Another Trustworthy Confidential Informant Allegedly Tied To Multiple Bogus Drug Arrests

from the all's-fair-in-drugs-and-war dept

The only thing as trustworthy as a cop’s testimony are statements made by confidential informants. These are used to secure warrants and, occasionally, as supporting evidence in prosecutions. Never mind the fact that confidential informants are often career criminals who carry with them the innate desire to stay out of jail.

If sworn affidavits and warrant applications are to be believed, there are no finer citizens than habitual offenders who offer their services to police officers in exchange for money and a “get out of jail free” card. The only time you can’t trust an informant is when he’s making statements about police misconduct or confessing that he’d lied multiple times to assist in the neverending Drug War.

A lawsuit filed in Colorado alleges that a confidential informant instrumental in the arrest of the four plaintiffs was exactly the sort of person a cop would normally expect a criminal to be, if that criminal hadn’t decided to “cooperate” with Team Blue.

Four women sued the city and three of its police officers Monday, claiming innocent citizens were swept up in the late December 2013 drug busts that were based “almost exclusively on uncorroborated and untrustworthy information provided by confidential informants.”

In particular, the suit names one of the (apparently, no longer very) confidential informants as being particularly toxic. On top of the fact that the bogus statements made by this CI have led to the dismissal of 40 drug-related prosecutions, this particular informant also had some serious interpersonal relationship problems.

The 53-page lawsuit draws a bead on one of the two confidential informants (CIs) police used, Crystal Bachicha, who is not a party to this case.

“In fact, three of the people who CI Bachicha had accused of selling her drugs were individuals who CI Bachicha had been charged with attempting to murder,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit — filed in conjunction with the ACLU — notes that Bachicha was actually arrested and charged with attempted murder. Bachicha walked away from the charges, but her brother — who was apparently involved in the attempted murdering — is now doing time.

CI Bachicha’s “pedigree” is amazing, but not in the way someone pushing warrant applications past a magistrate judge would hope.

a. CI Bachicha’s criminal record included at least three separate felony convictions and a sentence to the Department of Corrections.

b. At the time CI Bachicha agreed to become an informant and before the 2013 drug sting, she faced two additional felony counts of attempting to obtain a controlled substance by fraud or deceit, a charge in which lying is an element of the crime.

c. CI Bachicha agreed to work as a CI in return for, among other rewards, dismissal of the pending felony charges.

d. While CI Bachicha was making buys for the TPD, she was arrested in Raton, New Mexico, on yet another felony charge of attempting illegally to obtain prescription drugs by fraud, providing additional indications of her lack of reliability and credibility.

e. CI Bachicha was paid for each drug buy she claimed to have made, and the total payout to her amounted to $3,085. CI Bachicha was paid a premium for her alleged purchases from Ms. Gonzales.

The list of allegations continues with this accusation, which is simultaneously unsurprising and anticlimactic.

f. CI Bachicha has a history of illegal drug use.

The lawsuit also alleges Bachicha’s handlers made only minimal efforts to ensure controlled drug buys were actually controlled. Bachicha’s recollection of these purchases are short on detail and contain conflicting information about drug quantities and pricing, suggesting the CI may have been skimming cash and/or using drugs in her possession as “evidence” of purchases.

Even worse, Bachicha — on more than one occasion — performed physically impossible tasks for the PD.

Bachicha’s claims began to unravel when she implicated two people who were in jail when she claimed they sold her drugs, according to the lawsuit – a fact the defendant police officers surely could have checked.

Bachicha also claimed to be in two places at once: “Defendants claimed that they were working with CI Bachicha and monitoring her as she sold drugs to plaintiff Vickie Vargas at the exact same time they claimed that they were working with CI Bachicha at an entirely different location to buy drugs from another individual,” the complaint states.

When the police department offers its response and begins the work of defending itself against this lawsuit, it will no doubt try to rebuild the reputation of its not-so-informative informant. Most likely, it will point to the large number of arrests resulting from the CI’s tips, and hope the court fails to notice the dismissal of several of them.

But this is what passes for probable cause: the statements of a drug user who would otherwise not be trusted to state their own name by the police, much less offer corroborating evidence. And yet, when these untrustworthy people begin offering their services to law enforcement, they’re immediately granted a veneer of honesty they certainly haven’t earned.

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Comments on “Another Trustworthy Confidential Informant Allegedly Tied To Multiple Bogus Drug Arrests”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Benefit of the doubt, in doubt

No one, absolutely no one, not CI’s, not police officers, not lawyers, not prosecutors, not federal agents, not defendants, no one should have the benefit of the doubt or a presumption of truth telling. They should back up whatever they say with actual, you know, evidence.

If there are any laws that permit such behavior, they need to be reversed.

Video evidence should be presented without commentary so that jurors may make their own minds up about what the video shows. Videos should be shown, complete, unedited and un-enhanced though a complete and unedited but enhanced version may be shown as well. Zealous advocates should not be able to color what should or should not be seen in any such videos, and unless those videos can be proven to have been tampered with should be taken as fact.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sadly, this reminds me of a pimp pushing out his hookers to do tricks. Basically, the DoJ is taking a disturbed drug addict out to solicit more people and paying them so they can get more drugs, and so the cycle continues. I guess the war on drugs needs more pawns to take down another king, because sadly the victims certainly aren’t getting any better.

