U.S. Again Is Prosecuting With Snitch As Witness

U.S. Again Is Prosecuting With Snitch As Witness
Posted by FoM on November 20, 2000 at 11:12:58 PT
By Michael D. Sorkin, Of The Post-Dispatch 
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch 
Former government supersnitch Andrew Chambers was taken off the payroll after the attorney general of the United States wondered why he was still on it. Three federal courts have called the former University City resident a perjurer.And the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says it is conducting a yearlong investigation to find out how he got away with lying in court for the agency for 16 years. None of that apparently is deterring government prosecutors from calling Chambers yet again to reprise his role as a star courtroom witness.
A case set for February before a U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles pits Chambers against another government snitch: Dave Daley was working undercover for Los Angeles police three years ago when Chambers accused him of taking $500 to set up the sale of a gallon of the drug PCP. Daley, 38, already has five drug convictions; he faces life in prison if a jury believes Chambers' account of what Daley told him at a car wash. Chambers, 43, dropped out of the old Mercy High School here and went on to become the most valuable undercover snitch in DEA history. He never won the agent's badge he coveted but he did become a legend among drug agents nationwide for his ability to get close to suspected dealers and turn them in to the feds. He helped send hundreds to prison. In exchange, the DEA paid him more than $2.2 million - representing just a small portion of the value of drugs he helped take off the streets. Why is any of this important? Who cares what happens to yet another suspected California drug dealer? Critics say that the DEA's dependence on a snitch who lies illustrates how agents bend the law to get convictions. A Post-Dispatch investigation has documented that for years agents watched in courtrooms as Chambers testified that he had never been arrested or convicted. He has since admitted he lied. Some DEA agents knew it - they helped get him out of trouble with the law. Agents also apparently have been less than forthcoming about telling prosecutors their snitch's full background. Critics say prosecutors either were duped or looked the other way when they put a known liar on the witness stand. In court records, attorneys for Daley accuse a DEA agent of lying to a grand jury by testifying that an unidentified, undercover informer - since identified as Chambers - had a history of being "reliable." The defense attorneys also accuse the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles of misconduct for failing for two years to identify Chambers as the informer and for not disclosing his history of courtroom lies. Prosecutors are required by law to give that information to defendants. For two years, the defense attorneys allege in court records, "the government sat quietly on its knowledge of Andrew Chambers and his dubious record of perjury, lies, arrests, convictions and other uncharged conduct." Between The Cracks: The DEA and federal prosecutors each say they are blameless. And besides, they add, some things just fall between the cracks. A DEA spokesman in Washington says he won't comment on why prosecutors are willing to use a discredited, suspended snitch as a star witness. "That's not our decision," said DEA spokesman Mike McManus. For her part, the federal prosecutor in Los Angeles assigned to the Daley case points the finger back at the drug agency. "It's a DEA case," says Assistant U.S. Attorney Lizabeth A. Rhodes. She says there are too many government snitches for prosecutors to keep track of all their backgrounds. Chambers was one of 4,500 DEA informers. Rhodes adds that just because some prosecutors in an office know a snitch's history of lying doesn't mean all the prosecutors do. "You know how many attorneys there are in this office?" she asked. "Over 200. So you do the math." Rhodes was not a prosecutor when Daley was charged in 1997. She took over the case from another prosecutor and says that when she discovered Chambers' role, she disclosed his background. "Everything was turned over in this case," she emphasized. Attorneys for Daley say that tardy action doesn't excuse what they call the government's prior misconduct in the case. Defense attorney John Martin met last month with prosecutor Rhodes and her boss, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles. Martin told them he was planning to go to court to accuse the government of prosecutorial misconduct; he said he wanted to make sure the top prosecutor was aware of the government's long history of deceit. Said Martin: "The problem is a consistent pattern of lying to the courts about Chambers. The problem is an abuse of judicial process, with false statements under oath" amid overwhelming evidence that DEA knew about the lies. Martin noted that the day after his client was charged, the same U.S. attorney's office issued charges in a different drug case in which Chambers was a witness. But this time, the government made some damaging admissions: Despite having been arrested numerous times, the informer has testified repeatedly under oath that he had no criminal history, the government acknowledged. The informer also admitted lying on the witness stand about paying taxes on his DEA earnings, using false names and about how much he was paid. The government also admitted paying Chambers more than $1 million - really more than twice that, it admitted more recently - and interceding to get a felony warrant against Chambers dismissed. The government gave none of that information to Daley and his attorney a day earlier when he was charged. On Nov. 