Drug Policy

Cleveland DEA Informant Scandal Unravels

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Last July, I posted about a brewing scandal in Cleveland in which longtime DEA informant Jerrell Bray admitted to conspiring with DEA agent Lee Lucas to lie in at least two dozen cases, resulting in 21 convictions.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on the sad case of one of the wrongfully accused, nursing home attendant Geneva France.

Geneva France walked out of federal prison with $68 and a bus ticket home. That's all the government had to offer a woman who had served 16 months of a decade-long prison sentence for a crime she didn't commit.

The mother of three returned to her family, but her youngest child—who was 18 months old when France was sent to prison—didn't recognize her.

And France, 25, had no home to return to.

Her landlord had evicted her from the rental during her incarceration, and everything she owned had been tossed on the street.

France's case is the nightmare scenario for a system that critics say sometimes dispenses justice differently for rich and poor.

It shows how easy it is for the government to get convictions in cases built on shaky investigations.

Defense attorneys say a street-smart but dishonest informant and a federal agent working without oversight manipulated the system to convict France and dozens of others.

"They stole the truth," France said. "I don't think I'll ever trust people again. It's too hard."

"I don't know how a human being with a heart could stand up there and lie about another person," France said. "They stole part of my life."

France can't find work because she can't get references, and can't explain the 18-month gap in her employment record she spent wrongfully incarcerated. She couldn't keep in touch with her kids while in prison because they couldn't afford to visit, and she couldn't afford to call. The federal government owes her a hell of a lot more than $68.

Fifteen more convictions related to the investigation are likely to be overturned in the coming weeks. Bray, the informant, is now in prison for perjury. Remarkably, DEA agent Lucas not only hasn't been charged or convicted, he apparently still has a job. His dealings with Bray mark the sixth time in his 17-year career that he has come under investigation for his work with informants.

In 2005, a report by the FBI's inspector general found that agency failed to comply with DOJ guidelines regarding the use of informants 87 percent of the time. That's not a typo. In nearly nine of every ten cases. And that's just the FBI. The report didn't cover other DOJ police agencies, like the DEA or ICE.  I've reported on how the FBI won't even guarantee that its informants aren't killing people—or sending innocent people to prison—while agents look the other way.

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  1. She’s just gonna use the $68 to buy crack anyway.

    What a disgrace.

    1. You are truly a piece of walking dogshit.
      let me guess you are a christian too.

      Christians…. the gangbangers of the religiously ignorant.

  2. Remarkably, DEA agent Lucas not only hasn’t been charged or convicted, he apparently still has a job. His dealings with Bray mark the sixth time in his 17-year career that he has come under investigation for his work with informants.

    Sadlt, infuriatingly, unjustly and negligently, yes. But the fact that he hasn’t been tried, punished or dismissed I don’t find remrkable at all.

    It’s for the children! Just not hers.

  3. I’m shocked, _shocked_, that a law enforcement officer lied in a court of law to gain a conviction.

  4. Remarkably, DEA agent Lucas not only hasn’t been charged or convicted, he apparently still has a job.

    How remarkable is that exactly? Since when did fucking over the poor for the sake of your career ever carry consequenses in public service?

  5. > “They stole the truth,” France said.

    Well said.

  6. This is a big deal. The FBI and the DEA and DOJ are completely broke from top to bottom. You are only as good as the people who make up your organization. Yeah, you could legalize drugs tommorow, but something tells me that Lee and his ilk would just start framing people for crimes besides drugs. Yes, you can throw Lee in jail, which since a special prosecutor is investigating still may happen, but what about the rest of them? What do you do about a culture that this kind of thing is endemic?

    Ultimately, this is not about the drug war. This is about the complete moral banrupctcy of federal law enforcment. The only sollution is to get the feds completely out of law enforcement save, border patrol, conterfeiting and international terrorism. Leave the rest to the states. Let the states determine their own drug laws and let all drug offenses be state offenses. Then you could get rid of the DEA and the BATF alltogether and have an FBI that deals exclusively with counter intelligence and terrorism issues and DHS which handles immigration, customs and the border patrol.

  7. so, law enforcement officials are basically breaking the law 87% of the time … and where’s the outrage? What is truly sad is that so few people care. The WOD must come to an end … but that’s pie in the sky dreaming. They run their racket, and innocent people suffer. DEA = organized crime.

