United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Evidence — other acts
In a prosecution for bank fraud, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the defendants the opportunity to present testimony from other borrowers to show their mortgage broker’s history of duping his clients.
“The district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding extrinsic evidence of Bowling’s prior instances of falsifying loan documents without the applicants’ knowledge. The probative value of the reverse 404(b) evidence here was slight. Whether Bowling had a pattern and practice of preparing fraudulent loan applications that defrauded both lenders and borrowers was not the issue in this trial. The district court acted within its discretion when it determined that allowing extrinsic evidence to prove Bowling’s prior bad acts would distract jurors from the issue at hand—whether Gray and Johnson knew that the documents they initialed and signed contained false statements. See United States v. Alayeto, 628 F.3d 917, 922 (7th Cir. 2010) (affirming exclusion of reverse 404(b) evidence in light of ‘danger that the jurors would be distracted from the central issue in the case— [defendant]’s intent—by prolonged discussions of [accomplice]’ s post-arrest activities’). Even if Bowling had a history of duping borrowers, Gray and Johnson still could have willingly conspired with him to submit their falsified application. Their knowledge—not his history—was what the jury needed to determine. See, e.g., id. (affirming trial court’s exclusion of instances in which accomplice convinced other drug mules to transport drugs when “contested evidence may have demonstrated [accomplice’s] intent to deliver the narcotics, but it would not have been significantly probative of [defendant]’s intent”).”
Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, Crabb, J., Williams, J.