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There are things that the US Government doesn’t want discussed in open court and Operation Fast and Furious is one of them. This is true even in a criminal trial against a cartel boss. The cartel boss is question is Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera aka El Chapo of the Sinoloa Cartel. Perhaps I should say that the government especially doesn’t want to have any discussion of Operation Fast and Furious in a case involving the cartel which received the firearms.
Guzman was extradited to the United States in 2017 and is now on trial in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Judge Brian Cogan, a George W. Bush appointee, is the presiding judge in the case. Guzman’s attorney is A. Eduardo Balarezo. He is a criminal defense attorney who handles Federal cases involving high profile defendants like Guzman. The prosecution team is headed by Richard Donoghue who is the US Attorney for the Eastern District.
The government has filed a motion in Limine to exclude questioning about Operation Fast and Furious. They are contending it will confuse the jury and prejudice the government’s case against Guzman.
The defense strategy is transparent. Given the substantial number of articles
that have been written about the Operation, many of which criticize the government’s handling
of the movement of weapons from the United States into Mexico, the defense is attempting to
use the well-known operation to place the government on trial. While the government will
seek to introduce at trial seized weapons that had been identified by ATF agents within the
scope of the Operation,1 any details about the Operation itself are completely irrelevant to the
issues at trial under Rule 401 of the Federal Rules of Evidence and should be excluded on
those grounds alone. To the extent that the details of the Operation are in any way relevant,
pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 403, any minimal relevance would be greatly outweighed
by the substantial risk of misleading the jury and unfair prejudice against the government.
The government respectfully seeks a ruling at this time precluding any further
mention of the Operation, and in so doing, incorporates by reference its previous arguments in its Motions in Limine, Dkt. Nos. 213, 326. In light of the extensive reporting on the Operation,
repeated references to the Operation in defense cross-examination questions create a
substantial risk of tainting the jury, even if government objections to the questions are
sustained by the Court and the witnesses are not required to answer the objectionable questions.
Judge Cogan had denied an earlier attempt to exclude this under the grounds that it was premature. From what I can tell, he has not ruled on this attempt to exclude this from being heard by the jury. Many of the orders are either restricted or under seal and cannot be seen by the general public, i.e, me and thee.
The New York Daily News is reporting on the trial including the motion by the government to exclude this information. Like most of the mainstream media, they are still referring to it as a “botched sting” operation. As Kurt Hofmann wrote over seven years ago, the only thing botched was the cover-up. It was true then and it is still true today.