Judge Otis Wright Slams 'Made Up' Government 'Plot' Designed To Ensnare Gullible Poor People

from the finally dept

For years now, we've been writing about the FBI's now popular practice of devising its own totally bogus "terrorist plots" and then convincing some hapless individual to join the "plot" only to later arrest them to great fanfare, despite the fact that everyone (other than the arrested person) involved was actually an FBI agent, and there was no actual danger or real plot (or real terrorists) involved. In fact, we just had yet another such story. We've written about similar occurances over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again -- and, depressingly, it seems that courts repeatedly uphold this practice as not being entrapment. Many have been questioning why the FBI is spending so much time and money creating fake terrorist plots that don't seem to protect anyone (but do give the FBI/DOJ lots of big headlines about "stopping terrorism!"), but the courts have basically let it go.

However, it finally appears that one judge thinks these kinds of things go too far -- and it happens to be Judge Otis Wright, whose name you may recall from being the first judge to really slap down Prenda law for its obnoxious copyright trolling practices. Reader Frankz alerts us to the news Wright has dismissed a case involving the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) for a similar "made up crime" and completely trashed the government for doing these kinds of things. As with his order in the Prenda case, I urge you to read his full dismissal which is granted for "outrageous government conduct." Judge Wright, it appears, is not one to hide his opinions about those who abuse the legal system. The ruling kicks off with a hint of where this is heading:
“‘Lead us not into temptation,’” Judge Noonan warned. United States v. Black, 733 F.3d 294, 313 (Noonan, J., dissenting). But into temptation the Government has gone, ensnaring chronically unemployed individuals from poverty-ridden areas in its fake drug stash-house robberies. While undoubtedly a valid law-enforcement tool when employed to target or prevent demonstrated criminal enterprises, reverse stings offend the United States Constitution when used solely to obtain convictions.
This case didn't involve "terrorism" like the FBI cases, but rather a similar "reverse sting" in which an ATF agent pretends to be a cocaine courier, tells some dupes about a "stash house" he knows about and then pushes them to rob the house. The ATF agent convinced a couple of guys, Cedrick Hudson and Joseph Whitfield, to take part, and they eventually brought along a third guy, Antuan Dunlap, after the ATF guy kept asking them to bring along associates. The group, lead by the ATF agent's detailed plan, agreed to rob this house and then were all arrested. It's the third guy, Dunlap, who argued that the government was engaged in outrageous conduct. The government claims that Dunlap bragging about being involved in past robberies means that it was perfectly reasonable to arrest him here, but Wright isn't having it:
the Court finds that the Government’s extensive involvement in dreaming up this fanciful scheme—including the arbitrary amount of drugs and illusory need for weapons and extra associates—transcends the bounds of due process and renders the Government’s actions outrageous.
Wright is not persuaded by the fact that Dunlap apparently bragged about his criminal past to the ATF agent, noting the reality of the situation:
It makes little sense to justify the Government’s capricious, stash-house scheme at its inception by what Thompson later learned about Dunlap. In a situation where an apparently experienced cocaine courier is boasting to some small-time crooks about the chance to hit the mother lode, it is only human nature that the individual is going to try to impress the courier with wild tales of past criminal conduct. In this case, there is no evidence that Dunlap actually robbed a Western Union or Nix. But even if he did, Thompson did not learn about Dunlap’s alleged past crimes until after Dunlap joined the doomed-to-fail crew. The Government cannot bootstrap this post hoc knowledge to justify the scheme from the beginning.

Those commercial robberies also bear little upon the fictitious stash-house scheme or the home invasions the ATF sought to eliminate. In fact, when Dunlap was bragging about this past exploits, he disavowed any connection to drugs:

[Dunlap]: Keep my ass clean. I never touch dope. I’m just saying though.

[Whitfield]: He’s a jack boy, he don’t know nothing about no drugs.

So contrary to the Government’s contention, Dunlap’s “admissions” only served to demonstrate that he had no propensity to commit drug crimes—the entire subject of the reverse sting.
Judge Wright clearly sees how allowing this kind of activity is going to lead to serious problems, especially as law enforcement can prey on desperate individuals, coax them into various plots, and then arrest them:
Allowing after-the-fact knowledge to mitigate the Court’s concerns in a situation like this also creates a perverse incentive for the Government. It encourages the Government to cast a wide net, trawling for crooks in seedy, poverty-ridden areas—all without an iota of suspicion that any particular person has committed similar conduct in the past. And if the Government happens to get it right and catch someone who previously engaged in crime, the courts will place their imprimatur on the whole fishing expedition.

The Court declines the invitation to endorse this nab-first-ask-questions-later approach. While this situation is a win-win for the Government, it is really only lose-lose for the unwitting individuals unlucky enough to fall into the Government's net. If they have never committed criminal activity in the past but agree to participate in the fake robbery, they go to prison—unless they can surmount the Everest-like hurdle to establish an entrapment defense.
This is important, because many people try to fight back against these kinds of cases with claims of entrapment, but Judge Wright correctly notes that (unfortunately) the bar to meeting an entrapment claim is ridiculously high. However, it's pretty obvious that there is no crime here absent the government's own intervention:
But for the undercover agent’s imagination in this case there would be no crime. The undercover agent invented his drug-courier persona, the stash house, the 20 to 25 kilograms of cocaine supposedly inside the stash house, the two individuals supposedly guarding the stash, the need to use weapons, and the idea of robbing the stash house. He even provided the putative safe house and getaway van. Dunlap brought little to the table besides his sheer presence and perhaps the hope of being able to obtain some quick cash.

