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United States v. Woody's Trucking, LLC

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

January 22, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
WOODY'S TRUCKING, LLC, and DONALD E. WOOD, JR., Defendants.

          ORDER

          SUSAN P. WATTERS United States District Judge

         Before the Court are two motions to exclude evidence (Docs. 41 and 43) filed by Defendants Woody's Trucking and Donald E. Wood, Jr. For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part the first motion and denies the second motion with leave to renew at trial.

         I. Facts as alleged in indictment

         Woody's Trucking is a commercial transportation business managed and owned by Donald E. Wood, Jr.. (Doc. 1 at 3). In 2004, Woody's Trucking obtained a commercial insurance policy from Great West Casualty Company. (Doc. 1 at 4). The Great West policy renewed annually. (Doc. 1 at 4). Prior to each renewal, Woody's Trucking submitted to Great West an insurance application which listed the commodities transported by Woody's Trucking and whether any were hazardous. (Doc. 1 at 4).

         In February 2012, Woody's Trucking entered into an agreement with Saddle Butte Pipeline, LLC, to transport natural gas condensate. (Doc. 1 at 12-13). At the same time, Woody's Trucking obtained an endorsement from Great West to add Saddle Butte as an insured party to the existing policy. (Doc. 1 at 13). Woody's Trucking did not disclose to Great West that it had begun transporting natural gas condensate. (Doc. 1 at 13). In October 2012, Woody's Trucking submitted its annual insurance application to Great West. (Doc. 1 at 14). The October 2012 application stated Woody's Trucking transported "KCL Water, " "100%." (Doc. 1 at 14). The October 2012 application did not state Woody's Trucking transported hazardous materials. (Doc. 1 at 14). Based upon the October 2012 application, Great West renewed Woody's Trucking's policy. (Doc. 1 at 14).

         From February 2012 through December 29, 2012, Woody's Trucking transported natural gas condensate for Saddle Butte. (Doc. 1 at 14-15). Woody's Trucking did not receive and/or prepare hazardous material shipping papers, hazardous material placards, or emergency response information for any of the transports. (Doc. 1 at 15-16). Donald E. Wood, Jr. and conspirators instead prepared Bills of Lading that falsely described the materials transported as "slop oil and water." (Doc. 1 at 16).

         On December 29, 2012, an explosion occurred while workers unloaded natural gas condensate transported by Woody's Trucking. (Doc. 1 at 16-17). Between December 29, 2012, and January 8, 2013, a person, at the direction of Woody's Trucking, prepared a Bill of Lading that falsely described the contents of the December 29, 2012, transport as "slop oil and water from condensate tanks." (Doc. 1 at 17). On January 9, 2013, the person, at the direction of Woody's Trucking, placed the false Bill of Lading into the cab of the truck that made the December 29, 2012, transport. (Doc. 1 at 17).

         On December 31, 2012, Woody's Trucking faxed a claim to Great West for repairs to the truck involved in the explosion. (Doc. 1 at 20-21). On January 17, 2013, in response to an OSHA investigation, Woody's Trucking faxed a copy of the false bill of lading to OSHA. (Doc. 1 at 18, 21-22). On October 24, 2014, in response to a request by Great West concerning the explosion, Woody's Trucking and conspirators mailed a copy of the false bill of lading to Great West. (Doc. 1 at 18, 22). On February 28, 2015, Woody's Trucking emailed to its insurance agent and Great West a complaint and summons filed against Woody's Trucking by workers injured in the explosion. (Doc. 1 at 18-19, 22-23).

         Based on the above facts, the indictment charged Woody's Trucking and Donald E. Wood, Jr. with fourteen counts. Count one alleges the Defendants, and other known and unknown to the grand jury, knowingly conspired to: (a) defraud Great West by wire fraud and mail fraud, (b) defraud the United States by deceitfully obstructing the legitimate functions of the DOT and OSHA in enforcing federal law, (c) recklessly violate hazardous materials regulations, and (d) alter a tangible object with the intent to obstruct the OSHA investigation. Counts two, three, and five allege the Defendants, for the purpose of executing a scheme to defraud, transmitted a wire communication in interstate commerce. Count five alleges the Defendants, for the purpose of executing a scheme to defraud, caused a matter to be deposited, sent, or delivered by United States mail. Counts six, seven, eight, and nine allege the Defendants recklessly violated Hazmat regulations by transporting and causing to be transported a hazardous material without required placards. Counts ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen allege the Defendants recklessly violated Hazmat regulations by transporting and causing to be transported a hazardous material without required shipping papers. Count fourteen alleges the Defendants knowingly altered, destroyed, and concealed a document with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the investigation and proper administration of a matter within the jurisdiction of OSHA.

         II. Law

         Motions in limine are procedural devices to obtain an early and preliminary ruling on the admissibility of evidence. Judges have broad discretion when ruling on motions in limine. Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). A motion in limine should not be used to resolve factual disputes or weigh evidence. C & E Services, Inc., v. Ashland Inc., 539 F.Supp.2d 316, 323 (D.D.C. 2008). To exclude evidence on a motion in limine "the evidence must be inadmissible on all potential grounds." Ind. Ins. Co. v. K-Mart Corp., 326 F.Supp.2d 844, 846 (N.D. Ohio 2004). Courts have wide discretion in considering and ruling on motions in limine. See Luce v. U.S., 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984).

         III. Discussion

         The Defendants filed two motions to exclude evidence. The first motion concerns the admissibility of evidence under Rules 401, 402, and 403. The second motion concerns the admissibility of evidence under Rule 802 and the Confrontation Clause.

         A. Motion to exclude under Rules 401, 402, ...


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