In February, Jason Broadbent, who would be convicted of selling weapons and sentenced to more than 50 years in prison, would testify on his own behalf that the first weapon he sold was his own. He testified that he only wanted to sell drugs to the agent, not guns.
During the course of his proceeding, his attorney Ava Landers told the Vanguard, “We raised the issue of entrapment.”
She explained, “In this case my client sold guns and drugs to an undercover police officer. He was contacted by an undercover officer who was introduced to my client by a confidential informant. He sold the guns and drugs to the officer at the officers request.”
The court would reject the entrapment defense. “Ultimately it was found by the court that they police conduct did not rise to the level of outrageousness,” she said.
However, we asked, was Mr. Broadbent selling weapons prior to being contacted by the undercover?
The answer according to Ms. Landers was, “No he was not.”
The evidence is mounting that this is not an isolated incident. In the case of Paul Fullerton, YONET agents attempted to induce Mr. Fullerton into illegally selling them marijuana – without their having a proper medical marijuana card.
He told the Vanguard that a number of agents over the course of their investigation had come into his shop and attempted to purchase marijuana illegally.
“YONET Agent Gary Richter had come into my shop about six or seven months before the raids, when I didn’t know it was him,” he said. “Right as he left, he asked if he could get some cannabis off me, I said no. We don’t sell cannabis here.”
Another agent who came in constantly, dressed in a disheveled way, eventually came in with a sob story that his wife was sick with cancer. “I asked him right there, ‘do you have a card?’ he said
no. ‘Does your wife have a card?’ he said yes.”
Mr. Fullerton told the Vanguard, “The law states, verbal word by a caregiver. That would make him a caregiver if his wife is sick.”
The agent then came back and “I could have set him up with dispensaries.” But instead, he offered him some old product from the back of his shop. “He tried to give me money,” he said. “I said, no, no, no, no.”
The Vanguard asked him, prior to that, had he ever done this before?
“One time I gave it to a cancer patient who was a friend of my father. He had stage four cancer,” he explained. “That’s the only time I had given it to anybody.
“That’s how I knew who the bum was – they told me in my questioning, you just sold to an undercover and I said, yeah, I know, the bum,” he said. “They said how do you know that? I said, because I’d never done it before.”
Last year, the Vanguard covered a case involving Scott Clark, who was induced by undercovers working for multiple agencies to steal vehicles.
Deputy Public Defender John Sage called the conduct, “Outrageous government conduct” and filed a motion “on the grounds that the conduct to be described violates Due Process and was otherwise unlawful or outrageous and the charges therefore must be dismissed.”
While the motion here was not granted, the conduct remains troubling.
During the fall of 2014 through the summer of 2015, multiple law enforcement agencies rented a commercial warehouse near Walmart in Woodland. Taxpayer money was used to rent the facility and pay utilities. The warehouse had two drive-in bays and was outfitted with multiple hidden cameras and audio recording devices.
“The operation cost taxpayers, according to testimony given to the grand jury, in the tens of thousands of dollars,” Mr. Sage writes. “This amount, however, appears a bit low considering that law enforcement personnel, under oath testifying before the grand jury, were spending $1000 to $2000 on a firearm; and, over 200 firearms were recovered in the course of the operation.”
The purpose of the operation was supposed to target people stealing firearms and then selling those firearms to criminals and gang members in other communities. “Rather than wait, just sit back and wait for people to come to the rented warehouse, law enforcement personnel went to known areas of criminal activity, that were known for gang activity, in Yolo County. Undercover law enforcement agents made contact with persons in those areas that were selling firearms or narcotics,” Mr. Sage explained.
Mr. Clark was brought into the operation by a confidential informant (“CI”) who gave him food, drugs and a place to stay – all the while he “was a fugitive from the State of Nevada.”
The informant then arranged for contacts between Mr. Clark and law enforcement, resulting in the sale of multiple vehicles during the course of several months.
“Mr. Clark specifically told undercover law enforcement agents that he was getting the vehicles he was selling from an unnamed third party,” he explains. “Yolo County citizens suffered harm by law enforcement’s failure to arrest Mr. Clark.”
As Mr. Sage documents, several vehicles were damaged in the process of being stolen. One vehicle would no longer drive over 45 mph. “This victim, as a result, had to use the bus for transportation and it was impossible to get to work using the bus. As a result, the victim lost his or her job.
“Did law enforcement manufacture a crime that would not otherwise have likely occurred?” he writes. “Absolutely!”
In fact, we have now identified at least three cases, one involving guns, one involving marijuana and one involving stolen cars that would not have occurred but for the fact that law enforcement manufactured the crime.
In the case of Mr. Clark, the defendant was reluctant to commit the crime, but was overcome by persistent solicitation by the agent.
Mr. Sage argues, “Law enforcement agents exploited his heavy drug use and relationship with the CI to get him to agree to provide stolen vehicles to undercover law enforcement agents.”
In the case of Mr. Broadbent, he had come to believe that the man he knew as “Troubles” was likely to be an agent, but was willing to continue contact with him, because he was tipping and offering extra money.
In the case of Mr. Fullerton, he initially declined to sell to Agent Gary Richter when the agent attempted a straight on approach.
Attorney Joseph Tully told the judge, upon his client pleading, that the agent had been in his business and “given him a sob story about his wife having cancer. He didn’t check for a medical card.
“He did give out pretty small amounts of cannabis on two occasions to an undercover officer without first checking his card,” he explained. The first time, he gave it out and the second time, he accepted a small amount of money “because the man was insistent. He put it right in a boot he collects for charity all year long,” Mr. Tully explained. “He really tried to tell the guy not to worry about it. The crime would be in giving it away – it’s just as much of a crime in giving it away as selling it.”
Many believe that the actions by law enforcement were entrapment.
“They pulled on his heart strings,” Mr. Tully said. “Because of the nature of the shop, he suspects that they had had multiple undercover people come in there, lots of times. The thing that actually got through was someone coming in and talking about a sick wife kind of tugging on his heart strings.”
Overall, Mr. Tully said, “I felt that the charges were overblown.”
A few months after the Vanguard ran the story last year on Mr. Clark, and the man who had acted as an informant told the Vanguard that he had been coerced into doing the deal, given promises for protection by law enforcement, and as soon as the case was wrapped up, basically hung out to dry.
—David M. Greenwald reporting