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Michele Leonhart institutionalizes perjury

In 2003, I wrote a feature on the then Drug Enforcement Administration Deputy Director nominee: DEA Bad Girl Michele Leonhart.

In it, I talked about her horrendous lack of ethical standards in her work with super-snitch Andrew Chambers:

When Michele Leonhart moved to St. Louis, she hooked up with the most prolific snitch of all time — Andrew Chambers.

The details of Andrew Chambers’ career as a super-snitch are mostly hidden (partly to protect him, and partly to protect the DEA). Much of what we know about Chambers comes from an excellent investigative report by Michael D. Sorkin And Phyllis Brasch Librach for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on January 16, 2000 and several follow-up reports later that year.

Here are some of the facts:

  • Chambers’ career as a snitch spanned an amazing 16 years, from 1984 until 2000, and he was credited with 291 investigations, including 76 the DEA considers “significant.”
  • He traveled all over the world for the DEA, but his home was St. Louis, and his second home Los Angeles.
  • For his snitch work with the DEA, he was paid over $2.2 million. DEA regulations limit informants to a career total of $200,000, but those regulations can be waived. The DEA says its second-highest paid informant has received about $500,000.
  • Since he also worked for the FBI, U.S. Customs Service, U.S. postal inspectors, Internal Revenue Service, Secret Service and state and local police, his total take may have been much more.
  • He lied. He lied under oath on the stand. He lied on the stand repeatedly, beginning the year after his recruitment in 1984.
  • For years, some prosecutors and many defense attorneys had expressed concerns about Chambers’ perjury. In 1993 in California, a 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling agreed that Chambers lied on the stand. In 1995, the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis added its voice: “The record, however, clearly demonstrates that Chambers did in fact perjure himself . . .”

The DEA protected Chambers repeatedly, and avoided notifying prosecutors and defense attorneys about Chambers’ past. At one point, the Drug Enforcement Agency and Justice Department lawyers stonewalled for 17 months, fighting a public defender who was trying to examine the contents of DEA’s background check on Chambers.

Later, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Wolf stated that it was clear that the drug agents never put any damaging reports into Chambers’ file — even though DEA regulations require it.

Finally, the DEA conducted an internal review of Chambers’ career, and although there was some talk of reprimanding DEA supervisors, the report was never made completely public, and the DEA refused to agree to stop using Chambers. Janet Reno finally intervened in 2000 and Chambers was deactivated as an informant.

During all this time, Chambers’ biggest fan was Michele Leonhart.

At one point, she was asked whether it was time to stop using Chambers given all the problems with his credibility. “That would be a sad day for DEA,” she said. “And a sad day for anybody in the law enforcement world… He’s one in a million. In my career, I’ll probably never come across another Andrew.” […]

The most startling statement in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation of Andrew Chambers was from Michele Leonhart:

“The only criticism (of Chambers) I’ve ever heard is what defense attorneys will characterize as perjury or a lie on the stand.”

She continued by saying that once prosecutors check him out, they’ll agree with his admirers in DEA that he’s “an outstanding testifier.”

That’s the key. To an agent like Leonhart, getting the bust and getting the conviction is all that matters. The testimony is good if it leads to a successful conclusion (from her perspective). Why nitpick about the truth?

I thought that was the end of it, unti I read today: DEA reactivates controversial fired informant

PHOENIX — A government informant who was terminated by the Justice Department years ago amid accusations of serial perjury has been reactivated and is working an undercover drug case with DEA agents in Phoenix, prompting allegations of government misconduct by a defense lawyer in a pending case. […]

The DEA conducted an internal probe in 2000 documenting Chambers’ dishonesty after defense lawyers and the media criticized the pattern of perjury and a lack of federal oversight. The Republic has obtained a copy of the 157-page Management Review, which says the DEA deactivated Chambers indefinitely as a confidential source on Feb. 2, 2000.

Yet, somehow, he resurrected his career and surfaced in Phoenix about three years ago in a sting that targeted defendant Luis Alberto Hernandez-Flores, accused as the kingpin in a major drug-trafficking organization.

