Federal Appeals Court Rules ATF ‘Reverse Stings’ Do Not Constitute ‘Outrageous Government Conduct’

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A federal appeals court has ruled, despite its previously expressed objections, that a district court was wrong to rule that a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) “reverse sting” operation involving an imaginary cocaine stash house did not involve or constitute “outrageous government conduct.”

“We have previously held that similar reverse-sting operations, if properly conducted, are a permissible law enforcement tactic,” the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled [PDF]. The government’s conduct did not “go beyond the bounds” of what has been considered acceptable in previous cases involving similar “reverse stings.”

“The ATF targeted individuals who had already demonstrated an interest in committing robberies, and did little more than ‘set the ‘bait’’ by inventing a fictitious cocaine stash house they could rob. Once the bait was set, Defendants ‘responded with enthusiasm.’”

“They planned nearly every detail of the robbery without assistance, including how many men they would bring, what weapons they would use, how they would dress, how they would break into the stash house, how they would restrain any guards, where they would hide after the robbery, and where they would sell the stolen cocaine,” the court added.

It also declared that defendants had “provided the guns, disguises, and zip ties necessary for them to carry out the robbery according to the plans they made. The government’s conduct here did not ‘violate fundamental fairness or shock the universal sense of justice mandated by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.’”

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