DOJ Drops Stupid Drug Trafficking Charges Against FedEx After Judge Criticizes Its 'Novel Prosecution'
from the The-Man-reluctantly-moves-on-to-hassling-other-parties dept
After two years, the DOJ has decided to drop its bogus conspiracy/drug trafficking case against Federal Express. In July 2014, FedEx was hit with an indictment for allegedly knowingly delivering illegal/counterfeit drugs to a handful of sketchy recipients.
The government insisted FedEx perform interdiction efforts for it by opening boxes and determining (without guidance) whether or not the contents were legit. FedEx pointed out that it was in the package delivery business, not the law enforcement business. The DEA shrugged and said, "Do better." FedEx said, "Why don't you give us a list of people/businesses you think are engaged in illegal activities?" The DOJ refused to do so and rewarded FedEx's good faith efforts with an indictment.
An indictment is easy to obtain, as anyone familiar with the machinations of grand juries is aware. The DOJ's case, however, immediately fell apart after it dragged its purple and orange ham sandwich into a process that's actually adversarial. Judge Charles Breyer -- who we know from his hilariously-redacted denial of HP's heavily-redacted request to seal documents and his interest in the FBI's possibly-illegal courthouse step wiretaps -- presided over the opening arguments… and that was pretty much all he had to hear.
Addressing the court briefly, Breyer said, "I'm quite familiar with this industry. I'm deeply concerned by tragic consequences caused by sales of toxic substances to individuals, including children, who have not had a direct consultation with a licensed physician"
But this case was "entirely different," Breyer said. "The court has been asked to determine if defendant should be held criminally liable as a co-conspirator. As a result of detailed opening statements by the government and defense and accepting factual assertions as uncontested, the court concludes the defendants are factually innocent. They did not have criminal intent."
Breyer emphasized that FedEx repeatedly offered to help the government, asking officials to identify a particular customer shipping illegal substances, so that it might stop picking up its packages.
"The DEA was unwilling or incapable of providing that information to FedEx," Breyer said. "Rather the government decided to pursue this novel prosecution."
When judges call something "novel," it's rarely because they're impressed. "Novel" is a polite way of saying "bullshit." Or "insane." It's a word pro se plaintiffs hear quite frequently. The DOJ is probably not quite as used to it, as even its weakest arguments tend to be granted more deference than they deserve.
That was enough to convince the DOJ to drop the charges, wrapping up another ridiculous situation where drug warrior zealotry has culminated in The Man sticking it to Himself.
The DEA certainly could have intercepted suspicious packages and examined them itself, but it chose to pass that burden on to the intermediary. This suggests its investigations aren't going as smoothly as it might have hoped. Probable cause for search warrants isn't a particularly high bar, but the DEA presumably either can't meet it, or would rather let others do the work for it and save it the trouble of filling out the paperwork.