United States v. Brackeen, 969 F.2d 827 (C.D. Cal. 1992).

Facts: Brackeen (Defendant) committed three bank robberies, two by himself and one with an accomplice. The two robberies that he committed by himself, Defendant was unarmed. During the third robbery, however, Defendant’s accomplice was armed. Defendant claimed that he did not know that his accomplice was armed.
Defendant plead guilty for the two robberies that he committed by himself but went to trial for the one with the accomplice (the punishment for armed robbery was much more severe than unarmed robbery). During trial, Defendant took the stand to testify and during cross-examination, the prosecutor tried to introduce evidence of Defendant’s guilty pleas for the other two robberies. Defendant argued that the evidence was inadmissible. The district court, however, ruled that the evidence was admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence (“FRE”) 609(a)(2) which allows impeachment evidence for crime involving dishonesty or false statement. The court reasoned that bank robbery fell into the umbrella of the rule as it involved stealing and, therefore, dishonesty.

Issue: Whether the crime of bank robbery involves “dishonesty” as the term is used in FRE 609(a)(2).

Holding: No.

Rationale: The Court observed that the term “dishonesty” has two meanings, one of which includes, and one which excludes, crimes such as bank robbery. In its broader meaning, dishonesty is defined as a breach of trust, a lack of probity or integrity in principle, lack of fairness, or a disposition to betray. In its narrower meaning, however, dishonesty is defined as a deceitful behavior, a disposition to defraud or deceive. Bank robbery does not fit within this definition of “dishonesty” because it is a crime of violent, not deceitful, taking.


The Court revied legislative history to determine that dishonesty as used in FRE 609(a)(2) was meant to describe a crime that involved deceit such as perjury, fraud, false pretense, and embezzlement. Bank robbery, therefore, did not fit under this category.

COMPLETE TEXT OF THE OPINION