.... Despite the Supreme Court’s admonition, the ATF manufactured this entire crime. It did not infiltrate an ongoing criminal enterprise, as there is no indication that Hudson, Whitfield, and Dunlap had any previous criminal affiliation between them.
Furthermore, Judge Wright notes that the government encouraged the activity, even if it wasn't to the level of entrapment, it was still quite clearly the key driver of the entire "crime" and that's what makes it "outrageous."
...here, the undercover agent provided a getaway van, putative safe house, and—most important of all—the entire scheme and its fictitious components. He also alleviated Defendants’ logistical and safety concerns when he “proposed that he would be inside the stash house at the time of the robbery . . . .” ...

Thompson also goaded Defendants to acquire weapons. He repeated several times over the course of the two-month ruse that “at least one of the individuals [guarding the nonexistent stash house] always carried a firearm.” ... (“SA Thompson asked if HUDSON and WHITFIELD’s associates could handle it if something happened during the robbery (referring to someone getting shot).”); ... (“SA Thompson asked if they could get him something (referring to a firearm), and WHITFIELD indicated he could get SA Thompson a little .380.”); ... (“SA Thompson asked about WHITFIELD getting him a little ‘strap’ (referring to a firearm that was previously discussed) and SA Thompson offered to cash him out (meaning pay him for the firearm). WHITFIELD indicted [sic] he could get SA Thompson something.”); ... (“SA Thompson next mentioned that there was always two individuals in the stash house and at least one of them was always armed, but as far as he knew, both could be armed.”); ... (“SA Thompson later indicated that the occupants of the stash house may not go down very easy.”); ... (“Like I said the one fool he is always strapped, but the other dude I think he might be, I just don’t know.”).) With Thompson continually sounding the war horn, it is not surprising that Defendants showed up to the final meeting with two weapons.

The undercover agent’s continued participation, assurances, and suggestions over the course of the two-month period made him “a partner in the criminal activity” rather than a mere “observer.” See Black, 733 F.3d at 308. His input was likewise “necessary” for Defendants to carry out their doomed plan, since but for Thompson’s imagination, there would have been no fictitious stash-house robbery to begin with— let alone the need for guns and extra associates.
Judge Wright points out that the government's attempt to brush all of this away by noting the guys were willing participants is bogus, since they're effectively preying on the extremely poor with promises of easy money. And, given the situation, the government can manipulate all the factors to basically nab anyone.
In these stash-house cases, the Government’s “participation in the offense conduct” is what makes them particularly repugnant to the Constitution. Everything about the scheme—and therefore almost everything bearing upon a defendant’s ultimate sentence—hinges solely on the Government’s whim. Why were there not 10 kilograms in the stash house? Or 100? Or 1,000? Why were the guards allegedly armed—necessitating that Defendants bring weapons along with them? All of these factors came down to the ATF and the undercover agent alone. That sort of arbitrariness offends the Constitution’s due-process demands.
In fact, Judge Wright notes that all of these choices by the ATF were not accidental. The push to get them to bring drugs, the amount of cocaine being discussed, each help the government pile on charges and potential time in jail. And while the government claims that defendants can argue a lack of intent in their own defense, Judge Wright notes that very few of these cases ever go to trial, because with the huge number of years in jail that people face, they almost always take a plea deal.
With the capriciously selected amount of drugs, a defendant has the proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over his head. He is not likely to let it fall and face the considerable prison time that surely awaits him if he loses at trial—especially when the Government has spent, like in this case, months recording conversations inculpating him in the trumped-up conspiracy.
Judge Wright notes the absurdity of sentencing guidelines based on a crime that is entirely made up by the government:
But the Government’s rationalization is hopelessly circular. The Government seeks to prosecute Dunlap for a fake crime it cut from whole cloth. To justify the serious sentence Dunlap faces as the result of its imagination, the Government attempts to use its creation of the crime, including the need to establish the undercover agent’s credibility, as the validation for the amount of drugs. The amount of drugs then justifies the sentence. But since the Government created each necessity and justification, the sentence no longer bears a proportional relationship to the defendant’s culpability—just the Government’s imagination. Something more than mere bootstrapping is needed for the Government to take 15-plus years away from Dunlap’s life.

