Drug Case Reveals That Prosecutors Bribe Witnesses

Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2000
Subject: Drug Case Reveals That Prosecutors Bribe Witnesses

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #160 February 9, 2000

Drug Case Reveals That Prosecutors Habitually Bribe Witnesses


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #160 February 9, 2000

To offer big rewards for jailing high-profile criminals appeals to the
fearful public, yet it corrupts the justice system and undermines the
right to a fair trial, as the case of Juan Garcia Abrego shows. FBI
prosecutor Peter Hanna offered star witness Carlos Resendez $2 million
from the reward chest for false testimony against Abrego. One wonders
who of the three is the bad guy in this game. We could get all of them
to go about more useful activities by simply ending drug prohibition
which fuels such corrupt schemes with endless funds and thereby
destroys all justice.

Please write a letter to the Houston Chronicle and express your
concern about this egregious miscarriage of justice. Contact info and
details below.

Thanks for your effort and support.


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Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)

Contact: viewpoints@chron.com

Address: Viewpoints Editor, P.O. Box 4260 Houston, Texas 77210-4260

Fax: (713) 220-3575

Forum: http://www.chron.com/content/hcitalk/index.html


Newshawk: Art Smart (ArtSmart@neosoft.com)
Pubdate: Tue, 08 Feb 2000
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2000 Houston Chronicle
Page: 1
Author: Deborah Tedford


A receipt for a $1 million cashier’s check paid to the star witness
against drug kingpin Juan Garcia Abrego may bolster defense claims
that U.S. prosecutors paid for false testimony to win a conviction.

The check was one of two purchased March 13, 1998, by FBI agent Peter
Hanna, according to documents subpoenaed from NationsBank (now Bank of
America) by attorneys for Garcia Abrego.

Michael Pancer and Kent Schaffer have asked U.S. District Judge Ewing
Werlein for a hearing on grounds that prosecutors encouraged Carlos
Resendez to give false testimony and hid crucial evidence about their
pretrial financial agreements.

The allegations are based on statements by Resendez and Mexican
attorney Raquenel Villanueva Fraustro, who said she brokered a deal
with U.S. prosecutors in which Resendez agreed to lie for millions of
dollars from the U.S. government.

Prosecutors have not directly addressed the allegations. However, in
court documents filed last month they referred to a newspaper article
that quoted Villanueva as saying the United States reneged on a deal
to pay Resendez $2 million for his testimony against the head of the
notorious Gulf Cartel.

In 150 pages of briefs and exhibits, the prosecutors never said if
Resendez was paid a reward. Instead, they attacked defense attorneys
for offering only hearsay evidence of the alleged perjury and misconduct.

Schaffer said the checks, which will be filed in court documents later
this month, are evidence of a payoff. “The check answers one of the
main questions: whether the payment was made or not,” Schaffer said.

The $1 million check bought by Hanna was made payable to Carlos
Resendez on March 16, 1998.

One of two witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the cartel’s
inner-workings, Resendez was a former commander in the Mexican state
police and a boyhood friend and a 30-year confidant of Garcia Abrego.

In the 1996 trial, he testified that he was promised no money for his
testimony, but sources say he now says U.S. agents promised him $2
million to testify as the government’s star witness.

Schaffer said Resendez had backed out of the deal because prosecutors
“stiffed him out of $1 million and he’s mad.”

Resendez now says his testimony was replete with lies — all
sanctioned by prosecutors.

Schaffer said Resendez has contradicted his trial testimony on at
least two points. He now says:

* It was his former mistress, Noema Quintanilla, not he, who arranged
for Garcia Abrego’s arrest.

* He lied when he testified he was not promised any money by the U.S.
government for his testimony.

The second cashier’s check bought by Hanna may lend credence to
Resendez’s claims. Hanna bought a $250,000 cashier’s check payable to
Quintanilla. Both checks were purchased at the same time from the
branch at 700 Louisiana in Houston.

Although Hanna’s name and FBI number are handwritten on the checks’
receipt, the typewritten name on the checks is Peter Hanlon.

The agent’s last name could simply be misspelled, Schaffer said, but
“I think Mr. Hanna didn’t want his name on a check for $1 million made
out to a government witness.”

Indicted here in 1993, Garcia Abrego was convicted of 22 counts of
drug trafficking, conspiracy, money laundering and operating a
continuing criminal enterprise.

The only drug trafficker ever placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list,
Garcia Abrego was responsible for smuggling more than 396,000 pounds
of cocaine and 46,000 pounds of marijuana across the border from
1980-96, authorities said.

Most came through the Matamoros-Brownsville corridor and were shipped
to Houston and cities in New York, California, Florida, Illinois and
New Jersey, more than 80 government witnesses said.

Public officials on both sides of the border often received expensive
gifts and bribes from Garcia Abrego’s organization, testimony revealed.

In January 1997, Garcia Abrego was sentenced to 11 concurrent life

Resendez testified that he helped arrange drug deals and was aware of
murder plots and bribes to top Mexican government officials.

He also testified that “they” told him the United States was offering
a $2 million reward for information leading to Garcia Abrego’s arrest
and conviction, but that he was promised nothing except “security” for
himself and his family.

Jeff Pokorak, acting director of the Center for Legal and Social
Justice at St. Mary’s University law school in San Antonio, said the
practice of prosecutors paying for testimony is a threat to justice.

“The prosecution often feels they need to secure the testimony of
pretty reprehensible people, which is all right,” he said. “But the
horrible thing is to pay them. I don’t see how it’s reasonable to
believe that wouldn’t color one’s testimony. All you have to do is
tell a lie — or their version of the truth — for the person
protecting you.”

Pokorak said the payments are often in the guise of “rewards” and
often paid during the appeals process to protect the conviction.

The cashier’s checks to Resendez and Quintanilla were purchased within
six weeks of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ affirmation of
Garcia Abrego’s conviction.

Prosecutors maintained in court documents that if Resendez were paid
after the trial, defense attorneys were not entitled to that

But Pokorak said that’s not true.

“A deal isn’t just the delivery — it’s the wink and the nudge to the
witness before they get the benefit,” he said. “Was there some hint
that Mr. Resendez would get this windfall? That’s the violation.”

Michael Ramsey, one of Garcia Abrego’s trial lawyers, said, “Where the
honor about the United States has been challenged, no judge is more
willing to get to the bottom of it than Ewing Werlein.”



To the editors of the Houston Chronicle:

As shocking as it is that the FBI paid at least $1 million to a
witness to elicit false testimony, it is hardly surprising to see this
happen. Such practice is certainly to be condemned — but is it so
vastly different from offering lenience and plea bargains to convicts
who turn others in, a practice that has become so common that nobody
seems to raise an eyebrow over it anymore?

It is no accident that such unsavory practices have become commonplace
in courtroom cases dealing with the trade in illicit drugs. It is high
time to consider if lavish funding for undercover operations and
overstuffed reward chests yields more of a return on investment than
corrupting law enforcement and perverting justice. If going on
unquestioned, the War on Drugs is about to turn into a nightmare for
freedom and democracy.

Eric Ernst, New York

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Prepared by Eric Ernst Focus Alert Specialist