Whatever (profile) says:

Same old saw, different log

I read stories like this and I shake my head, because it’s the worst sort of attempt to broadbrush a large scale program by highlighting a bad apple.

Here’s some basic news for you: 1-3% of all people are involved in crime. From apple pickers to zoo keepers, that number is there. See all those people working with you in WalMart? 1 to 3 out of 100 are criminals.

There will always be bad apples, bad actors, criminal minds at work. They will seek to use and abuse the system to their own ends because it’s what they do. These people seek out the chances to make things work to their advantage.

Is the CI program perfect and absolutely without flaws? Of course not. Then again, on average one or more of the people who will post comments here today is a criminal (and it’s not me, before you suggest it). Does that invalidate comments?

Rather than trying to find outrageous and extreme cases, why not look at the system as a whole?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Same old saw, different log

The system as a hole … Yeah, nothing to see here, move along

How are those private prison dividends doing Biff?

You really think there are that many more real criminals in the US compared to other countries? Does it statistically make any sense? Yeah, didn’t think you wanted to address that.

So, everything is just fine out there in prisonland. How many of those bad apples are in jail? How many are even tried for their crimes?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Same old saw, different log

Rather than trying to find outrageous and extreme cases, why not look at the system as a whole?

Hmm, interesting idea. Let’s apply it to another of your statements, shall we?

Here’s some basic news for you: 1-3% of all people are involved in crime.

Well, according to your own numbers it looks like the overwhelming majority of people aren’t criminals, no need to investigate those that are I guess. I mean, if the majority are acting within the law, there’s no need to seek out ‘outrageous and extreme cases’ by doing anything about those that aren’t, right? No need to punish those that break the laws, or look into decreasing crimes by seeing if there’s something incentivising criminal actions that might be addressed?

People are dragged into court and locked up on the basis of what ‘trustworthy’ informants say. Even if only 1% of them were rotten that’s still 1% too many, and a significant problem that needs to be dealt with, not just brushed under the rug with a ‘But look at all the arrests they enable!’

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Same old saw, different log

Inevitably, when the police deal with confidential informants, most of them will be criminals. That’s because the best lever the police have to create an informant is threat of criminal punishment.

But that means that care must be taken to detect malfeasance on the part of the informant…and these police did none of that. They didn’t watch the buys; they made no factual checks (not even so much as to notice that the “seller” was in jail at the time of the so-called buy).

These officers were operating an arrest mill; they didn’t care whether the arrested individuals committed a crime or not. So they were complicit in falsification of evidence, they solicited perjury, and they filed false charges; resulting in wrongful conviction of citizens.

For whatever good they do, CI programs invite this kind of abuse. The problem is two-fold: high benefit and secrecy. The benefit of an arrest mill on a career is high, encouraging officers to overlook such “minor details” as citizen innocence. The secrecy makes it difficult or impossible for a defendant to challenge CI evidence. This makes the program a hunting ground for the “1-3%” of police officers who place their career–their personal advantage–above the Rights of citizens.

Wherever high benefit and secrecy exist, the criminal elements always congregate. It’s no different with the criminals that wear a badge.

Oblate (profile) says:

Re: Same old saw, different log

Rather than trying to find outrageous and extreme cases, why not look at the system as a whole?

Maybe because those cases show where the system is most broken, most ripe for abuse, and most in need of repair?

This is exactly the type of situation that should be focused on, with the brightest spotlight possible. Ignoring actions like this is what will bring the system down, not highlighting the problems in the system. And while I agree that this case is outrageous, having seen several similar stories in the past unfortunately I have trouble believing that this qualifies as extreme.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Same old saw, different log

Here’s some basic news for you: 1-3% of all people are involved in crime. From apple pickers to zoo keepers, that number is there. See all those people working with you in WalMart? 1 to 3 out of 100 are criminals.

That’s a really stupid thing to say. Just because 1-3% of all people in the US are involved in crime (just taking your statistic for granted) does not imply that 1-3% of any particular sample is as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s also the problem that the police are using CIs from the absolute bottom of the barrel. I don’t think I’d trust an informant who still gets busted doing deals in person and faking Rx’s… If you can’t figure out how to get a PO Box, Bitcoin, and the Tor Browser, you’re probably too dumb to be allowed to roam the streets unsupervised.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

One wonders which is worse, the CIs who will lie or the CIs coerced into being CIs and left out to dry.
Those kids they bust with small amounts of drugs and then try to use them to get deeper into criminal organizations and when the kid turns up dead, they didn’t know anything about it.

Perhaps coercing people isn’t a good way to investigate.
Perhaps using people who lie cheat & steal to get drugs shouldn’t be enabled to play out vendettas and keep using.

go (user link) says:

confidential informants

a bite out of crime…
if there were no one on drugs, it would put a host of American justice out of work. Thus business as usual is to make sure drugs are being bought, sold, used, and law enforcement to keep their paychecks comin and in such a way they make it look like Americans should be ful of fear
. Really a very disturbing business that I dread to think of what they will get on judgment day, knowing judg an dother staff are allowing it and making it continue out of selfish greed. It stands to question WHO is the real criminal I would think it is with propensity and probable cause… the ones who are eating the many bites out of crime?

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