United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
J. McConnell, Jr. United States District Judge.
United States Government has charged Daniel E. Saad with
arson of a building and committing wire fraud. (ECF No. 3).
The Government has submitted a Motion in Limine (ECF No. 16)
and a Notice of Intent to use certain evidence (ECF No. 17).
Mr. Saad has filed two Motions in Limine (ECF Nos. 19 and 20)
and a Motion for a Daubert hearing. (ECF No. 21).
This Court will deal with each motion and its objections
Government's Motion in Limine to Admit Evidence
Regarding Defendant's Knowledge and Intent - ECF No.
motion, the Government seeks to admit testimony from several
witnesses, including Mr. Saad's accountant, to shed light
on Mr. Saad's dire, financial situation before a fire
destroyed his business. Additionally, the Government seeks to
admit Mr. Saad's bank statements from eight banks, loans
from commercial and private lenders, extensions of credit
from the sellers of the various businesses he bought, and
collection attempts from his creditors. The Government argues
that the Court should allow such evidence for two reasons:
First, because the information is necessary to complete the
story of the charged crime,  and second because such evidence
is admissible under a Federal Rule Evidence 404(b) analysis.
Federal Rules of Evidence prohibit the use of a
defendant's prior acts as the basis to show that the
defendant acted in accordance with a particular character
trait. FED R. EVID. 404(b)(1). However, there are legitimate
exceptions to the exclusion of such prior-act evidence such
as motive or intent, FED R. EVID. 404(b)(2), and such
exceptions are construed broadly. United States v.
Rodriguez-Soler, 773 F.3d 289, 298 (1st Cir. 2014)
(citing United States v. Flores Perez, 849 F.2d 1, 4
(1st Cir. 1988). A 404(b) analysis occurs under a two-pronged
test, ' "first, [this C]ourt must determine whether
the evidence in question has any special relevance exclusive
of defendant's character or propensity; and second,
notwithstanding its special relevance, whether the evidence
meets the standard set forth in Fed.R.Evid. 403."
E.g. United States v. DeCicco, 370 F.3d 206, 211
(1st Cir. 2004) (footnote omitted) (citing United States
v. Sebaggaia, 256 F.3d 59, 67 (1st Cir. 2001)).
that Mr. Saad was experiencing financial troubles would be an
understatement. The Government has proffered evidence that,
if believed, would show that Mr. Saad owned seven businesses
and had a total indebtedness of nearly $2.5 million on the
day of the fire, with a cumulative negative bank account
balance of about -$10, 000. ECF No. 16 at 4, 5. Thus, Mr.
Saad was in a perpetual need for cash.
Government has shown that there is a special relevance for
the prior-acts evidence surrounding Mr. Saad's financial
situation, i.e., his potential motive in seeking insurance
proceeds. Moreover, this Court does not find that admitting
such evidence would be unfairly prejudicial under Rule
Therefore, the proffered evidence appears to be admissible at
this time. See Ferrara & DiMercurio v. St. Paul
Mercury Ins. Co., 240 F.3d 1, 5-7 (1st Cir. 2001). The
Court GRANTS the Government's Motion in Limine (ECF No.
Government's Notice of Intent to Introduce Certain
Evidence - ECF No. 17
Memorandum of Law, the Government seeks to notify Mr. Saad of
its intention to use the various financial documents listed
and described. The Government's list contains bank
statements, loan documents from both commercial and
individual lenders, and debt collection attempts.
Federal Rules of Evidence 803(6)(A)-(D), records of a
regularly conducted activity are an exception to the
exclusion of hearsay when such records are: (1) made by
someone with knowledge, (2) kept in the course of a regularly
conducted business activity, (3) made in the regular practice
of that activity, and (4) shown by certification to comply
with Rule 902(11). The records from the various banks and
commercial lenders appear to fall within Rule 803's
exception. However, it is not the same for promissory
notes from individuals. Because individuals do not regularly
conduct business by way of making commercial loans, the
financial statements, promissory notes, and other associated
statements regarding these loans do not qualify for Rule
the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART as described
above, the Government's request to introduce certain
evidence (ECF No. 17).
Mr. Saad's Motion in Limine to Preclude Testimony
Regarding Cause of Fire - ECF No. 19)
motion, Mr. Saad moves to preclude the Government from
eliciting testimony regarding the cause of the fire that
destroyed his business on November 30, 2014. Under
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579
(1993), a district court judge is tasked with determining
whether expert witness testimony will assist the trier of
fact and that the qualifications of and methods used by the
expert witness are up to par within the scientific community.
Id. at 592-94. Mr. Saad contends that the presence
of gasoline generators on the building site contaminated the
tests results, and therefore the expert's testimony
concerning the test results is not based on sound scientific
methodology. Because Mr. Saad does not contest the
qualifications and experience of Special Agent Hartman,
this Court needs to ascertain whether the testimony regarding
the cause of the fire would be helpful to the jury, and
whether Special Agent Hartman's methodology was sound.
arson is an area that goes beyond the average understanding
of a juror, courts have deemed expert testimony in arson
cases helpful for jurors. United States v. Markum, 4
F.3d 891, 896 (10th Cir. 1993). The National Fire Protection
Association's ("NFPA") Guide for Fire and
Explosion Investigations 921, which Special Agent
Hartman relies upon during his investigations, has been
deemed "the bible of arson forensic science."
Babick v. Berghuis,620 F.3d 571, 580 (6th Cir.
2010) (Merritt, J., dissenting); ECF No. 30 at 5. The
Government asserts that Special Agent Hartman followed NFPA
procedures by conducting on-scene investigation and
collaborating with an electrical engineer and state fire
marshals. ECF No. 30 at 6. Mr. Saad's general manager,
Justin Mosely, testified before the grand jury that the gas
generator was confined to a limited area near the west-side
exit door and was removed once he deemed the generator
inoperable. Id. at 7. Furthermore, samples of debris
were collected from the west side of the bar, which was