Using trickery and deceit, the Department of Justice continues to torment a Vago named Jeremy “Maniac” Halgat with a spurious prosecution. Halgat was targeted for prosecution during a much ballyhooed law enforcement stunt called Operation Pure Luck in Las Vegas. The government declared victory on June 27, 2013 and if Halgat or his lawyer had more cooperatively played their parts he would have taken a bad plea deal. He did not.
One of the dirty tricks our government has used against Halgat is to charge him and make him defend himself in two, parallel federal prosecutions called USA v. Wickham et al. and USA v. Halgat et al. The idea was simply to provide prosecutors with a second chance to ruin Halgat’s life if they lost one of the cases. It is increasingly common prosecutorial game that has the added advantage of making it unreasonably difficult for the press, and hence the people, to make sense of what is going on in the courthouse
One of the unavoidable deceits in Halgat’s cases was that a cynical Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy named Agostino Brancato, who is an experienced casual employee for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – the ATF calls these clowns Tactical Field Officers – simply lied to make a case against Halgat. He lied more than two years ago. Prosecutors have known for more than a year that Brancato lied. He didn’t simply strew his victim’s path with banana peals in hopes he would slip. He lied.
I Can’t Help
This is exactly what happened, although for the sake of narrative brevity this is not all the unethical and possibly illegal things Brancato and the ATF did: Brancato patched into the Vagos Motorcycle Club in Vegas and for two years he tried to entice the Vagos and members of other clubs like the Mongols to do something more illegal than speeding. After two years the ATF had so much invested in the case that they had to justify the investigation lest all their precious, $200,000 a year careers be ruined.
In August 2012 Brancato tried to entice Halgat into trafficking cocaine and, on tape, Halgat replied, “I can’t…I can’t fucking, I can’t help.” Eventually in that conversation, Halgat reluctantly told his club brother he might know a guy who knew a guy. He said, “the only thing I can contribute is, hey this is my home boy, I trust him. This is my home boy, I trust him, whatever you do, and if it fucks up….”
More than a month later, on September 19, 2012, Halgat agreed to introduce Brancato to Udell Wickham, his future co-defendant in one of his cases. Wickham sold Brancato an ounce of cocaine and was recently sentenced to five years probation. Unfortunately for the ATF, Wickham was not a Vago and the whole point of the undercover investigation was to charge Vagos. So that night, during a tape recorded debriefing, Brancato proposed just lying about what Halgat had done.
Like As Far As I’m Concerned
“This is what I’m thinking,” Brancato mused. “Like as far as I’m concerned fucking Maniac sold me this fucking ounce, Bro. I mean, really. Yeah. Well, that’s what I’m thinking. Well, this is what I’m thinking, Bro is that on the QP, we do it the same way. Let Maniac…I give Maniac the money, he goes in there, brings it back to me,da, da, da. And then on the next one, I’m like hey, Bro, can I just go to him direct and I’ll still give you the money and now I have a sale of QP with him. You know what I’m saying? With Udell, without him, so now, he owns one and then this guy and Maniak owns one. Well, alright, so we may need a little bit more. We maybe have to do a little bit more. That’s…which is perfect. Yup.”
Brancato then discussed how he would falsify his Report of Investigation. Anecdotal evidence suggests that what Brancato did is standard operating procedure in ATF investigations. What makes Brancato unique is that most ATF employees aren’t so stupid or sloppy as to audio record themselves when they decide how best to frame some guy.
Outrageous Government Conduct
Eventually Halgat’s lawyer, the esteemed Melanie A. Hill, moved for a dismissal of the charges against Halgat on the grounds of “outrageous government conduct” and a Federal Magistrate Judge named Cam Ferenbach recommended the dismissal of the indictment against Halgat in Wickham. And, since the two cases against Halgat were basically the same a dismissal in Wickham should lead, everywhere but Wonderland, to the dismissal of the second case titled Halgat. But Ferenbach was not the presiding judge in either case.
Those cases are being heard by two District Court Judges named Andrew Gordon and Jennifer Dorsey. And of course due process must be followed, particularly when due process works to the advantage of the prosecution. And the prosecutors both objected and stalled.
Finally Tuesday, Gordon and Dorsey held a joint status conference and agreed to hold a joint evidentiary hearing to determine whether both cases against Halgat should be dismissed. That evidentiary hearing is scheduled for November 5th, 6th, 7th and 13th before both judges. If the judges do not dismiss the cases against Halgat then he will stand trial on the charges in January.