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The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has articulated a five-part test to guide the district court in the exercise of its discretion in determining whether the probative value of a defendant's conviction outweighs its prejudicial effect: (1) the impeachment value of the prior crime; (2) the point in time of the conviction and the witness' subsequent history; (3) the similarity between the past crime and the charged crime; (4) the importance of the defendant's testimony; and (5) the centrality of the credibility issue. However, these factors remain a guide to the discretion of the district court; the appellate court shall intervene only when the record establishes that the district court abused its discretion in deciding to admit the evidence.
Appellant Salvador Hernandez was convicted for kidnapping the victim from a parking lot and driving him across the state line. The victim testified that two armed men forced him into a car that appellant then drove to Chicago. The victim alleged that during the trip, the armed men held the victim at gun point. He was taken into an apartment, beaten, chained to a wall and told he must pay his captors $3,000 for his release. The victim’s car was abandoned with his wallet and cellular phone in the car. The victim’s wife testified that she paged her husband repeatedly during the late afternoon and early evening of the day of the kidnaping; contrary to his practice of returning her page quickly, he never responded. The district court denied appellant’s motion for judgment of acquittal, and admitted as evidence appellant’s prior conviction for the possession of cocaine and marijuana. Appellant was sentenced to 200 months' imprisonment on each count; the sentences on each count are to run concurrently. The court also imposed a two-level enhancement for use of a dangerous weapon.
On appeal of appellant's conviction and sentence, the court affirmed. There was sufficient evidence to support appellant's conviction because the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping, which included the abandonment of the victim's vehicle, the victim's failure to respond to pages and missing family obligations, and the victim's severe injuries, corroborated his testimony that he was taken against his will to Chicago. The trial court did not err by admitting into evidence appellant's prior drug possession conviction because it was relevant to appellant's credibility. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a two-level enhancement to appellant's sentence for using a dangerous weapon because it specifically found that the firearm was part and parcel of the victim's forcible abduction.