The Government’s argument also proves the problem with this whole scheme. The Government asserts that it dreams up these stash-house robberies to catch people inclined to commit home invasions. But the Government must make the robbery scheme tempting enough to nab a potential criminal. The Government thus sets the drug amount at a level apparently it knows that no poverty-ridden individual could pass up. So the Government essentially admits that this ruse is not meant to simply skim off those individuals likely to commit similar crimes; rather, it is designed to never fail. And the high number of fake stash-house convictions the Government has attained confirms this strategy.
Judge Wright doesn't mince words about the impact of this case:
Zero. That’s the amount of drugs that the Government has taken off the streets as the result of this case and the hundreds of other fake stash-house cases around the country. That’s the problem with creating crime: the Government is not making the country any safer or reducing the actual flow of drugs. But for the Government’s action, the fake stash house would still be fake, the nonexistent drugs would still be nonexistent, and the fictional armed guards would still be fictional.... Instead, the Government comes close to imprisoning people solely because of their thoughts and economic circumstances rather than their criminal actions.

Society must question whether the astronomical cost associated with prosecuting fake crime is worth it.
So, the whole operation does nothing to take drugs off the street or stop any real crime. Instead? It just costs us all money:
But these stash-house cases do cost someone money: federal taxpayers. As of the date of this Order, there are 215,566 inmates in federal detention.... According to the Bureau of Prisons, the average cost to incarcerate a federal inmate in 2011 was $28,893.40.... In fictitious stash-house cases, the ATF usually seeks a 15-year sentence.... These fake robberies therefore cost federal taxpayers approximately $433,401 per defendant in incarceration costs alone—not to mention investigative, prosecutorial, defense, and judicial resources.
Judge Wright concludes with a stinging rebuke of the federal government and how it has confused law enforcement with "crime creation."
The time has come to remind the Executive Branch that the Constitution charges it with law enforcement—not crime creation. A reverse-sting operation like this one transcends the bounds of due process and makes the Government “the oppressor of its people.” .... In this case, the Constitution will not tolerate subjecting an individual to prosecution for an imaginary crime subject to a very real punishment—a punishment which rests entirely on ATF agents’ whims.
It is entirely likely that the DOJ will appeal, but for now, once again, we send out kudos to Judge Wright for seeing a true scam for what it is and for not being afraid to actually use his power as a judge, who is in charge of upholding the Constitution, to push back on clear abuses of the Constitution.

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    Ninja (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 7:44am

    I said it during the Prenda debacle and I'll say it again. Must have womb installed to have his kids. Come on girls, help me here, we need more Wrights in the world. Badly.

     

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    fogbugzd (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 8:26am

    I have noticed a disturbing trend that some parts of the government trying to criminalize poverty. Meanwhile other parts of government are promoting policies that increase number of people forced to live in poverty.

     

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      Just Another Anonymous Troll, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:05am

      Re:

      Maybe the government is trying to force us all into poverty, thereby making us criminals and justifying spying on us to no end.

       

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        Pragmatic, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:30am

        Re: Re:

        Also, many private prisons require 98% occupancy before agreeing to set up. So the business model goes:

        1. Promote the War on Drugs
        2. Encourage (but it's not, the court says so) entrapment
        3. Rake in the greenbacks

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 1:46pm

        Re: Re:

        Well, they are in the business of manipulation after all

         

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      sorrykb (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:15am

      Re:

      There's a particularly telling section on Page 15 of Judge Wright's ruling:
      An exchange between the undercover agent and Defendants on January 30,
      2013, compellingly demonstrates the economic pressures Defendants faced,
      exacerbated by the Government:

      [Agent]: Yep, what do you always say, you ain’t afraid of no money,
      right?
      [CI]: Yeah, I ain’t afraid of no money.
      [Agent]: You ain’t afraid of no cocaina are you? . . .
      Male: Hell yeah, it will change my life. . . .
      [Whitfield]: Sure, I’ll never be broke again. My kid’s gonna be
      straight. . . .
      [Whitfield]: I’m gonna buy property and everything, probably like five or
      ten years down the line, but it will be right.
      (Opp’n Ex. 2 at 45.)

      With the Government dangling over $600,000 in front of clearly
      impoverished individuals, it is no surprise that they took the bait.

       

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        Anonymous Howard (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 6:44am

        Re: Re:

        In the soviet era Hungary, the government were pissed at a punk band for their criticism.
        So once when the members were chilling out on the street a secret agent walked up to them, and gave the band leader a bottle of beer and a bottle opener. He gave away the stuff to a friend, who opened it, to be promptly arrested by the police for drinking in public.

        That's how the soviet era police worked.
        That's how apparently the FBI works today.
        Same shit, different motive.

         

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    Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:06am

    Setting up Terrorists

    Slam on all you want. No serious person is listening to you.

    What are you willing to demand that the FBI wait for, a terrorist who got a perfect score on his SATs? And if one of the not-so-brights doesn't get set up but kills a butt-load of Americans, you're going to what? Eat crow? Apologize? I doubt it.

    Because you people never apologize. It's part of what makes you people you people.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:16am

      Re: Setting up Terrorists

      Do trolls not speak english anymore? Or did Google's Troll to English translator page break or something?

       

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        Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:58am

        Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

        Did you have something to say? Because you left out the content. You don't agree with my support for the FBI "bait the wannabe terrorist" operations, say so. But for the sake of the rest of us, try saying ... something.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:36am

          Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

          Trying to switch the argument from entrapment to terrorists is a very poor attempt to justify your position shill. There was nothing in that article about terrorists.

