A federal magistrate in Las Vegas has recommended dismissal of felony drug trafficking charges against a former officer of the Vagos motorcycle gang because of outrageous government conduct by the lead undercover agent in the case, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach criticized Agostino Brancato, a deputized agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, for manufacturing the cocaine case against Jeremy Halgat, though Halgat had no criminal record and repeatedly told the agent in secretly recorded conversations that he did not want to traffic in drugs.
“The problem is that the government's investigation deployed techniques that generated a wholly new crime for the sake of pressing criminal charges against Halgat,” Ferenbach wrote. Ferenbach also said that despite Brancato's denial, “there is no doubt” he “falsified” a report of one of the alleged drug transactions and that supervisors of his ATF-led task force “did not dissuade him” from doing it. “This is distressing,” Ferenbach said. “Can the court rely on the chain of custody of evidence that the government will proffer against Halgat at trial? Did Brancato's supervisors permit other falsifications?” Federal prosecutors, who in lengthy court papers denied there was wrongdoing in the investigation of Halgat, plan to file an opposition to the recommendation with a federal judge in a bid to keep the case alive.