DEA Informer's Trail Of Lies Contorts Drug Case 

DEA Informer's Trail Of Lies Contorts Drug Case 
Posted by FoM on January 28, 2001 at 17:22:02 PT
By Michael D. Sorkin of The Post-Dispatch 
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch 
In one of the strongest attacks yet on use of paid informers, a defense attorney here accuses federal prosecutors and drug agents of lying and ignoring 16 years of cross-country perjury by supersnitch Andrew Chambers of St. Louis. Lawyer John Martin has documented those abuses in 250 pages of court papers he filed in U.S. District Court. He is asking a judge to find "governmental abuse" - and to send a message that the courts won't tolerate it. 
Martin claims that misconduct by prosecutors and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration represents "a troubling pattern of complacency and complicity that has stained judicial proceedings across the country." He also wants dismissal of charges against his client, a drug dealer with five convictions. The U.S. attorney's office here has responded - in sealed court records - that the government did fail to tell a judge and grand jury of Chambers' long history of lying under oath about his record of arrests and convictions. But the prosecutors say the failure - like the failure in dozens of earlier cases - was "unintentional." Prosecutors are asking the judge to overlook it. Instead of freeing the suspect, they replaced the first indictment with another. The difference: This time they acknowledge that their star witness, Chambers, has a history of lying. Martin still wants the charges dropped. "They are saying they can cure 16 years of active lying and perjury by saying, 'Oh, you caught us and now we'll make it right,'" he complained. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lizabeth A. Rhodes has said she has a strong case despite the admissions. However it turns out, the case is sure to have an impact over the long run on how the DEA uses paid informers. The agency has said it has as many informers as drug agents: about 4,500 each. Most snitches are criminals trying to reduce their sentences or get charges dropped. Some do it for the reward, often paid in cash. Chambers is easily the most celebrated snitch in DEA history. Beginning in St. Louis in 1984, he worked hundreds of DEA cases, and collected more than $2.2 million in payments. Last January, the Post-Dispatch disclosed Chambers' long history of successful testimony, coupled with his cross-country record of lying about his own background. Attorney General Janet Reno quickly ordered him suspended. Soon after, the DEA said it began a yearlong investigation of how Chambers got away with lying for so long. Chambers has worked with dozens of agents and prosecutors from the Midwest to both coasts, and the investigation was supposed to determine what they knew about his lies - and when they knew it. Last spring, Richard Fiano, then chief of operations for the DEA, said during an extensive interview in Washington that the allegations raised troubling questions about the relationship of agents to paid snitches. Fiano said he would tolerate no wrongdoing and promised to make public the invesigaton's results. Since then, Fiano has been replaced and assigned to Italy. The agency has refused to discuss the results of the investigation, and for weeks has refused to answer questions about it. In the meantime, Reno's term has expired and a new attorney general is waiting to be confirmed: John Ashcroft. A Tale of Two Snitches: Chambers isn't the only snitch in this story. He and the man he accuses may be the oddest of odd couples - one informer accusing another. Dave Daly, 38, is a wiry, street-smart guy from south Los Angeles who was working as an informer for the Los Angeles police when he met Chambers at a carwash in 1997. Chambers later accused Daly of accepting about $500 to help set up a PCP deal. Daly has been jailed for three years, awaiting trial, as one defense attorney and then a second wrestled to get information about his accuser. At first, the government wouldn't even identify Chambers. All agents or prosecutors revealed to a grand jury and judge was that they had an informer who was "reliable," as an agent testified under oath. Daly's first attorney never learned the identity. Martin, the second, might never have found out the full background except for Dean Steward. Steward, a federal public defender in Orange County, Calif., tracked Chambers' movements across the country and cataloged his testimony for three years. The DEA has maintained that Chambers only lied about himself, never about drug deals he witnessed. Steward repeatedly asked the DEA to investigate Chambers, but the agency mostly ignored him. Chambers has not yet made an appearance in the Los Angeles case; he could not be located for comment. Chambers, 43, grew up in University City and played football at the old Mercy High School. When he couldn't qualify as a drug agent, he signed up as free-lance snitch. His DEA