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Stated v. Dent

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 23, 2019

STATE OF MARYLAND
v.
WILLIAM V. DENT Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this case, the Court must determine whether a federal officer properly removed to federal court criminal charges lodged against him in a Maryland state court.

         In the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland, on May 18, 2018, the State of Maryland charged William V. Dent, a civilian federal officer assigned to the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations ("AFOSI"), with multiple crimes. The charges include assault in the first and second degree of Saifuddeen Acosta on March 26, 2018; reckless endangerment; use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence; and wearing a handgun upon his person. ECF 1-2 ("Indictment"). Dent removed the case to federal court on July 3, 2018, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442. ECF 1. The State has moved to remand. ECF 5.

         An evidentiary hearing has been scheduled concerning the motion to remand, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1455(b). In anticipation of the hearing, on March 25, 2019, defendant filed a motion in limine to preclude the expert testimony of Master Sergeant Matthew McLain. He is Special Agent, Superintendent, Basic Training Division, United States Air Force Special Investigations Academy. ECF 21 (the "Motion"); ECF 24-1 at 6-7 ("Biography"). The State opposes the Motion. ECF 24. Defendant replied. ECF 26.

         The State first notified defense counsel on December 3, 2018, of its intent to offer McLain as an expert in AFOSI "training, tactics, and authority." ECF 24-1 at 2. The State also provided defense counsel with a copy of McLain's curriculum vitae (id. at 6-7) and a copy of the memorialization of his approval concerning observations as to Acosta's video recording of the incident. Id. at 3-5. Further, the State notified defense counsel that it "anticipates that Special Agent McLain's testimony will relate to those facts delineated in his attached synopsis[.]" Id. at 2.

         According to the State, it designated McLain in response to notice from the defense of its intention to call Retired Special Agent Susan Howell to opine that, at the relevant time, Mr. Dent was acting within his authority as an AFOSI officer. ECF 24 at 2-3.

         For the reasons that follow, I shall deny the Motion in part and grant it in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 104(a), the court is responsible for determining "preliminary questions concerning the qualification of a person to be a witness" and "the admissibility of evidence," including the admissibility of expert testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. With regard to expert testimony, it is well settled that "[t]he party seeking admission of the expert testimony bears the burden of establishing admissibility by a preponderance of the evidence." Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Tecumseh Prods. Co., 161 F.Supp.2d 549, 553 (D. Md. 2011); see Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm,, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 590 (1993); Cody v. Ride-Away Handicap Equipment Corp., 702 Fed.Appx. 120, 124-25 (4th Cir. 2017); Cooper v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., 259 F.3d 194, 199 (4th Cir. 2001); Maryland Casualty Co. v. Therm-O-Disc, Inc., 137 F.3d 780, 783 (4th Cir. 1998); Casey v. Geek Squad ® Subsidiary Best Buy Stores, L.P., 823 F.Supp.2d 334, 340 (D. Md. 2011).

         Fed. R. Evid. 702 provides that a properly qualified expert witness may testify regarding technical, scientific, or other specialized knowledge in a given field if the testimony would assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or to determine a fact in issue. The rule "was intended to liberalize the introduction of relevant expert evidence." Westberry v. Gislaved Gummi AB, 178 F.3d 257, 261 (4th Cir. 1999).

         Rule 702, which governs expert testimony, provides:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence ...

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