Reverse Sting Not ‘Outrageous’ Conduct

Undercover agents encouraged Alex Pedrin to conspire with them to rob a fictitious drug stash house, but this was not “outrageous government conduct,” the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday, upholding his conspiracy conviction.

The majority rejected the idea that Padrin was entrapped, over a strong dissent.

“By our commitment to a humane justice, we are called to dismiss the case made by the entrappers,” Judge John Noonan wrote in dissent.

Judge William Fletcher wrote for the majority that even though the agents did not know Pedrin had prior involvement in stash house robberies, the question was whether it knew he was “predisposed” to join in the robbery. Fletcher was joined by Judge Morgan Christen.

Ironically, it is the Ronald Reagan-appointed conservative seeking reversal of the conviction, while the generally liberal Clinton appointee Fletcher, joined by Obama-appointee Christen, vote to affirm the conviction.

In this case the agents “knew enough” because one of Pedrin’s co-conspirators had reached out to the government informant, not the other way around, Fletcher wrote.  This reverse sting operation was not outrageous government conduct warranting dismissal of the indictment, where the defendant readily agreed to participate.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, for decades, has conducted reverse stings to arrest people who can be enticed to rob fictional drug “stash houses.”  An agent poses as a disgruntled drug courier with knowledge about how the house is protected and that it holds a large amount of cocaine. The agent suggests they rob it and split the proceeds.

Once the target takes steps to rob the house, he is arrested and charged with conspiracy.

In 2009, Pedrin was the target in Arizona, after meeting an ATF confidential informant in Tucson.

Pedrin and another man agreed, then Pedrin said they recruited three more men to go into the house while he and the friend would stay outside with walkie talkies.  There was no drug house and the men were eventually arrested. Pedrin was convicted in 2011, based in part on testimony of a co-conspirator.

The conspirator said Pedrin had been involved in another stash house robbery of marijuana years earlier.

But Noonan argued the law is clear, government agents may not “originate a criminal design, implant in an innocent person’s mind the disposition to commit a criminal act, and induce commission of a crime so that the government may prosecute.”

There was no indication that Pedrin was predisposed to commit this crime prior to being approached by ATF agents, he said.

Case: U.S. v. Padrin, No. 11-10623

 

 

 

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