  8. Remarkably, DEA agent Lucas not only hasn’t been charged or convicted, he apparently still has a job

    People already pointed out how unremarkable this is, so I won’t repeat it. I’ll only say that more and more, it seems to me the job of everyone on the “prosecutor’s” side, be it DEA, FBI, criminal prosecutors or whoever, is to fill jail cells with warm bodies. That’s it. Fill the cell. Whether or not the body in question committed the crime for which it was incarcerated is beside the point. How else to explain, for example, prosecutors who don’t bother looking at evidence to suggest that the guy they locked up is NOT the Dangerous Killer Who Stalks The City? They don’t care about “cleaning up the streets,” just buffing up their arrest records.

  9. Let these 2 pieces of shit finish out her sentences, and everyone else’s they railroaded too, and that’s a good start.

  10. Why would anyone, ever, trust the police or the justice system? Even if you have done nothing wrong, they will just lie. They have no reason not to, after all.

  11. “How else to explain, for example, prosecutors who don’t bother looking at evidence to suggest that the guy they locked up is NOT the Dangerous Killer Who Stalks The City? They don’t care about “cleaning up the streets,” just buffing up their arrest records.”

    Because they have a million cases and are completly over worked and working in that environment makes you very cynical about anyone’s innocence. There is a lot of abuse and system needs to be better, but there is also a lot of good work done. Not every prosecutor is a drone locking up innocent people. Shockingly Jennifer, real criminals actually exist. If you are ever the victim of one of them, something tells me you will want the DA who prosecutes the case to be real interested in locking people up.

  12. DEA = organized crime.

    Wrong! Organized crime largely is giving people what they want. Not so the DEA.

  13. Even if you have done nothing wrong, they will just lie.

    Yet some folks can’t make the connection between crooked cops and unacceptable crime rates. Go to your nearest inner city ghetto. Ask people, fine honest citizens, if they trust the police. Ask them if they will cooperate with police if requested. You’ll get a “NOT ONLY NO, BUT **** NO! The police are widely perceived as the enemy by large sections of society, and understandably so.

    As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

  14. I have to stop reading Balko posts soon, my outrage is turning into despair.

  15. John, there is no excuse of why a prosecutor can’t do what’s required to ensure justice. We all have reasons to bitch about our job and some of those reasons can make for hardships, but that is no excuse. If we were to accept that excuses are ok, then you end up with, not justice, but excuses. I know of no job where excuses prevail over your job duties.

  16. “If you are ever the victim of one of them, something tells me you will want the DA who prosecutes the case to be real interested in locking people up.”

    No, John, I want the DA to be interested in finding the person who actually committed the crime and ensuring an appropriate punishment. Wanting revenge makes you as bad as the criminal and locking someone up doesn’t fix the bad thing that happened.

  17. TrickyVic,

    I am not defending prosecutors who lock up the wrong people. My point is that Jennifer is just dead wrong if she thinks that every prosecutor is some drone looking to lock anyone up. There are lots of very honest hard working ones out there doing a really nasty but necessary job. Further, not every mistake in the justice system is the result of mal intent on a prosecutor’s part. I am sure in this case, the DEA agent made the informant look damn believable and any US Attorney in that position would have brought the case.

  18. Sure, there are real criminals – and they benefit more than anyone from a society which cannot trust its law enforcement officials.

  19. And how is it that people who are wrongly incarcerated are not compensated for their lost time and damaged lives? Perhaps prosecutors should be liable for false convictions.

  20. “Yet some folks can’t make the connection between crooked cops and unacceptable crime rates. Go to your nearest inner city ghetto. Ask people, fine honest citizens, if they trust the police. Ask them if they will cooperate with police if requested. You’ll get a “NOT ONLY NO, BUT **** NO! The police are widely perceived as the enemy by large sections of society, and understandably so. ”

    If only it were that simple. The inner cities are so disfunctional I don’t know how you fix them. I would highly reccomend reading this article in the LA Weekly. It is very eye opening.

    http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/la-gangs-nine-miles-and-spreading/17861/?page=1

  21. France can’t find work because she can’t get references, and can’t explain the 18-month gap in her employment record she spent wrongfully incarcerated.

    I think she has a damn good explanation for the gap.

  22. Ultimately, this is not about the drug war.

    Because they have a million cases and are completly over worked and working in that environment makes you very cynical about anyone’s innocence.

