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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

No En Banc Review of Drug ‘Entrapment’ Case

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A Ninth Circuit judge blasted the court Friday for rejecting an opportunity to decide en banc whether a drug sting involved entrapment.

Alex Pedrin's conviction for conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute stems from an undercover sting operation the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms laid in 2009.

Pedrin challenged his conviction on the basis of entrapment, claiming that the agent who posed as a cocaine dealer proposed the conspiracy, which involved robbing a fictional stash house the agent claimed to know, without any prompt from Pedrin.

A divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed Pedrin's conviction over the summer, however, noting that Pedrin "readily agreed" to the deal and provided plans and materials to rob the fictional stash.

Though the federal appeals court refused to rehear the case en banc Monday, Judge John Noonan, who dissented from August panel opinion, said the case warranted a second look.

As in an older case dealing with entrapment, the government here "relied on psychological tricks to persuade Pedrin to participate in the crime," Noonan wrote.

"Regarding Pedrin's predisposition to participate in the scheme, not only did the government know nothing about him when they approached him, nothing in his record suggests that he was apt to commit a crime like this one," Noonan wrote. "Pedrin was in and out of the juvenile system, and as an adult served time in jail for several misdemeanors."

Noonan added that "Pedrin's record contains no crimes related to dealing cocaine, robberies, or home invasions."

"Because the government employed psychological pressure in luring Pedrin into planning to commit the crime, and because the government could not prove his disposition to commit such a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, I recommend granting the petition for rehearing en banc to consider whether Pedrin was entrapped," Noonan concluded.

Pedrin's attorney, David Lipartito of Tucson, Ariz., did not return an email or phone call seeking comment on Monday morning.

A representative for the Justice Department declined to comment.

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