          Terrorism has become the catchall for any overbearing attempt by the government against its citizens and how it ought to be ok. It is a favorite theme used but the term changes depending on the boogeyman of the day. Anti-porn, for the children, making the streets safe, have all been used and today's catch word is terrorism which has nothing to do with the article.

          Have a report vote for being so far off topic.

           

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            Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:22am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

            There was nothing in that article about terrorists

            This is from the first sentence of the original author's blog entry (mind you, the very first sentence):

            ...we've been writing about the FBI's now popular practice of devising its own totally bogus "terrorist plots" and then convincing some hapless individual to join the "plot"...

            Feel free to vote however you like. Just stick to the facts and stop making stuff up.

             

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      Ninja (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:16am

      Re: Setting up Terrorists

      U mad, bro?

      There are plenty of serious persons worried about such abuses. I guess you are the type that would be ok with the police putting drugs somewhere in order to get the desired result, no?

      Good thing there are sane, serious judges willing to stomp such behavior from law enforcement.

       

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        Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:00am

        Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

        Planting drugs == setting up a wannabe terrorist? Seriously?

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:33am

          Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

          I don't think he was a wannabe terrorist. I think he was a person of questionable morals who no longer wanted to be impoverished.

          That's the fundamental problem with these types of operations. They aren't (just) catching wannabe terrorists (and I'd still have a problem even if they were, because that's basically declaring thoughts illegal), they are inducing people to engage in particular crimes that they wouldn't have otherwise done. And that is the very definition of entrapment.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:05am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

            Desperate people do desperate things. If you really want to do something to stop these sorts of things you have to treat the cause not the symptom. Crime is the symptom not the problem. The problem is poverty. Do something to address that and the vast majority of these individuals will no longer be inclined to commit desperate acts.

             

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              Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:16am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

              Poverty is the result.
              Poor morals are the cause.
              Stop giving poor people a pass on taking responsibility for their poverty.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:27am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                Bullshit. Lack of education, skills and opportunity causes poverty.

                 

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                  Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 12:29pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                  You know what I noticed as I waited tables to put myself through college and onto a full-ride scholarship/grant a grad school?

                  I noticed that while I was acquiring my education and my skills, I was making opportunities happen for myself.

                  And I noticed lazy poor people doing diddly other than whining about how they got screwed and ended up with no education, skills or opportunities.

                  And then I understood the nature of poverty. You should try thinking about it a bit more. It might help get you over that understanding threshold that has you blocked and making little progress.

                   

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                    Ruben, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 12:57pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                    Are you really asserting that one's circumstance has nothing to do with how they fare in life? That being born into privilege is not an advantage? That being born into poverty is not a detriment?

                    An interesting take on things, to be sure.

                     

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                    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 1:10pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                    "And then I understood the nature of poverty"

                    No, you really didn't understand a thing about poverty. Perhaps you should try learning about the subject, and thinking about it a little more.

                     

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                    simality (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 6:29pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                    These days it takes more than hard work to get ahead. It takes luck, a willingness to take a chance, or someone has cut you a break.

                    Most jobs that don't require a college degree also don't pay enough for a person to go to college. Heck, you're lucky if you can make enough to get by without a second job.

                     

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                      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 10:02am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                      "These days it takes more than hard work to get ahead. It takes luck, a willingness to take a chance, or someone has cut you a break. "

                      Usually, it takes all three. And it's not just "these days" -- that's the way it has always been. The entire notion of the "self-made man" is, and has always been, bullshit. Nobody succeeds without help from somebody.

                       

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                    Eponymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:58pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                    The fact that you think hard work earns you a place at the table is fucking hilarious. I'll put the the lie to this precious "truth" of yours: I'm a person of questionable morals, poor work ethic, cynical attitude, the works etc., and yet I live just fine in one of the more expensive cities in the US. If what you said was correct then I should be living off of welfare in project housing somewhere, but instead I just float through life upon my advantage not giving a shit. This is all anecdotal for both of us, but I figure you getting to where you are and you working hard is a coincidence without causation.

                     

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                  madasahatter (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 6:30pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                  Wrong! Poverty has several causes some are external to the person and some internal to the person. Many who are poor do take control of factors within their control, like get an education, get real job skills (not flipping burgers at local burger joint), stop blaming others for all their problems. However, they do have problems with getting to decent schools, training, etc.

                  The real problem the post was addressing is the tendency for the government to entrap the vulnerable and desperate with entirely fictional crimes. The defendants were goaded to act and apparently never seriously considered committing the planned act. Without the ATF's active involvement, they probably would never even thought the crime.

                   

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                  Anonymous, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 7:41pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                  So laziness and lack of ambition have absolutely nothing to do with it?

                   

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                Jason Still (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:33am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                Poverty is the result.
                Poor morals are the cause.

                Now I know you're just trolling. If poor morals caused poverty, we wouldn't have so many wealthy, morally bankrupt politicians.

                 

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                  lucidrenegade (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 12:53pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                  Of course he's a troll...

                  https://twitter.com/pabarge

                   

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                    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 1:13pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                    Holy crap! That's a page full of crazy, to be sure. Thanks, lucidrenegade, for a while there I thought I was having a discussion with a reasonable person that I simply disagreed with(although once he trotted out his "people are poor because they're immoral" stance, I was already doubting that.)

