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Testimony showed intent in identity deception

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During a trial for identity deception, a court correctly admitted evidence under Indiana Evidence Rule 404(b) of the defendant's prior interaction with the victim of his identity theft and previous instances of using the victim's information, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today.

In Andrew G. Prairie v. State of Indiana, No. 29A02-0811-CR-985, Andrew Prairie was arrested and charged with identity deception as a Class D felony after he used David Hutchinson's personal information for billing at a hospital. Prairie had outstanding warrants and told police he used a fictitious person's information to avoid being caught; Prairie had actually been friends with Hutchinson in the past and once stayed at his home. That's how he obtained the needed information to use Hutchinson's identity.

The state filed a motion under Evid. R. 404(b) to use evidence of Prairie's prior relationship with Hutchinson and the testimony that Prairie had used Hutchinson's information to get a credit card and ATM card for Hutchinson's bank account. The trial court granted the motion that the evidence of prior bad acts wasn't too remote and it was probative on the question of the relationship between the two.

During opening statements, defense counsel said they didn't believe the state could show Prairie had intent to harm or defraud. The trial judge had considered later not admitting the evidence based on Iqbal v. State, 805 N.E.2d 401 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004), but because defense counsel put the question of specific intent into question at trial, the judge allowed the evidence to be admitted. The jury convicted him on the charge. 

Prairie argued it was an error to allow the state to introduce that evidence under Evid. R. 404(b). The evidence was admitted under the intent exception set out in the rule, and is allowed when a defendant affirmatively presents a claim of particular contrary intent, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander.

The probative value of the evidence in question outweighs the prejudicial impact of the evidence, the appellate court ruled. In the instant case, the evidence was introduced to show Prairie didn't intend to avoid arrest but to defraud Hutchinson. Intent to defraud is an element of the offense of identity deception.

In making his statement to police about using made-up information, Prairie implied to the detective that he didn't think Hutchinson existed, which is clearly not true, wrote the judge. Hutchinson's testimony about the relationship and prior identity theft was relevant in that it was probative on the question of Prairie's intent in providing false information to the hospital for billing purposes.

"Although there is certainly at least a theoretical risk that the jury could conclude under these circumstances that Prairie was guilty this time because he had done something similar to Hutchinson before, we find this risk is outweighed by the fact that Hutchinson's testimony makes the existence of the intent element of the crime charged more probable than it would be without Hutchinson's testimony," wrote Judge Friedlander.

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  1. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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