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Judge Orders U.S. to Hand Over Prosecution Papers

(CN) - A federal judge in the nation's capital ordered the Department of Justice to hand over documents used in the prosecution of two border patrol agents convicted of shooting an alleged Mexican drug smuggler.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon granted the Freedom of Information Act request of Judicial Watch, saying the balance of public and private interests favors disclosure.

Judicial Watch sought details of the case, in which two U.S. border patrol agents were convicted of shooting Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, an alleged Mexican drug smuggler whose testimony aided the agents' conviction.

Specifically, Judicial Watch wanted to know if and how the DOJ cooperated with other U.S. government agencies and the Mexican government in prosecuting the border patrol agents, and whether the DOJ regularly offers immunity to illegal drug smugglers as a means of prosecuting U.S. law enforcement officers.

"In short, Judicial Watch wants to know 'what their government is up to,'" Leon wrote.

"Such information, to say the least, goes to the very heart of FOIA's purpose."

Leon rejected the government's claim that any record mentioning Davila would be "clearly exempt from disclosure" and didn't require a document-by-document review.

Leon said the requested records could shed light on agency action, which falls within FOIA's purpose. He ordered the government to provide the documents or explain why they're exempt.

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