                     

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                  Shadow-Slider, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 12:56pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                  Technically poor morals do caused poverty. If wealthy, morally bankrupt politicians, businessmen did not have particular ethics they have, that is sticking to what is technically legal, they would be in the same situation. That and the aforesaid people probably practice their morally dubious act on non family members than the ones in poverty.

                   

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                Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:40am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                you are right. Poverty is the result of poor morals.

                Poor morals of the people in charge, politicians, managers, bankers.

                And the poor m,orals of people like you justifying the unjustifiable.

                YOU are part of the problem!

                 

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                John Fenderson (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:41am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                He wasn't giving anybody a pass.

                "Poverty is the result.
                Poor morals are the cause."

                Are you really asserting that people are poor because they don't have good morals?

                 

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                Ninja (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:53am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                I was going to discuss how law enforcement can frame you into appearing you are a "terrorist wannabe" but you just proved you are a moron. A rotten one I must add.

                 

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:20am

      Re: Setting up Terrorists

      If, Maybe,Possibly ,Could have...All Speculative.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:22am

      Re: Setting up Terrorists

      The FBI is just a collections of cowards, liars, thugs, bullies, rapists and assholes -- not that different from any police department. That's why they failed to catch a group of terrorists who were learning to fly planes but not to land them even though they were right in front of them.

      The only terrorists that these pigs are ever going to catch are the ones who are so incredibly stupid that they self-destruct. They have no chance at all of ever apprehending the intelligent and careful ones. NONE.

       

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        Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:02am

        Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

        Yes, they failed.

        The answer to failure is not to double-down on failure; by looking the other way, which is pretty much what you suggest.

        Isn't it?

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:08am

          Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

          This isn't really part of the ATF's mandate though anyway. Remember the ATF is part of the treasury department. All they really are is tax collectors.

           

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            Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 12:33pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

            Please. Tell this to the victims of Fast and Furious.

            The ATF would be on my short list of first federal entities to shut down when the Tea Party takes over Washington DC.

             

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:28am

      Re: Setting up Terrorists

      Poe's Law? OR serious attack?

      Because if this is serious, then yourt paradox crumple-zone is showing again.

       

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      David, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:35am

      Re: Setting up Terrorists

      The problem is when you have the government aggressively proselytizing people to commit terrorist acts. In that case, they are little different than the terrorist organizations we are against.

      What happens when the government turns someone into a terrorist, and their target goes off-script and kills people?

       

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        scotts13 (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:51am

        Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

        The agency involved gets a bigger budget. They clearly haven't had the resources to 'stop all attacks.' it's not like anyone would ever find out what really happened...

         

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        Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:26am

        Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

        ... they are little different than the terrorist organizations we are against.

        No, they (the law enforcement agencies) are not blowing up innocent people.

        Do they suck? Are theyinept? Might they be more effective with different techniques?

        Yes to all.

        But they are not the same. And if you find yourself convincing yourself that they are, I would suggest taking some quiet time to rethink how you think.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:45am

          Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

          "No, they (the law enforcement agencies) are not blowing up innocent people"

          True. They prefer to kill them individually instead.

          Also, terrorism and blowing people up are two different things. You can engage in terrorism without the use of explosives and you can blow people up without being a terrorist.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2014 @ 10:19am

          Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

          Right, because they didn't spend months on these guys trying to get them to agree to the robbery, right? They suggested it over a beer at the pub. Get real. Any time you have to spend this much time and money to talk someone into doing something illegal, they weren't prone to the act in the first place.

           

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        nasch (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:50pm

        Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

        What happens when the government turns someone into a terrorist, and their target goes off-script and kills people?

        They only target people who have no chance of carrying anything out on their own, so not much risk of that.

         

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      Imaginant, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:51am

      Re: Setting up Terrorists

      I think you have missed the Judge's point. There was no crime prevented here. The actions and manipulations by the FBI were designed to be effective in recruiting the subject. You can always set the bar so high that someone, especially someone poor, would likely take the bait when, under most other conditions, that someone would not. This is not "law enforcement."

      But really, the Judges ruling says this far better than I can. Just reread with a mind that is a little more open. The ruling is exceedingly clear and unusually perceptive, IMHO. This Judge deserves the highest respect. BTW, this case did not involve terrorists, making your comment speculative at best. But yes, there is a correlating principle that I think is valid. However, comments on this are best saved for an actual ruling on terrorism. Specifics are important in any ruling.

       

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        Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:05am

        Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

        I was referring to this:
        we've been writing about the FBI's now popular practice of devising its own totally bogus "terrorist plots" and then convincing some hapless individual to join the "plot"
        - quote: the author of this piece.

        comments on this are best saved for an actual ruling on terrorism.

        Tell this to the original author of this piece. You seem to have left him out.

         

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          John Fenderson (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:39am

          Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

          The two things are related, though. They are both about the cops manufacturing threats.

           

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            Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:28am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

            Cops are not manufacturing threats. The cops are manufacturing sting operations.

            Let's all whine-on about how ineffective those sting operations are so we can get Cops to build better sting operations.

            Would you agree with that?