9, Rhodes and her boss wrote a letter answering Martin's allegations: "Based on your presentation and our review of the case, we believe that our office was at fault for its inconsistent approach to the submission of information regarding the informant." But the letter went on to add: "It is our position, however, that the error was not intentional and, in any event, was not material . . ." A spokesman for the U.S. attorney said he had no comment about Chambers or the Daley case. Daley remains in jail, awaiting trial. Dueling Snitches: The DEA has always maintained that Chambers lied only about himself - not about what he claimed drug dealers did. The agency also insists that everything Chambers alleged was taped and corroborated by agents. Rhodes insists there is corroboration in the Daley case - including a confession Daley made after his arrest. Martin says Daley made a statement to agents before he or his attorneys knew about Chambers' background; Martin hopes to get the confession thrown out. Martin also says that the government's case rests solely upon what Chambers says Daley said. No agents were present and there are no tapes of the key meeting between the two snitches, Martin says in court records. At the time Daley met Chambers, Daley was working undercover for the LAPD. His attorney says Daley's actions led to the apprehension of a drug kingpin and the convictions of 20 members of a violent street gang. Records show that Chambers has worked for the DEA in Los Angeles since 1987 - and has been lying about his background just as long. The U.S. attorney's office knew him well - he's worked for some 14 prosecutors there. Last December, one of those prosecutors tried to explain to a panel of judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, Calif., why the government had failed to disclose Chambers' history of arrests, convictions and lies to the judge and defense lawyers in a murder-for-hire case. Information from Chambers was the key to the government convincing a judge to issue a wiretap. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Wolfe told the appellate court it was clear that the DEA agents never put any derogatory material in Chambers' files - even though agency regulations require it. Said the embarrassed prosecutor: The "failure to disclose Chambers' background was a shameful dereliction of government duty." Wolfe told the judges he couldn't defend Chambers: "He's undefendable." Soon after Wolfe's admissions, lawyers at the Justice Department in Washington agreed to start telling defendants about the damaging evidence the government has in its files about Chambers. In January, the Post-Dispatch documented the government's lengthy use of Chambers. The next month, Attorney General Janet Reno ordered him suspended, pending the results of an investigation. The DEA says Chambers remains "deactivated" and off the payroll. But that doesn't mean prosecutors can't use him as a witness, a DEA spokesman says. As for the agency's internal investigation, it was supposed to have been completed in May. The agency spokesman said a report of the investigation is finished, but won't be released until senior DEA officials approve it. In May, the Post-Dispatch reported that a draft of the report misstated facts in an apparent effort to cover up an agency cover-up of its dealings with Chambers. In California, Martin says the government did finally disclose Chambers' history - but only after Martin got that and much more from H. Dean Steward, then a federal public defender in nearby Orange County, who had spent years investigating Chambers. Steward, now in private practice, describes the government's latest use of Chambers as "arrogant." "It's stunning," Steward added, "that this or any U.S. attorney would even consider using Chambers at this point.Even DEA has admitted that they made a huge mistake." Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) Author: Michael D. Sorkin, Of The Post-Dispatch Published: November 19, 2000Copyright: 2000 St. Louis Post-Dispatch Contact: letters Website: Forum: Related Articles:Drug Agency Looks Again At An Informer's Career Agency Investigates Its Own Cover-Up U.S. Drug Snitch is a Legend and a Liar DEA Archives:
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Comment #2 posted by Frank on November 22, 2000 at 03:50:22 PT
What You Hate You Become
After reading this Iím more afraid of the police than the criminals. The police are the criminals. The police have become jackbooters and liars. The police are not your friends even if you are totally honest and have never used any type of drug. All they do is shoot people in theback, plant phony evidence and frame people. Like the proverb says: What you hate you become. The American Government hated the Nazis and now they have become the Nazis
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Comment #1 posted by freedom fighter on November 21, 2000 at 19:12:03 PT
A good snitch is a dead snitch.
Oh heck, I should know what is like to be asked to be a snitch.Joke of the week, Cop says," I make everything go away. Just tell me who are selling." A deaf man signed,"Am I charged? with what? Do I need a lawyer?"Seriously, people do not realize something about snitches. Vast majority, I am willing to make a bet, of snitches are CHILDREN! I am betting that average age of a snitch is 14 to 21 yr old.That andrew probably thinks like a child and that's how he got close to many deals.I pity those snitches. Once you start snitching, you will always be watching over your shoulder. You have made the deal with the devil. I try to forgive but I will not know you any longer.I have been snitched at many times, there is no promise that a snitch that good will make it with me. I am just a deaf human being.
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