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United States v. Cadet

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

August 1, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JONATHAN CADET, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO PRECLUDE GOVERNMENT FROM INTRODUCING TEXT MESSAGES AND COMMUNICATIONS

          Susan Oki Mollway, United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION.

         Before this court is Defendant Jonathan Cadet's Motion To Preclude Government From Introducing Text Messages and Communications. See ECF No. 25. Cadet has been charged with obstruction of a sex trafficking investigation and witness tampering. See ECF No. 1. These charges relate to alleged communications with his wife, identified by the Government as a victim in a pending sex trafficking case to which Cadet is not a party. See id.; ECF No. 29, PageID #s 84-85. Cadet now seeks to prevent the Government from introducing these communications at the trial of his case, arguing that the communications are covered by the marital communications privilege. See ECF No. 25, PageID # 64.

         The court agrees that the communications at issue fall within the marital communications privilege. However, there is an exception to the privilege when the communications relate to a crime in which the spouse is a victim. Finding that this exception applies to the privileged communications here, the court denies Cadet's motion.

         II. BACKGROUND.

         The charges against Cadet relate to a pending criminal case, United States v. Isaiah McCoy and Tawana Roberts, Cr. No. 18-00016 SOM, in which the defendants are accused of sex trafficking in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591 (“McCoy case”). On May 14, 2018, a criminal complaint against Cadet was filed. See ECF No. 1. The complaint alleges that Cadet called and sent text messages to his wife, S.P., [1] an alleged victim in the McCoy case, threatening her and pressuring her not to testify in the McCoy case. See id., PageID #s 2-3.

         According to the complaint, Cadet told S.P.:

that McCoy's “boys” were out looking for her because she was a witness in his pending case . . ., that “they are looking to kill u that's wat people do wen u rat on them lines, ” and then called her a “rat, ” a “lier, snake, demon, satin child” and a “lier false witness devil” and told her he would appear as a witness to defend McCoy . . . .

Id. at 2. Cadet was charged with one count of obstruction of a sex trafficking investigation in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(d) (“Count I”) and one count of witness tampering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(2), (b), and (d) (“Count II”). Id.

         On July 3, 2018, Cadet filed the present motion, seeking to preclude the Government from introducing at trial text messages and communications between Cadet and S.P. See ECF No. 25, PageID # 64.

         III. STANDARD FOR MARITAL COMMUNICATIONS PRIVILEGE.

         Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence provides that, except as otherwise required by the United States Constitution, federal statute, or Supreme Court rule, “[t]he common law . . . governs a claim of privilege.” Fed.R.Evid. 501. Federal common law recognizes a marital communications privilege that “protects from disclosure private communications between spouses.” United States v. Griffin, 440 F.3d 1138, 1143-44 (9th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). The privilege exists to “protect the integrity of marriages and ensure that spouses freely communicate with one another.” Id. at 1143 (alterations omitted) (quoting United States v. White, 974 F.2d 1135, 1138 (9th Cir. 1992)). The privilege may be invoked by the nontestifying spouse even after dissolution of the marriage. United States v. Marashi, 913 F.2d 724, 729 (9th Cir. 1990).

         The marital communications privilege covers only (1) “words or acts intended as communication to the other spouse, ” (2) “those communications made during a valid marriage, ” and (3) “those marital communications which are confidential.” Id. at 729-30. “Marital communications are presumptively confidential; the government has the burden of demonstrating that they are not.” Id. at 730. The Ninth Circuit has “emphasized that we will narrowly construe the marital communications privilege because it obstructs the truth-seeking process.” Id.

         IV. ...


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