    Your second statement makes me think the first statement is incorrect.

  23. Les,

    If only the million cases were all drug cases. Sadly, there are so many crimes and criminals out there. If you read REason you would think that the only people in prison were cancer patients who got busted for buying a joint. But in the real world there is an endless supply of theives, sex perverts, wife beaters, gang bangers, and all around losers who would still be that way drugs or no drugs.

  24. From The Innocence Project here is the gist of Ohio law regarding incarceration:

    A wrongfully convicted person is eligible to receive $40,330 per year (or amount determined by state auditor) in addition to lost wages, costs, and attorney’s fees as long as claimant did not plead guilty. The claim must be filed within 2 years of of exoneration.

    Read the statute: Ohio Rev Code Ann ? 2305.02 & ? 2743.48

  25. If only it were that simple. The inner cities are so disfunctional I don’t know how you fix them. I would highly reccomend reading this article in the LA Weekly. It is very eye opening.

    I never said it was simple. It’s easy to blame the folks in the ghetto for their own problems, and the majority of their problems are self inflicted.
    But they view the cops as the enemy. The police give them ample reasons for being viewed that way. It doesn’t take a genius to connect community distrust of the law enforcement officials and soaring crime rates, does it? Cops like this dirtbag Lee Lucas are traitors. Not just traitors to the organization, but traitors to the entire civilized community. But his peers (most cops are good cops, it’s only a few bad apples, they wouldn’t have busted her is she wasn’t guilty of something. yada, yada, yada) certainly don’t see it necessary to remove him from their community, do they? For every crooked cop you hear about, there are at least ten covering up for him.

    John you can apologize for the police all you want, and I don’t claim to have the magical solution, but law enforcement in our country, on the local, state and federal level has more criminals than the general populace. If people can get that thru their heads we can start working for a solution.

  26. If only the million cases were all drug cases.

    Considering how many are, certainly it’s reasonable to assume that eliminating them would free up law enforcement to better handle actual threats to life and property.

  27. First of all, a great deal of this is indeed about the Drug war. Prohibitions lead to this sort of nastiness en masse. Not all, but a great deal of the bureaucratic nonsense is directly related to the WOD.
    Second, what came first, the chicken or the egg? The crime explosion or the WOD? Yes, there has always been crime, but… the WOD has exacerbated crime simply by giving previously legal actions the label of crime. The same thing would (and i hate to say it, but probably will) happen if tobacco or trans-fat consumption were criminalized.

  28. But it’s the American Way.

    The things we criminalize, and the more people we put in prison (innocent or not) the better off we’ll all be!

  29. This is why people on the other thread about the cop who was capped as he broke down the door were cheering. This is exactly why.

    1. If some of the traitors died everytime they bashed on a door, they would stop bashing in doors.

      Traitors wage war on innocents…. time to start shooting the traitors.

  30. My point is that Jennifer is just dead wrong if she thinks that every prosecutor is some drone looking to lock anyone up.

    Not speaking for her, but to address the point: It’s not that every prosecutor is consciously or intentionally malicious, it’s that the culture that they operate in promotes, and therefore produces, prosecutors who get convictions. That competitive focus on convictions combined with an almost complete lack of accountability (since nobody is likely to ever find out about the mistakes – after all, who believes a convict?), leads to these kind of outcomes. The system also gives prosecutors and police ample rationalizations (and protection) for doing whatever it takes, including looking the other way at times, when something doesn’t quite add up. Taken together, it’s not surprising that this kind of thing happens, what probably would be surprising would be to find out exactly how often this kind of thing happens. Given the related* rash of DNA exonerations, which are certainly only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, I’d say it’s far more than even the pessimists would have guessed.

    *I say it’s related because in most of those cases, prosecutors who know damn well how inherently unreliable eye-witness accounts are, especially in highly charged emotional situations as when one is the victim of a brutal crime, shamelessly go after convictions with nothing more than that testimony. Again, the overwhelming pressure to get convictions coupled with almost no accountability (because until recently there really was almost no way anyone would ever know) leads to innocent people being locked up (and in those other cases, leaves truly violent people still at large).

    1. Sorry but the statistics don’t support your story.

      The prosecutors are paid employees of the for profit prison system, they are criminals and should be in the prison they work for.

      The so called justice system is so utterly broken it can NEVER be fixed.

