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United States v. West

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

December 15, 2017

UNITED STATES, Appellee,
v.
NEIL WEST, SR., Defendant, Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE [Hon. Nancy Torresen, Chief U.S. District Judge]

          Jonathan M. Goodman, with whom Troubh Heisler, PA, was on brief for appellant.

          Renée M. Bunker, Assistant United States Attorney, Appellate Chief, District of Maine, with whom Richard W. Murphy, Acting United States Attorney, was on brief for appellee.

          Before Lynch, Stahl, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          BARRON, Circuit Judge.

         Neil West was convicted of four federal offenses in connection with his role in the commission of two bank robberies that occurred in Maine. He received a prison sentence of 175 months. He now contends that all four convictions must be vacated due to errors that the District Court made at trial, although he only makes substantive arguments regarding two of those convictions. We affirm.

         I.

         On November 30, 2016, in the United States District Court for the District of Maine, West was convicted of two counts of aiding and abetting bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), (d), and two counts of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 2113(a). The four convictions stemmed from two separate robberies, with West having been convicted of both aiding and abetting bank robbery and conspiring to commit bank robbery in connection with each of these robberies.

         The first of the robberies was of a credit union in Portland, Maine on September 4, 2015. West allegedly acted as the driver to and from that robbery. The other robbery was of a TD Bank in Lewiston, Maine on September 12, 2015, where West allegedly helped plan the robbery and, again, acted as the driver to and from the robbery.

         In his briefing on appeal, West only challenges rulings by the District Court that pertain to his convictions for the offenses relating to the TD Bank robbery. Accordingly, we focus on his challenges to those two convictions, as he makes no argument as to why the two convictions relating to the robbery of the credit union may not stand.

         II.

         We begin with West's contention that these two convictions must be vacated due to the District Court's admission -- over West's objection -- of an approximately 8-minute portion of a 30-minute video that law enforcement took from the perspective of the police officer who pulled in behind West as he was driving a minivan roughly 30 minutes after the TD Bank robbery had occurred. In its unredacted form, that video runs from the point at which the police officer pulled in behind the van all the way up through the point at which the van came to a stop, West exited the van, and West attempted to run away from the scene.

         Prior to trial, West had moved to exclude the entirety of the video from being entered into evidence. West did so pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 403, which provides that "court[s] may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of . . . unfair prejudice."

         The District Court orally granted in part and denied in part West's motion. The District Court ordered that significant portions of the video be "redact[ed]" in order to ensure that the video would not provoke an unfairly prejudicial "emotional response" from jurors based on what the video showed -- namely West driving at "dizzying speeds" through residential neighborhoods, "zipping in and out" among cyclists and pedestrians. But, the District Court determined, other portions of the video could be shown to the jury -- namely the portion that runs from the point in the video that shows the police officer pulling in behind the van to the point in the video that shows the van speeding off as well as the portion of the video that runs from the ...


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