Criminal Justice

Federal judge blasts ATF for 'outrageous' fake stash-house stings, axes case over 'made-up crime'

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Calling a federal agency’s practice of conducting sting operations concerning nonexistent drug stash houses “outrageous” and ineffective in combating real crime, a federal judge in Los Angeles this month dismissed one such case and blasted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives over its tactics.

“Society does not win when the government stoops to the same level as the defendants it seeks to prosecute—especially when the government has acted solely to achieve a conviction for a made-up crime,” said U.S. District Judge Otis Wright in his written opinion.

Typically in these stings, an ATF agent will approach someone and offer them a large sum of money to rob a drug stash house–one which does not actually exist. USA Today says that the number of such stings has quadrupled over the past decade.

The judge, who once worked as a deputy sheriff, criticized such stings as disproportionately targeted at “ensnaring chronically unemployed individuals from poverty-ridden areas,” tempting them to agree to commit robberies they might otherwise never have considered, reports USA Today.

Many defendants charged in such cases take a plea rather than risk a substantial prison term if convicted. However, Antuan Duane Dunlap, who has no prior record of such crimes, according to the judge, challenged his arrest and won a dismissal of his case from Wright on March 10.

“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,” Wright wrote. “That’s the problem with creating crime: the government is not making the country any safer or reducing the actual flow of drugs.”

Updated at 10:55 a.m. to add additional info about the stings.

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