Follow That Story: Discredited "Supersnitch" Rises from the Ashes to Testify Again 11/24/00

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It seems like the DEA and the Los Angeles US Attorneys' office just never learn. Despite scandals surrounding million-dollar DEA informant Andrew Chambers earlier this year, in which it became public knowledge that Chambers had lied repeatedly in courts across the land about his criminal record, his taxes, his payments from the DEA, and his use of false names, Chambers is on the prosecution witness list in a Los Angeles federal court case set for February.

The Week Online reported on Chambers' career in June (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/139.html#supersnitch). By that time, three federal courts had called Chambers a liar, Attorney General Reno had personally ordered his removal from the DEA payroll, and the DEA was supposedly nearing the end of an investigation into its use of Chambers and the role its agents played in covering up his crimes and lies.

That investigation, which was originally supposed to be finished in May, has yet to be released. It was withdrawn for revisions after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found evidence suggesting that the report consisted largely of a DEA cover-up of its earlier cover-up.

The DEA told the Post-Dispatch this week the investigation is finished, but the report will not be released until approved by senior agency officials.

In the Los Angeles case, attorneys for another snitch, David Daley, who was informing for the Los Angeles Police Department when Chambers accused him of setting up a PCP deal, accuse a DEA agent of lying to a grand jury in the case by testifying that Chambers had a history of being "reliable."

They also charge federal prosecutors with misconduct for failing for two years to tell defense counsel about Chambers' well-documented history of lying on the stand.

Prosecutors are required by law to divulge such information.

Assistant US Attorney Lizabeth A. Rhodes, who is prosecuting the case, told the Post-Dispatch she does not know why the original prosecutor did not hand over the information to defense attorneys, but that she had done so.

She attempted to finger the DEA. "It's a DEA case," she said.

The DEA declined to take credit. Asked by the Post-Dispatch about why prosecutors would be willing to use a discredited, suspended informant, DEA spokesman Mike McManus demurred. "That's not our decision," he said.

Rhodes also pled ignorance about Chambers, arguing that there were just too many government snitches to keep track of them all.

But the Los Angeles US Attorney's office was certainly familiar with Chambers. Records uncovered by the Post-Dispatch show that Chambers had worked for the DEA in Los Angeles County since 1987, and that he had worked with at least 14 different federal prosecutors there.

A day after Daley was charged in 1997, the US Attorney's office also filed charges in another drug case where Chambers was the key witness. But this time, prosecutors told the court about Chambers' pattern of perjury and mentioned he had received more than $1 million (later bumped up to $2 million) from the DEA.

Last fall, another Los Angeles Assistant US Attorney, Stephen Wolfe, told the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals that Chambers was "undefendable." He blamed the DEA for failing to tell prosecutors about the snitch's problems with the truth.

Daley defense attorney John Martin met last month with Rhodes and her boss, Los Angeles US Attorney Alejandro N. Mayorkas, to notify them that he was planning to charge the government with prosecutorial misconduct and, he said, to ensure that Mayorkas was personally aware of the government's pattern of deceit.

Last week, Rhodes and Mayorkas responded with a weasel-worded letter admitting that their office was "at fault for its inconsistent approach to the submission of information regarding the informant," but that the mistake "was not intentional and, in any event, was not material."

But despite Chambers' history of perjury and its own admissions that he is unreliable, the US Attorney's office has not said that it would withdraw Chambers from the witness list.

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Issue #161, 11/24/00 Business As Usual on the Border: More Cops, More Drugs Seized, No Impact on the Street | Follow That Story: Discredited Supersnitch Rises from the Ashes to Testify Again | Follow That Story: Asset Forfeiture Reform a Big Hit at Southern Legislative Conference | Andean Update: Peru's Fujimori and Coca Eradication Gone, Colombia's Peace Talks on Hold as Country Braces for Drug War | US Anti-Drug Aid Endangering Indigenous Communities and Amazon Biodiversity, Experts Charge | Newsbrief: New Polish Drug Bill Ends Experiment, Outlaws Possession for Personal Use | Newsbrief: Sweden Survives MTV Festival | Newsbrief: Clinton Allies Call for Commutation of Drug Kingpin Death Penalty, Moratorium on Federal Executions | Coalition for Jubilee Clemency | Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: Sentencing Project Releases Manual for Practitioners and Policymakers | The Reformer's Calendar | A Thanksgiving Note to Our Readers
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