Cameron Morgan, an attorney for Hernandez-Flores, filed a motion to dismiss charges or suppress testimony after uncovering the informant’s background.

“The DEA rehired Mr. Chambers, is using him in investigations all over the country, is again paying him exorbitant amounts of money and refuses to provide discovery about what he’s up to,” Morgan wrote in a petition under consideration by U.S. District Judge Stephen McNamee. “If Chambers were nothing more than a run-of-the-mill criminal, that would be one thing. But both Chambers and his defenders in the DEA brag that he is a con man extraordinaire.”

This is the state of justice in our country.

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28 comments to Michele Leonhart institutionalizes perjury

  • Tony Aroma

    It’s reassuring to know that the DEA has reaffirmed their commitment to perjury as a law enforcement tool. I feel so much better knowing someone line Michele Leonhart is keeping our streets safe. I think all you naysayers are forgetting about the well-established “drug war exception” to the Constitution.

    • allan

      ah yes… the ‘exception’

      from the “it’s-our-ball-and-we-make-up-rules-as-we-go” file

      how can we forget? Prohibition is kinda like the clap, it may slip the mind temporarily…

  • claygooding

    A bureaucracy consisting of a few permanent federal employee staffers and fluctuating rent-a-cops(contract labor force)is charged to enforce a law enacted only with perjured testimony to congress gives SuperTwat a precedent.

  • Servetus

    Human Rights Watch released a statement on June 4, 2013, declaring that persecution and punishment based drug enforcement undermines basic human rights. The 30-year-old organization noted that:

    “Given the violence and abuse associated with existing drug policies, it is critically important for governments not to be constrained from exploring new approaches,” Vivanco said.

    With the Human Rights Watch organization statement, eliminationist drug enforcement has been officially designated a worldwide human rights violation. Drug war victims are now in a stronger position to obtain a similar declaration through the International Criminal Court (ICC), and to bring down the hammer of justice on corrupt public officials such as Michele Leonhart.

    • Francis

      National drug control policies that impose criminal penalties for personal drug use undermine basic human rights, Human Rights Watch said today.

      The imposition of criminal penalties for personal drug use doesn’t just “undermine” basic human rights. It is a violation of those rights, no intermediate steps required. In particular, it violates an individual’s fundamental human right to exercise sovereignty over his own body and consciousness. Of course, drug prohibition also leads indirectly (but inevitably) to the erosion of plenty of other rights. See, for example, the Fourth Amendment (or rather what’s left of it).

      • Servetus

        Yes. That’s how it happens. The government wants to corner the market on the drug trade. They believe they who possess the drugs, or whatever commodity, make the rules; in violation of rules governing free trade, if necessary.

        Violations of everything seem to surround the drug war. So it becomes a useful, sharp-edged tool to chip away at any and all freedoms by those who have the power to do so. But there is a problem with their methodology. They have forgotten something from George Orwell’s epic 1984 :

        You have read of the religious persecutions of the past. In the Middle Ages, there was the Inquisition. It was a failure. It set out to eradicate heresy and it ended by perpetuating it. For every heretic it burned, thousands of others rose up. Why was that? Because the Inquisition killed its enemies in the open, and killed them while they were still unrepentant; in fact, it killed them because they were repentant. Men were dying because they would not abandon their true beliefs. Naturally, all glory belonged to the victim and all the shame to the inquisitor who burned him.

    • DonDig

      Thank you for that link.
      That is a near revolutionary document I would think.
      Very good, very good indeed.

  • claygooding

    O?T but Great news,,CO MMJ turned in some awesome income for the state,,,with numbers like that many are calling fo a re-estimate on the taxes because of such a large amount already being made from marijuana. Too lazy too post but the numbers should have Kerli amd STwat grinding their teeth and the IRS rubbing it’s hands together planning their next employees meeting in Denver,,Hemp beer will be in every room.

