Conviction in ATF ‘Reverse Sting’ Upheld

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The target of an Arizona drug sting was not a victim of “outrageous government conduct,” the Ninth Circuit ruled Monday despite a strong dissent by one of the panel’s judges.
     A 2009 sting conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms used an ATF agent to go undercover and pose as a cocaine dealer who knew about an imaginary stash house.
     Agent Richard Zayas met with target Alex Pedrin in his car and asked the man if he would be willing to rob the house and split the proceeds. Pedrin agreed to the deal, and the sting led to his conviction for conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute.
     Pedrin challenged his conviction, arguing that the sting was an instance of outrageous government conduct, since Zayas did not have any knowledge about his propensity to commit such a crime.
     A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit disagreed, since Pedrin “readily agreed” to the deal and provided plans and materials to rob the fictional stash.
     But Circuit Judge John Noonan wrote in a 7-page dissent that “the undisputed and dispositive fact is that Pedrin was not known to the government to be predisposed to raid a stash house” when Zayas proposed the deal.
     “The ATF laid out the entire stash house scheme before Pedrin had said a single word,” Noonan wrote. “The prosecution of his case should be dismissed.”
     He continued, “As a court, we are more than referees tallying scores. We have a live concern that human beings caught in the legal process be treated fairly.”
     The judge called ATF’s enlistment of Pedrin a “shot in the dark,” adding that Pedrin’s making plans and obtaining materials for the scheme after he agreed to the deal had no bearing on the government’s misconduct since the bureau had already cast him in the sting.
     “By the rules governing litigation we can affirm Pedrin’s conviction,” he wrote. “By our commitment to a humane justice, we are called to dismiss the case made by the entrappers.”
     Neither side could be reached for comment on Monday.

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