handlers soon found he had an uncanny ability to sniff out and trap drug dealers. To bolster his credibility with jurors, he testified that he had no arrest record, and was simply a guy who hated drugs and what they did to innocent people. The DEA recently conceded that Chambers has been arrested at least 13 times and that agents had interceded several times to get charges dropped, including one of impersonating a DEA agent. Martin found that the true number of arrests was 17 - all but one before Daly was arrested in 1997. In other words, the government had to know. Martin wrote in his motion to dismiss charges against Daly: "Chambers has perjured himself about numerous things: his arrest record; his income (including from DEA for his work as an informant); his payment of taxes and his filing of (and failure to file) tax returns; how many times he has testified; his education; and even about where he was from. "He has claimed to actually be a DEA agent. He has admitted under oath to having lied repeatedly to DEA agents. The DEA was aware of many of these instances of misconduct at the time they occurred and, with prosecutors across the country, continued to either allow him to defraud courts or make similar representations themselves to courts about his reliability." Martin and Steward noted a pattern: whenever a defense lawyer was able to track down Chambers' record, the DEA and prosecutors would back off. They would offer to make a deal - or more recently, they dropped charges entirely. But most defense attorneys never got that far. At least three times before Chambers became famous last year, federal judges called him a liar. Each time, prosecutors and agents said they had been misled and had known nothing. Not all officials denied knowing about Chambers. In a few cases, including one in St. Louis, federal prosecutors refused to work with him. Ed Dowd, a former U.S. attorney in St. Louis, warned the DEA in 1998 not to have anything more to do with Chambers. The DEA later said the warning hadn't been strong enough to be considered anything more than a recommendation. In the Daly case, the U.S. attorney's office finally conceded recently that it was "at fault" for failing to disclose Chambers' history. But prosecutors said the failure was "not intentional" and argued that neither they nor the case against Daly should suffer. What happens next will be for U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Synder to decide. She set Daly's trial for March 20. If, convicted, Daly must go to prison for life. "And Andrew Chambers, who lied his way across the country for 16 years and got $2 million, he's still testifying," Martin notes ruefully. Complete Title: DEA Informer's Trail Of Lies Contorts Drug Case In Los Angeles Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) Author: Michael D. Sorkin of The Post-Dispatch Published: January 28, 2001Copyright: 2001 St. Louis Post-Dispatch Address: 900 North Tucker Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63101 Contact: letters post-dispatch.comWebsite: Forum: Related Articles:DEA Drug Informant Is Caught Lying U.S. Drug Snitch is a Legend and a Liar DEA Archives
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Comment #3 posted by Lehder on January 29, 2001 at 08:35:50 PT
Let the war crimes trials begin
Starting with Andrew Chambers. I would suggest using the Watergate and Iran-contra proceedings and the drug war itself as models. That is, give Chambers partial immunity for what he does best - snitching. Then let's find and try the corrupt DEA agents, offering partial immunity to some of them in turn for further snitching, all the way to the last crooked cop, lying prosecutor and cocaine-dealing CIA spook. Thousands of innocents will be freed along the way.And let's see what can be done about government lying to the public. In a democracy, the lying of an elected or appointed official to the (supposedly) decision-making public should be the most fundamental crime on the books, tantamount to treason. The spreading of disinformation about medicine, science and fact by the government to the electorate is the crime that truly 'rips at the soul of our nation' and poisons our laws to reflect counter-productive ideology rather than reality.
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Comment #2 posted by Ed Carpenter on January 29, 2001 at 02:15:35 PT:
Prosecutors are a disgusting lot.
Many of these prosecutors are rewarded by being elected to higher office, and that is our fault.  
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on January 28, 2001 at 19:02:00 PT:
Prosecutors as Criminals
How the prosecutors involved and the DEA can look at themselves in the mirror is beyond me. I would think that their own stench would be fatal. It proves that they are all sociopaths, and can in no manner be considered better people than those they are prosecuting. Could there be a more compelling reason to stop the madness of the War on Drugs?
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