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United States v. Brown - 548 F.2d 1194 (5th Cir. 1977)

Rule:

Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) is subject to the strictures of Fed. R. Evid. 403, which provides that evidence, although relevant, may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.

Facts:

Defendant Amos P. Brown, Sr., a part-time income tax preparer, was convicted by a jury in federal district court on 12 counts of counseling, procuring and advising the preparation and presentation of fraudulent and false United States Individual Income Tax Returns for others in violation of 26 U.S.C.S. § 7206( 2). The district court subsequently denied Brown's motions for judgment of acquittal and for new trial and sentenced Brown to 11 concurrent terms of three years each, followed by three years' probation. Brown appealed, asserting insufficiency of the evidence, the improper admission of prejudicial evidence, the district court's failure to investigate possible jury misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel.

Issue:

Was there error in the admission of evidence against Brown at trial?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The appellate court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. The court ruled that it was plain error for the district court to allow the testimony of one of the Government's witnesses—an IRS agent who audited tax returns prepared by Brown—that went to Brown's intent to commit the crime charged and was highly prejudicial to Brown. The court ruled that the testimony's admission, in the absence of direct proof of the tax returns' alleged overstatements, violated: (1) Fed. R. Evid. 404(b), which precluded evidence of similar crimes; (2) Fed. R. Evid. 403(b), which precluded evidence that was more prejudicial than probative, and; (3) Fed. R. Evid. 801, which precluded hearsay.

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