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:33am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

              Technically the threat is manufactured by the prosecutor in trying to convict person.

               

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:48am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

              your sheepish devotion to your perceived "righteousness" of law enforcement really marks you as the dumbest cunt I have read in these comments for a long while.

              Your heroes have become the threat, and the systematic abuse of civil liberties shows they have become the terrorists.

               

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                Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 12:35pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                Reported for potty mouth.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 1:11pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                  You don't understand how the report button works around here, do you?

                   

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                    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 1:21pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                    That's not all he fails to understand apparently.

                     

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                    Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:25pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                    Oh, is there a club? How quaint. Is there a secret hand shake? If you hit your own face repeatedly, rub yourself really hard and repeat the secret mantra over and over again, do you moan a lot?

                     

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                Eldakka (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:07pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                Upvoted for truth and for potty mouth!

                 

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              John Fenderson (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:48am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

              "Would you agree with that?"

              No. My problem with the sting operations is not their effectiveness or lack of it.

              My problem with them is that they appear to be ensnaring people who would not have engaged in illegal activity if not for the cops encouraging them to do so.

              There is a role for sting operations, and they can be done in a way that is just fine. However, that involves finding people who are already engaging in the criminal activity and setting them up so they to engage in it with the cops.

              It sure doesn't look like that's what's happening here.

               

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                Brazenly Anonymous, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 7:12pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                already engaging in the criminal activity and setting them up so they to engage in it with the cops.


                This test cannot be tried in a court of law. After all, the police only have the evidence from the Sting operation. Sting operations need to be banned for any relief from this tactic to be obtained. The practice is a very powerful tool for fighting crime. Unfortunately, this use of it proves that the tool carries too high a cost to be allowed.

                A possible compromise is to require a warrant prior to the carrying out of any Sting operation, with the warrant being required to demonstrate reasonable suspicion of a prior event.

                 

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                  nasch (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:53pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                  After all, the police only have the evidence from the Sting operation.

                  How did you come to that conclusion? If that were true, then the only crimes that could ever be prosecuted would be the ones that were part of a sting. Obviously they can have other evidence, such as the evidence leading them to conduct the sting in the first place.

                   

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                  John Fenderson (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:48am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

                  "This test cannot be tried in a court of law."

                  If I remember correctly, the standard the court uses is this: would the suspect have committed the crime if given the chance even if the police weren't arranging the circumstances.

                  In legitimate sting operations, for example, the cops can't try to convince someone to commit the crime. They could leave a pile of money visible in an unlocked car and nab anyone who tries to steal it, but they could approach people and say "hey, there's a bunch of money in that car over there for the taking. You should go take it!"

                   

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              JMT (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 4:47pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Setting up Terrorists

              "Cops are not manufacturing threats."

              What was the threat here? If the ATF had done nothing, no crime would've occurred. Crime would have been prevented by their lack of action. How is this not cops manufacturing threats? Explain your backwards logic to us please.

               

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      Brazenly Anonymous, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 6:17pm

      Re: Setting up Terrorists

      The FBI don't need to wait, they simply need to avoid the crime of conspiracy to commit terrorism if they then wish to charge a defendant for that same conspiracy or the attempt to fulfill said conspiracy.

      "The door of a court is not barred because the plaintiff has committed a crime. The confirmed criminal is as much entitled to redress as his most virtuous fellow citizen; no record of crime, however long, makes one an outlaw. The court's aid is denied only when he who seeks it has violated the law in connection with the very transaction as to which he seeks legal redress. Then aid is denied despite the defendant's wrong. It is denied in order to maintain respect for law; in order to promote confidence in the administration of justice; in order to preserve the judicial process from contamination. The rule is one, not of action, but of inaction. It is sometimes spoken of as a rule of substantive law. But it extends to matters of procedure, as well. A defense may be waived. It is waived when not pleaded. But the objection that the plaintiff comes with unclean hands will be taken by the court itself. It will be taken despite the wish to the contrary of all the parties to the litigation. The court protects itself."

      Justice Brandeis, Dissenting, Olmstead v.United States (1928)

      That would be a Supreme Court Justice, by the way. A very serious position for a person to hold.

       

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    GMacGuffin (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:11am

    Hopefully another trend

    Judge Wright started a judicial trend with his Prenda smackdown. Perhaps his ballsy willingness to pull the trigger like this here will spur other fed judges on, like before.

    One can only hope.

     

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    S. T. Stone, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:17am

    I love you, Judge Wright.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:17am

    Pretty much this exact scenario appears in the new season of "House of Cards"... in order to silence him, angry dude is solicited, trained, encouraged by the government to infiltrate a data center, and then charged with 35 years' worth of assorted cybercrimes. Appallingly devious in a work of fiction, profoundly immoral in real life.

     

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    jimb (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:50am

    As always we we learn about this kind of activity, its important, most important, to follow the money. In this case we see a government agent and government agency, which competes with other government agencies for scarce funding, inventing crimes and criminals to insure its sufficient claim for a continuing budget, and perhaps even budget increases. The judge notes this as a cost to taxpayers, but it is also a boon to the bureaucrats and agents, providing continuing salaries and benefits, new equipment, and eventually a "well deserved" retirement. One of the commenters also notes that with the growth of the private prison industry, there's corporate profits to be made by keeping the pipeline filled with 'criminals'. Clearly the money shows the real motivation behind these inventive activities by law enforcement agencies. It appears that the motto "To protect and serve" left off the last word, "ourselves".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:53am

    Whatever happened to "serve and protect"?