  • Then/they/throw/their/brain/away

    WRONG….If all drugs gets totally legalize, somebody is going to mail every narcotic drug to every person in the country, then rack in the trillions from all those folks who get hooked on them.
    People seem to forget that in a society that runs on capitalism, selling a product that guarentees an immediate addiction is a dram come true. Legalize all drugs and the 200 million acres of Corn, Soybeans, and Wheat will get replaced with 200 million acres of poppy plants.with a few acres left open to grow enough Corn, Wheat and Soybeans to keep all us drug addicts alive. Check out 18th century China. No such thing as a responsible narcotic user policy.

    Totally legalizing will only make the commodity whose company policy will be to do everything necessary to get you hooked into it in the name

    http/comment/cnbc.com/

    • Freeman

      Calm down, dude. You’re hyperventilating, and getting more than a little hysterical.

      The 1930’s called. They want their rhetoric back.

      • darkcycle

        I do believe Malcolm was attempting to revive (again) the lost art of satire. Proving once more, that as pertains the drug war, no statement is over the top, absurd, or hyperbolic enough to top the prohibitionists. Their actual statements and positions are already in the land of lunacy. They parody themselves.
        I do believe it is still too early, Malcolm, my friend. 😉

        • Then/they/throw/their/brain/away

          Thanks for the compliment, DC, but this is no parody; a prohibitionist calling himself DowChulk actually wrote and posted that on Jun 5, 2013 03:00 PM ET. Kindly follow the link and scroll down to the ninth comment.

        • Freeman

          That was Malcolm? I didn’t recognize the avatar. I assumed it was DowChulk quoting himself, whom I also assumed had been reading too much Kleiman.

    • claygooding

      Is this another one of those deals where I sit by the mailbox waiting for five years like I did for Ed McMann to show up with my millions?

    • kaptinemo

      The ghost of Billy Sunday may sue you in the Afterlife for copyright infringement; the same argument was made to engage in alcohol Prohibition, and certainly made to try to keep it.

      But the last time I looked, the amount and types of plants and grains used in alcohol production is percentage-wise vastly smaller compared to the rest of agricultural production; there’s always more bread than booze.

      The Imperial Chinese example doesn’t hold water, either; Chinese sanctions against opium production and use, Draconian as they were then (and remain) were largely impotent in the countryside thanks to massive population growth beginning in the 15th Century (CE) causing contraction of the amount of arable land needed for food production. The much smaller amount of arable land left caused the impact of using more of it to farm drug crops to have a vastly greater impact than it normally would have. Proportionately, we’re nowhere near that stage of population growth…or restrictions on land use.

      As to the proposition that America would become a nation of drug addicts courtesy of currently illegal drugs becoming legal again, well, I can only say this:

      The mindset of prohibitionists is essentially authoritarian; they believe that only they, and not the hoi polloi, know what’s best for said hoi polloi.

      The prohib mindset, of course, assumes that the average intelligence of his/her fellow citizens is much lower than the exalted intellects that propose the kind of laws that have landed us in this colossal mess to begin with. To assume that every American would robotically become an addict courtesy of free samples in the mail like some monkey tapping levers in a Skinner Box is both indicative of such thought processes and insulting to sentience in general…but so, so typical.

      • primus

        Not to mention that there would be other suppliers of said entheogens, thus the price would remain competitive and the ‘addict’ would just budget for the drugs, as the Swiss heroin users now do.

  • Eridani

    A depressing, though unsurprising story given the criminal nature of the DEA. How is it even allowed to exist? And the way Leonhart talks about Chambers makes me wonder if their relationship is more than what she makes it out to be…

  • War Vet

    This reminds me of when the DEA used the American citizen, David Headley as their informant for Pakistan. They were warned that David was sympathetic to jihad and no doubt the DEA gave Mr. Headley tens of thousands of dollars to buy large amounts of smack, which ended up being diverted to the 2008 Mumbai Terrorist attack and killed –what was it, 166 people and injured 293.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Coleman_Headley

    You cannot spell Al Qaeda without a D or an E or an A.

