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Argued December 10, 2001

Ricardo Riley was convicted of armed robbery based on evidence that he drove the getaway car for Thomas Bell after Bell held up a Payless Shoe Store at gunpoint. On appeal, Riley seeks a new trial because the trial court permitted the government to introduce other crimes evidence on the issue of Riley’s intent to aid and abet Bell in the commission of the robbery. This evidence consisted of testimony that a month before Riley was arrested in this case, the police stopped him while he was driving the getaway car for Bell following the armed robbery of another retail establishment. *fn1 Riley contends that the trial court erred in admitting this telling evidence because he did not “meaningfully contest” the element of intent. We conclude otherwise. Beginning with his counsel’s opening statement, which was delivered immediately after the government’s opening, Riley did contest the government’s proof of his intent in a “meaningful” fashion. Indeed, Riley’s intent to aid and abet the commission of an armed robbery was the central issue in the case. The trial judge therefore did not err in allowing the government, at the close of its case-in-chief, to present the other crimes evidence.

“[E]vidence of a crime for which the accused is not on trial is `inadmissible to prove disposition to commit crime, from which the jury may infer that the defendant committed the crime charged.’” Busey v. United States, 747 A.2d 1153, 1164 (D.C. 2000) (quoting Drew v. United States, 118 U.S. App. D.C. 11, 15-16, 331 F.2d 85, 89-90 (1964)). Other crimes evidence is admissible, however, when it is “relevant and important” to the issue of intent (among other issues). *fn2 Busey, 747 A.2d at 1164 n.12 (quoting Drew, 118 U.S. App. D.C. at 16, 331 F.2d at 90). The defendant’s intent must be “genuinely in issue, not merely in the sense that it is an element of the offense, but in the sense that it is genuinely controverted.” Thompson v. United States, 546 A.2d 414, 422-23 (D.C. 1988) (citations omitted). “[W]here intent is not controverted in any meaningful sense, evidence of other crimes to prove intent is so prejudicial per se that it is inadmissible as a matter of law.” Id. at 423.

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