     

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    Namel3ss (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:04am

    One of very few judges that actually get it

    Once again my hat's off to Judge Wright. We need more like him, who are at least somewhat interested in justice and not just letting the gov't do whatever the f*ck it feels like.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:04am

    So why can't the DOJ, ATF, FBI, SEC dream up an accounting scheme to put wall street behind bars? Surely, it's not difficult to come up with a new tax trick or ponzi scheme that they'd all fall for. At least they would be able to pay the $29k yearly costs as restitution - a win-win for everyone. We'd get our financial system cleaned up and ppl would be able to have confiedence in the economy again.

    Of course I'm over looking the fact that financial crimes rarely recieve jail time unlike cyber or drug crimes.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:13am

      Re:

      "So why can't the DOJ, ATF, FBI, SEC dream up an accounting scheme to put wall street behind bars?"

      Nice pension you got there, son. Shame if anything happened to it. Now get out of here.

       

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      Paul A'Barge (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 12:25pm

      Re:

      ... financial crimes rarely recieve jail time...

      rarely? I know I could sit here all day and throw anecdote after anecdote at you and all of them would stick like, well two positrons in close vicinity.

      So, let's just ask, shall we? Tell us the actual, measured percentage behind rarely.

      Bernie Madoff wants to know.

       

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      nasch (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:57pm

      Re:

      So why can't the DOJ, ATF, FBI, SEC dream up an accounting scheme to put wall street behind bars?

      Maybe because those people have the money and connections to be a pain in the rear, so they choose to pursue easier (read:powerless) targets? Just speculating.

      Oh, is my cynicism showing?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:28am

    Judge Wright, has restored a little bit of my respect for the judicial system. It's a sad the DOJ is going after poor people, and attempting to entrap them by offering them "easy money".

    For shame.

     

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    AC, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:35am

    President

    I would like to nominate Judge Otis Wright for president of the USA.

     

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    Ben (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:27am

    Judge Wright is an absolute credit to your country. If I were in a position to vote for him in any elected capacity I would do so without a second thought.

    You need more people in the US willing to stand up for intelligent destruction of the ability of lawyers and politicians to weasel their way around the law and the Constitution.

    Give THAT man a Nobel prize, I don't care what category... he can have the Economics one for all I care. Just give it to someone who actually did something for a change!

     

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    ysth (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 11:40am

    Can we get this man on the Supreme Court?

    Just sayin'

     

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    Trevor, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 12:52pm

    Um...

    I love how it can be a crime to disrupt a crime.

    18 USC 1951:
    "§ 1951. Interference with commerce by threats or violence

    (a) Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both."

    If someone commits robbery by stealing cocaine, they can be charged with a crime of "affecting commerce of any article or commodity" even if that article or commodity is illegal.

    YOU BROKE THE LAW BY STOPPING SOMEONE FROM BEING ABLE TO BREAK THE LAW, HURHUR

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 8:55pm

      Re: Um...

      Yeah, it's rather stupid that they would attempt to prosecute someone for attempting to interfere with commerce when the commerce is unquestionably illegal. By that logic, the police should be arrested whenever they conduct a drug raid - they are interfering with commerce! (But since this was a federal case, I guess they had to charge him with only federal crimes? Simple robbery isn't a federal crime, but stuff relating to commerce is.)

      I do think it matters that the target they were going to rob was supposed to be a drug house. The target of the robbery had no legitimate claim to the illegal drugs. And they were assured there were only two guards in the house - no innocent bystanders. This isn't the same as just robbing a random house.

      If they're worried about home stopping invasions, then they should have made it a home invasion. Tell them someone just won a medium prize in the lottery and has a bunch of great stuff to steal. And tell them there's a single mother with a 6 year old kid inside, and the plan is to tie them up and then take everything of value from their home. If they agree to something like THAT, then you know you're getting scum off the streets.

      And as the ruling notes, a sting operation on drug house robberies is counterproductive because it makes drug houses safer. Why do we want to conduct months-long sting operations to make drug houses safer? The agent could have invented ANY plot he wished; why did he choose this one?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Judge Wright for the win.

    Why can't we have more people like him in power, and less like the Cheneys, Clappers, and Alexanders of the world?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 1:55pm

    Would that we had

    Judge Wright in Milwaukee, considering the debacle ATF created here. http://m.jsonline.com/more/news/milwaukee/201794871.htm

     

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    Scott (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 4:25pm

    With Rulings Like These

    How are local governments supposed to meet their quota for the "for profit" prisons. They pay a penalty for that, you know.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 7:41pm

    Let me guess, Paul A Barge, you think John Steele is innocent.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 8:58pm

    example

    So, let me get this straight. If I drove a new Ferrari to a Mcdonalds and an undercover cop there asked how my new car was holding up, and I sarcastically replied "the windows are broken and the tail lights are smashed" he could write me a ticket for a broken tail light, even if the car was actually new? Or maybe if a forum user said they wanted to kill everybody on the board, law enforcement could count the ip addresses at the time and charge the guy for murdering X people, even though he didn't.

