Goodwin entered a plea of not guilty to the Second Superseding Indictment. Dkt. 20. After granting numerous motions to continue (Dkts. 22, 24, 32) the Court set a date of May 20, 2019, for trial. Dkt. 32.

         Anticipating trial, the United States filed a Notice of Intent to Admit ‘Other Act' Evidence. Dkt. 28. As it became apparent that this case would, in fact, proceed to trial, the United States filed a formal Motion seeking to admit this “other act” evidence. Dkt. 40.

         B. Factual Background

         The Court recognizes that the following recitation of the underlying facts is repugnant. Additionally, the Court wishes to limit references to the minor victims in this case as much as possible. That said, background and context are necessary to understand the United States' Motion in Limine and the Court's ruling on the same.

         On September 1, 2017, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (“NCMEC”) received a report from Google indicating that someone had uploaded child pornography to the Google account lexinpocatello@gmail.com. According to the report, four images of child pornography depicting a female child approximately eighteen months old were uploaded to the Google account on August 3, 2017. Exchangeable Image File Format (“Exif”)[2] data associated with the four images shows that the images were created on August 3, 2017, less than three hours prior to being uploaded to the Google account. Exif data also shows that the images were created using a camera model SM-G930P, which is the same camera found on a Samsung Galaxy S7 cellphone.

         Special Agent Kris Knight with Homeland Security Investigations was assigned to follow-up on the report from NCMEC. SA Knight learned that the IP address associated with the upload of the child pornography to the Google account was tied to the residence of K.T., Goodwin's girlfriend, in Rupert, Idaho. SA Knight also learned that Goodwin was a registered sex offender and on state parole for battery with intent to commit rape. The victim in that case was an adult female.

         SA Knight contacted Goodwin's parole officer and learned that he (Goodwin) lived in Pocatello but often spent time at K.T.'s residence in Rupert. SA Knight learned that two female children, one eighteen months old (hereinafter “Jane Doe I”) and one seven years old (hereinafter “Jane Doe II”) also lived at the residence. The four child pornography images associated with the report from Google were later identified to be sexually explicit images of “Jane Doe I.”

         SA Agent Knight obtained search warrants for Goodwin's residence in Pocatello, K.T.'s residence in Rupert, and the lexinpocatello@gmail.com Google account. The residential warrants were served on October 5, 2017. The same day that the warrants were executed, SA Knight met Goodwin at the parole office and interviewed him. Goodwin was advised of his Miranda rights and agreed to waive them.

         Following the interview-in which Goodwin lied to SA Knight concerning the whereabouts of his phone and his use of the email address lexinpocatello@gmail.com- Goodwin's cellphone, his Gateway computer, and the other electronic devices seized during the investigation were submitted for forensic examination. The forensic examination of Goodwin's electronic devices, as well as additional records received from Google in response to a search warrant, revealed numerous files of child pornography within the lexinpocatello@gmail.com account. SA Knight also located the four pornographic images of “Jane Doe I” that were reported to NCMEC by Google. Within the same Google account, SA Knight found several emails from lexinpocatello@gmail.com to various females discussing meeting up to engage in sexual activity. SA Knight also found an email from the email address lexinpocatello@gmail.com to the email address lexgoodwin85@gmail.com. Attached to the email was a word document that contained a resume for Lex Goodwin. On August 5, 2017, the lexinpocatello@gmail.com account received a message from Google stating, “Your library is now being shared with lexgoodwin85@gmail.com.”

         Based on the association with the lexinpocatello account and the lexgoodwin85 account, SA Knight obtained a search warrant for the lexgoodwin85@gmail.com account and reviewed the documents supplied by Google in response to that warrant. SA Knight located numerous files of child pornography within this second account. SA Knight located the same four child pornography files depicting “Jane Doe I” that were the subject of the Google NCMEC report. SA Knight also located several other sexually explicit images of “Jane Doe I.” Exif data from those images shows that they were taken on August 13, 2017, and September 30, 2017, using the same type of camera that is found on a Samsung Galaxy S7 cellphone.

         Within the same Google account, SA Knight located a series of pictures showing a female child wearing a pink skirt and a blue shirt. The child is shown sitting with her legs apart, and in some of the pictures the child's underwear is moved off to the side to where her genitals are almost exposed. It appears that the images were taken surreptitiously. K.T. subsequently identified the child in these images as “Jane Doe II.” On Goodwin's Samsung S7 cellphone, SA Knight located several of the same sexually explicit images of “Jane Doe I” that were located within the lexgoodwin85@gmail.com account.

         On Goodwin's cellphone, SA Knight also located a set of three images depicting an adult male posing with a pair of child's underwear. The child's underwear in this picture were later identified as belonging to “Jane Doe II” and the same underwear was collected from K.T.'s residence. Exif data from the images shows that they were created using a Samsung S7 cellphone on August 23, 2017. The Exif data also contains GPS coordinates showing that the pictures were taken at K.T.'s residence in Rupert.

         Finally, on the Gateway computer, SA Knight located several files of child pornography. Most of the child pornography was located within an application called Blue Stacks, which is a program that allows a PC computer to operate like an Android cellular phone. SA Knight also located Google search history and internet website history related to child pornography and a sexual interest in children. The internet history is dated between June 30, 2015, and July 3, 2015.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion in Limine Standard

         “Motions in limine are well-established devices that streamline trials and settle evidentiary disputes in advance, so that trials are not interrupted mid-course for the consideration of lengthy and complex evidentiary issues.” Miller v. Lemhi Cty., No. 4:15-CV-00156-DCN, 2018 WL 1144970, at *1 (D. Idaho Mar. 2, 2018) (citing United States v. Tokash, 282 F.3d 962, 968 (7th Cir. 2002)). “The term ‘in limine' means ‘at the outset.' A motion in limine is a procedural mechanism to limit in advance testimony or evidence in a particular area.” United States v. Heller, 551 F.3d 1108, 1111 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary 803 (8th ed. 2004)).

         Because “[a]n in limine order precluding the admission of evidence or testimony is an evidentiary ruling, ” United States v. Komisaruk, 885 F.2d 490, 493 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted) “a district court has discretion in ruling on a motion in limine.” United States v. Ravel, 930 F.2d 721, 726 (9th Cir. 1991). Further, in limine rulings are preliminary and, therefore, “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).

         B. Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b)

         Rule 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence governs the admissibility of evidence concerning “other crimes, wrongs, or acts” committed by a defendant. That Rule provides as follows:

(1) Evidence of a crime, wrong, or other act is not admissible to prove a person's character in order to show that on a particular occasion the person acted ...

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