A federal judge has excoriated an Assistant U.S. Attorney for failing to disclose that the Columbian police involved in the arrest of two drug traffickers on trial in Miami were being paid by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Citing miscommunication and language barriers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Hoffman told the Court she learned of the payments only after a jury was chosen for trial.
According to John Pacenti of the Daily Business Review, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke accused Hoffman of breaching her ethics as a prosecutor and forgetting that she represents the people of the United States.
The defendants’ attorneys said that the government had led them to believe that the charges against their clients were the result of an independent operation on behalf of the Columbian police. The fact that the DEA were behind it was crucial to their defense as it would have allowed them to challenge wiretaps and impeach witnesses in the case.
Pacenti notes that this is not an isolated incident:The exchange with Cooke was not the first time Hoffman faced intense questioning by a Miami federal judge over her conduct in a criminal case. Hoffman was one of three prosecutors who faced sanctions for not telling a defense attorney that the government had its witnesses secretly tape his phone calls…
The judge wouldn’t dismiss the case or declare a mistrial but said, “The tug in that direction is quite strong.” However, the Edmonton Journal reported that the defendants were quickly allowed to plea to one count of conspiracy to transport cocaine and received sentences of 36 months, with two years credit for time served, instead of the 10 years they faced at trial before the Brady material was discovered.