     

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    FM Hilton, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 3:11am

    Judge Wright for the win!

    It's been a long time since I've seen such an elegant and devastating take-down of the government by a judge-and he obviously doesn't take crap from them for anything.

    It's too bad that there aren't more like him in the judiciary, and that most of them just cower in the corner when the government calls an entrapment scheme legal.

    As for the poster that claims that poverty is caused by poor morals, whose are we talking about? The people who keep voting against all means for the poor to better themselves or the people who constantly call the poor 'scum of the earth' just for existing?

    The cycle of poverty exists because politicians and other interested parties have a monetary interest in keeping it going. After all, the prison complex system always needs new blood!

    If poor people were allowed to get out of the cycle, it would definitely put a crimp in it. Sustaining it takes time and money. The government is there to help it along...after all, their motto is: "We're from the government and we're here to help you."

    Just don't take it seriously. They don't mean it, really.

     

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    ForReal! (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 10:08am

    DO THE RIGHT THING !!

    WE NEED THIS JUDGE IN TULSA, OK.
    In Tulsa, OK. FBI created a sting to catch a dirt bag cop because people were complaining about him stopping them and stealing their drug money. The sting is on video, the dirty cop puts money in his back pocket while other officers that he called for backup are in another room and one is on the phone.. not watching the dirty cop.
    The dirty cop of course makes a deal, he said he was going to share the stolen money with the other officers, but they knew nothing about it. The undercover FBI posing as a dealer, has no drugs only money. This FBI undercover agent said to the grand jury, only the one officer, the dirty one, is actually dirty because there were two more stings were done on the other officers just to make sure.. all money was always turned in, there were never any drugs. One of the innocent officers (on the force over 34 years and retiring with no complaints) tried to coax the undercover FBI to bring drugs to Tulsa, OK ..to befriend him, to reel him as they are trained to do, so he could catch him with drugs and arrest him. The FBI undercover called once and said he had drugs, but already sold them. This officer never saw this man with any drugs, but if he had proceeds from drugs sales, he turned in the money. All five officers are charged based on the words of the dirty cop that said he was going to share the money which was a lie , but that is the deal he made with the Federal Prosecutor from Little Rock so they could have a higher head to promote their careers. The dirty cop even told the other cops to say some names and they can have a deal too…which the Federal Prosecutors tried to get them to take deals four times, they all said ‘ no, we’ve done nothing wrong’.
    Now at trial the FBI undercover agent changes his story to say what the Federal Prosecutor from Little Rock, AR. tells him to say. What he said on the stand in NOT what he told the grand jury. The FBI says the dirty cop gave this officer money, OFF CAMERA ! that is a lie and how would he know that, only from the dirty cop making a deal to save himself.
    Then the Federal Prosecutor from Little Rock, AR. says this innocent officer, who is 60 years old now and retired is a ‘king pin’ drug dealer !!! charged with conspiracy to sell drugs, that he is trying to get a man to bring drugs to the streets of Tulsa !.. there were no drugs !! and no money missing ! HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN ??
    No evidence of any of this… there were never any drugs !
    The Federal Prosecutors know they lied and withheld evidence, the defense tried to bring in evidence , the Federal Judge from New Mexico always sided with the Federal Prosecutors.. not to mention the undercover FBI either lied on the stand in Tulsa, OK. or he lied to the grand jury, shouldn’t be a big deal? The Federal Prosecutors told other officers, if they talked to any Defense attorneys they would be charged with obstruction of justice ! That is a joke, the Federal Prosecutors are the ones obstructing justice and by threatening the defense witnesses, these officers did not get a fair trial.
    The dirty bag officer, at home with his family.. the innocent officer that is now 62 years old is in prison.
    The Federal Prosecutors lied repeatedly and they knew it, but the jury when they heard since they didn’t have a decision would come back next week, then all of a sudden, they say ‘guilty of conspiracy to sell drugs’… there were no drugs. The Federal Prosecutor decided the weight of the nonexistence drugs and the innocent officer got 10 years in prison..
    Our system is a joke.

     

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    GEMont, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 11:19am

    VIC Very Important Criminals

    Under American law, if I sell a bag of oregano to someone and tell them its pot, I can be charged with selling pot.

    I would say that the FBI has committed a crime by planning a robbery and enlisting criminals to carry out that robbery. That the robbery was a fake - like the oregano - should make no difference at all.

    Apparently the FBI has a license to commit crime.

     

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    GEMont, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 4:38pm

    Judgement

    Here's hoping that the honorable Judge Wright has no incriminating skeletons in his closet and is not intimidated by fabricated evidence planted on his computer or mailed to his home.

    On the other hand, this is another fine example of the power of the NSA's blackmail capability.

    If a man as ballsy as this one, bends to the will of the Fed and reverses his decision, you can bet your last buck that he's received a package of photo-shopped images in the male, courtesy of the Outhouse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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