Federal judge blasts ATF stings

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
By Paul Martin

Brad Heath
USA TODAY
March 18, 2014

A federal judge in Los Angeles blasted ATF for sting operations that he said unfairly enlist people in a “made-up crime” by offering them a huge payday for robbing a non-existent drug stash house.

A federal judge in Los Angeles blasted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for sting operations that he said unfairly enlist people in a “made-up crime” by offering them a huge payday for robbing a non-existent drug stash house.

Declaring those tactics “outrageous” and unconstitutional, U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright took the unusual step last week of throwing out charges against a man arrested by ATF agents after one such sting.

“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,” Wright wrote. He said the stings have done little to deter crime and instead are “ensnaring chronically unemployed individuals from poverty-ridden areas.”

The ATF has quietly made those fictional stash-house robbery cases a central feature of its efforts to target violent criminals, more than quadrupling the number of stings it conducted over the past decade. Although the stings are meant to target some of the nation’s most dangerous criminals, a USA TODAY investigation last year found they routinely ensnare small-time crooks who jump at the chance to score a small fortune from a few hours of work.

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