  • Francis

    The DEA management review, a detailed inquiry conducted by the Office of Inspections, said Chambers misrepresented his past to sanitize his image and credibility. It asserted that his fibs were not germane to guilt or innocence of defendants.

    I see. He only lied about his credibility. Obviously, those lies should have no impact on his uh… credibility.

    Richard Fiano, then chief of operations at the DEA, told reporter Connie Chung that repeated, court-documented perjuries by Chambers “fell through the cracks” at his agency. “Would DEA use him (again)?” Fiano said. “No.”

    Oh, so I guess the DEA was lying. (I think I’m starting to to see a pattern.)

  • “The attempt to move industrial hemp legalization through the Senate as part of the farm bill is running into stiff resistance from law enforcement, threatening to derail the effort.

    Hemp is a non-psychoactive relative of marijuana that is banned for its familial association. Hemp products are legal to import and sell in the United States, but the plant cannot be grown without a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration — which, unsurprisingly, the agency rarely grants.”

    http://huff.to/1b51D2c

    The DEA is a corrupt agency.

  • Rick Steeb

    “Schedule I Cannabis” is a Damned lie; the entire tree is poisoned from its root. What sort of fruit would you expect?

    • allan

      ever smelled a voodoo lily? If the DEA has a mascot, that’s it. All tall and leafy and fancy lookin’… and then it’s blooms open… and smell like rotting death. (I have a big bunch blooming in my back yard. it’s ok in the morning but when the sun gets on ’em… whoo-oowheeee!

  • claygooding

    Five Ways To Tell If Your Neighbor Is A Marijuana Baron

    http://tinyurl.com/mev7zjh

    On Tuesday the website the Smoking Gun reported that a 45-year-old Scarsdale, N.Y., woman named Andrea Sanderlin had been arrested and charged with running a massive marijuana growing operation out of a warehouse in Queens.

    Sanderlin, a mother of three, apparently told her neighbors she was an interior designer; instead, according to police, she presided over a sophisticated indoor nursery that, when raided, contained more than 1,000 marijuana plants worth over $3 million.

    Sanderlin’s neighbors were shocked, understandably. Who would think that the single mother in the McMansion next door is neck-deep in the drug trade? Is your neighbor leading a double life as a marijuana baron? Here are a few clues.

    Her coffee table is littered with instruction books on how to commit crimes. The Daily News reports that, when they searched Sanderlin’s house, federal authorities found “books on money laundering and growing marijuana.”

    Now, of course, owning books that address controversial topics is no crime. I myself own a book about dropping off the grid called How to Disappear, and I would like to assure my creditors that I have no plans to abandon my debts and flee the country. (And, if I did disappear, I certainly wouldn’t use the alias “Omar Montez.”) But if you notice that your neighbor seems to be writing a book on money laundering, or on growing marijuana, then that is much stronger evidence.”” ‘snipped’

    • Duncan20903

      .
      .

      Has there ever been a grower busted where the neighbors weren’t shocked to learn what was going on? It appears to me to be just slightly less frequent than the police labeling the grow “sophisticated”.

      When will people stop and think that if they’re always shocked when they hear that 2+2=4 that maybe it’s their perception needs to be adjusted?

  • Howard

    “The only criticism (of Chambers) I’ve ever heard is what defense attorneys will characterize as perjury or a lie on the stand.”

    Did Michele have a clown nose on when she said this? Were there dancing chihuahuas in the background? Was Pee Wee Herman in the mix?

    I’ll go with absurd any day. Batshit absurdity is fine by me. But I suspect the American flag was waving in the background when she made that comment. And she was probably very serious and ‘professional’ when she uttered those words.

    WTF?

  • jean valjean

    apart from the harm she and chambers caused to the individuals they framed she has damaged the career structure of l/e organisations. what is a rookie cop supposed to think when he sees someone of low intelligence and limoted talent like leonhart rise to the top of the profession? likely he will see that the quickest way up is to convict regardless of the truth or guilt of his victim. leonhart and chambers need to be investigated urgently.