Sean King and Howard Brown, who were subjected to a blatantly malicious federal prosecution in Georgia over the last two years, filed motions today to compel the Department of Justice to pay their legal fees.
King, Brown and an American Outlaws Association regional club officer named Larry McDaniel were all prosecuted, not once but twice, for obstructing a federal proceeding after McDaniel ordered that patches and other items in the clubhouse of the Cleveland, Georgia chapter of the Black Pistons Motorcycle Club should be repossessed. McDaniel had learned that the chapter had been infiltrated by an undercover FBI agent and additional informants. Brown was the Georgia President of the Black Pistons. King was an Outlaws patch holder. Both men helped collect club insignia from members of the Cleveland chapter.
A federal judge dismissed the original case against the men after deciding that none of them had actually committed a crime. Then the government indicted the men again for obstructing the investigation. The government persisted even after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that FBI investigations are not court proceedings in August 2013. A judge dismissed part of the indictment last May. The rest of the indictment was dismissed late last month after a judge ruled the prosecution had failed to prove its case before a jury at trial.
King’s motion complains he “had his door kicked in, flash grenades thrown into his house, and his life subsequently turned upside down.”
A law called the Hyde Amendment authorizes federal judges to award legal costs to a prevailing defendant “where the court finds that the position of the United States was vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith.”
King’s attorney, Adam M. Hames, writes: “The Government’s theory of the case was that because the defendants knew there was either a confidential informant or an undercover officer in a related clubhouse they shut down the clubhouse, thereby obstructing an ongoing investigations, which would have led to presentation of evidence to a grand jury. The fundamental irony of this case is that the Government brought thiscriminal prosecution against the defendants for shutting down a snitch as a means to find their own leak within law enforcement.
“Ultimately, this case was a snake hunt that turned into a snipe hunt. It was of the utmost importance to the FBI to find out who had leaked the confidential informant’s name and the name of his handler, Agent Sewell, to Larry McDaniel. This case was never about a violation of the criminal laws by the defendants. Like a drug case, these defendants were prosecuted because the Government believed that at least one of them would tell the FBI who was the source of their inside law enforcement information. Placing a person in criminal jeopardy in order to smoke out a dirty agent or officer is acting in bad faith.”
King and Brown are each seeking about $18,000 in legal fees.