  31. wine … so true. One must ask, how will this all be brought to an end? There are several ways, but few of them are tenable in the present environment. We can
    A. Try political change through lobbying efforts and the democratic process
    B. Start marching in the streets along with acts of civil disobedience until change is realized
    C. Start arming ourselves and shooting when invaders violate our home space unannounced

  32. This is why people on the other thread about the cop who was capped as he broke down the door were cheering. This is exactly why.

    And they were assholes for it. But yeah, that’s one of the reasons why.

    1. If everytime the traitors broke down a door, a couple of them got capped.. they would stop knocking on doors.

      Traitors need to die a traitors death.

  33. Monkey, drug war, yes……

    DEA has always had a rep for being dirty and for having all the good drugs.

  34. If you are ever the victim of one of them, something tells me you will want the DA who prosecutes the case to be real interested in locking people up.

    I certainly would. And when the DA instead locks up the wrong guy, and DNA evidence proves it, but the DA can’t be bothered to look at said evidence and then Radley Balko makes his 10,284th consecutive Hit and Run post about yet ANOTHER incident of prosecutorial misconduct which will never be penalized, I’ll look at you and point out that whatever honest prosecutor you have in mind, one good apple still isn’t enough to salvage the whole rotten barrel.

    1. If some of the victims made a special point of making it a personal problem for the prosecutor who is obviously a criminal. I’m sure his house can be found…. if it met with an accident I’m sure all would understand.

  35. J sub, to be clear, I’m just saying that I can understand the thought process that breeds the outrage.

    And I’m not without sin myself, I’ve wished people untimely demises for much, much less than stuff like this. 🙂

  36. Heath Ledger is dead … was found dead in an apartment … looks like an OD.

  37. And I’m not without sin myself, I’ve wished people untimely demises for much, much less than stuff like this. 🙂

    Like that fat lady with 19 items in the express lane at Krogers this morning? But we don’t write it down, post it and defend it, do we? We don’t even really mean it. At least I don’t.

  38. DEATH METAL GROOOOOOOWWWWWWLLLLL!

  39. I’m guessing this is all part of the “new professionalism” of law enforcment.

    1. You mean the new Psychopathic Thuggery training they are putting to use.

  40. J sub D, just for my understanding –

    what exactly do people have to become willing, paid party to until you agree that they had it coming, and that it’s better, the more of them go?

    I take it you wouldn’t have suffered Pol Pot to live if you had had the chance; so where is the limit?

  41. I take it you wouldn’t have suffered Pol Pot to live if you had had the chance; so where is the limit?

    Damned good question, for which I lack a short, sweet answer. Yeah, I’d have supported Pol Pots death. I toasted Ceausescu’s execution. When you start killing innocent people for your own ends, then I start desiring your death. OTOH, I’m against the death penalty because I don’t trust the government enough to get it right.

    A cop performs a drug raid, with a warrant, I don’t rejoice in his death. I don’t like cops, I hate the drug war, but I don’t want the cop dead. How could anyone take pleasure in that? In similar circumstances, a drug dealer dies in another senseless drug raid. I don’t rejoice in that death either. How could a moral person enjoy that? My humanity causes me to mourn both lossses.

    Should Jeffrey Dahmer be put to death? My only objection is government incompetence. But that objection will never go away. So I oppose the death penalty in general.

    No, if you want armed revolution, go out and do it. Don’t be a billy badass of the intertubes playing pretend revolutionary. It’s false bravado. Kinda like GWB, war president. It sickens me and indicates somebody is really a coward. All talk with no personal danger or commitment.

  42. You should also note that I definitely have NOT called for prosecution of the poor guy who killed a cop during one of those foolish raids in Chesapeake, VA. this weekend. Let’s face it, the American people are responsible for this carnage, and only the American people can stop it.

  43. J sub D,

    I agree with your death penalty assessment. Although some crimes are so heinous as to merit the death penalty I cannot support it due to government incompetence and flat out deliberate evil (ie full knowing wrongful convictions).

  44. Lucas needs to be put in the general population of a maximum security prison. Hey, maybe he will meet the infamous ‘tossed salad man.’ Jelly or Syrup Lee??

  45. DEA… criminals one and all. Not a single legit American in the entire cowardly criminal organization.

    They should all be put on trial and executed as the traitors they are.

    DEA… lets face it, if they had a brain they would have a real job instead of waging war against innocent Americans.

    About time to deport or execute the entire organization.

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