An increasing number of judges are questioning the use of fake drugs in “stash-house stings” by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, reports the New York Times. Suspects are lured to the houses, expecting to rip off drug dealers. Instead, they are arrested. The ATF has made a specialty of the ruses, conducting 365 such stings over the past decade. The bureau says it has sent to prison more than 1,000 of the country's most “violent, hardened criminals” as a result.
But this year, the judge in a Los Angeles sting case dismissed the charges against two of the defendants on the rarely invoked grounds of “outrageous government conduct.” Judge Otis D. Wright II described the bureau in his March decision as “trawling for crooks in seedy, poverty-ridden areas — all without an iota of suspicion that any particular person has committed similar conduct in the past.” Other judges in California and Illinois have also questioned the tactics.