Monday, March 28, 2022

Court Allows Impeachment By Prior Criminal Conviction

In the case of Barbarevech v. Tomlinson, No. 18-CV-4821 (C.P. Lacka. Co. March 17, 2022 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R.Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas addressed a pre-trial Motion In Limine seeking to preclude evidence or testimony regarding a witness’ prior arrest, guilty plea, and incarceration.

According to the Opinion, the subject witness was a friend of the Plaintiff and was anticipated as a fact witness at trial. That witness pled guilty in 2018 to stalking.

The Plaintiffs filed a Motion In Limine seeking to preclude the impeachment information on this witness for the Plaintiff by asserting that Pa. R.E. 609(a) permits a witness’ credibility to be attacked with evidence that the witness has been convicted of a crime only if the crime involves “dishonesty or false statement.” The Plaintiff asserted that the witness pled guilty to stalking, which did not constitute a crimen falsi crime.

In response, the defense asserted that the federal stalking statute does encompass allegations of dishonesty. The defense also asserted that the criminal acts that the Defendant pled guilty to also, in fact, involved elements of dishonesty.

Judge Terrence R. Nealon
Lackawanna County

After his review of the applicable law as applied to the facts before the court, Judge Nealon ruled that, while the witness’s cyber stalking offense was not inherently a crimen falsi since neither dishonesty nor a false statement was an essential in stated element of that crime, the court noted that, based upon the “underlying facts” that supported the witness’ conviction under the federal statute involved dishonesty and falsehoods committed by the witness to during the course of his crime.

The court therefore ruled that, since the witness utilized dishonesty and false statements in committing his cyber stalking crime, the underlying facts sustaining his conviction supported the classification of the offense as a crimen falsi offense for purposes of the admissibility of this information to impeach the witness at trial pursuant to Pa. R.E. 609(a).

As such, the Plaintiffs’ Motion In Limine was denied by the court.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

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