The Marine Staff Sergeant
February, 2008

I've chosen to keep this man's name masked: he is still a Marine, although The Corps wants to make his life miserable for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and, in the process, suspend The Constitution's presumption of innocence:

A decorated recruiter (The Marines say: "The toughest job in The Corps.") with a recent meritorious promotion, he was contacted within the past year by a remote acquaintance from his smallish hometown in a Central American country, now living in another part of The United States. They got together for a drink after work one day, and the visitor went on his way.

In November of 2007, The Marine was contacted by a friend of the first, also from their mutual hometown. This second contact had vaguely known The Marine because of The Marine's high-profile participation in Pan American and Olympic-level athletics when both were younger, and the second had also been a visible athlete. After a brief encounter with the second, also over an after-work drink (recruiters are trained to be obliging and accommodating and ingratiating), he left town and returned a couple of days later, ostensibly to conduct business with a Miamian (who turned out to be an illegal Colombian, protected by The F.B.I., kept here on a rotating yearly visa, acting as a paid informant after having made a lot of money on his own account in drug trafficking before being kidnapped for ransom). The Marine, of course, was clueless that he'd been inserted into the middle of a fifteen-kilogram cocaine deal. When asked to drive the second man and his accomplice to a meeting two days later - - a business meeting, as it was described to The Marine, at a fast-food restaurant, at the moment the Miami informant got confirmation from a New York informant (who occupied the same relationship vis-à-vis The F.B.I. except that he was a heroin dealer rather than a cocaine trafficker) that money had been paid in New York by the original contact (above), agents and local police who were part of a "task force" under The Bureau's control arrested everybody, The Marine included. The arrest was videotaped, and the video contradicted the informant's version of The Marine's supposed capacity of "lookout." The dozen or so taped telephone conversations among all of the players, made by the informants did not, of course, include either The Marine's voice, or anything that could even remotely be understood as a reference to him as a "co-conspirator." Still, The Bureau and its agents pushed for The Marine's indictment on two cocaine counts, both carrying mandatory ten year minimum sentences, plus a firearms count that would have required consecutive sentencing had it resulted in conviction.

A week of trial, including two of The Marine's three co-defendants who were very elastic in their recollections, in an effort to get out from underneath their own minimum mandatories; all of twenty minutes allowed for argument; an hour and a half's deliberations (including ordering and eating lunch); and verdicts of "not guilty" on all counts.

The Marine will get his back pay for the two months he was held in jail while the government appealed the bond initially set by a Magistrate Judge and the District Judge decided to fast-track the case rather than take up either the appeal or our cross-appeal. He will get grief from some narrow and over-zealous NCOs and officers in The Corps. And if he wants it, he'll also get his name above the Plaintiff's line in a Bivens-type action.


United States v. Mangeri Salazar (and Lopez)
Eleventh Circuit, July, 2007 (Published)

Doris Mangeri, a Colombian born, naturalized American woman with a flawless history and a hard-working, successful real estate broker in Coral Gables, was indicted for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a very significant quantity of cocaine. Her only real "crime" was that she had been an intimate of a member of the innermost circle of the Saudi royal family for more than 25 years, since they were in college together at The University of Miami.

The "witnesses" against her were a quartet of the worst, most prolific cocaine exporters and transporters in recent history, and two, in particular, who were among the first to be extradited to The United States after the American government twisted Colombia's economic arm to force a change in that country's Constitution. Those two most important of them (one of whom (on cross-examination) admitted that every day of his life was a lie - - to his family, his girlfriend(s), his "business associates," and his own government in the context of contacts with governmental agencies for licenses, permits, and the registration of business transactions - - to the extent that he held himself out as a legitimate and successful businessman while in reality he was a first-magnitude drug exporter and transporter to places all around the world) ultimately made a (tricked-out and phony) deal, with knowing prosecutors and agents, to plead guilty in exchange for government recommendations for extravagantly-reduced sentences based upon contrived, set-up "substantial assistance" (they were giving up their own drugs, in transit, and attributing them to others). An intermediary "defense lawyer," selected and approved by the government, represented them in the deal-making process and was paid millions (in drug proceeds, with impunity) for his "services," and brought another in to cover the other principal to avoid appearances of "conflict." Why? The prosecutors and agents wanted "The Prince," and even referred to the case as "the Prince case."

The trial was a real train-wreck: wholly erroneous rulings limiting cross examination, allowing the admission of completely irrelevant but damaging information about the Saudi, and a refusal to inquire into Brady and Giglio violations we had uncovered through investigation but which the government crassly denied, including the main informant's ongoing money-laundering while he was serving his brief active sentence, and additional trans-continental smuggling ventures - - for which he was indicted the day after the (guilty) verdicts were returned following a two month trial, about which the government had known all along.

The Court of Appeals reversed, on the narrow and basic ground, which I first raised at the conclusion of the government's opening statement and then renewed at all appropriate stages, that since the (false) design of the "conspiracy," as described by the informants, was to fly drugs out of Venezuela on the Saudi's airplane (he had indeed been in Caracas, but on diplomatic business for his government, and I put on witnesses, including the pilot of the aircraft, who put the lie to the government's "theory"), to France, via Saudi Arabia, no American criminal law had been violated. In doing so, The Circuit "declined to treat" the other grounds, some of which are described above, and thus gave a pass to wholly unprincipled, win-at-all-costs government lawyers (who were obviously looking for career-makers) and a district judge who, by a topical reading of the appellate court's opinion, had been extremely compliant toward the government..

So far, the obscene episode has cost Mangeri five years of her life, since she was detained from the moment of her arrest in 2002. I have a feeling that before all's said and done, she'll have her own day . . .

United States v. Villalobos
The Defendant, a former member of The Army and Army Reserves, was a "contractor" (i.e. mercenary) who provided security and paramilitary services in Iraq, Haiti, and parts of Central America. By trade, he was (and is) a private investigator. On one of his investigative assignments, he was tasked to pose as a buyer of counterfeit jeans, colognes, and other items carrying well-known brands. He worked those jobs with a Russian national who, as it turned out, was heavily into cocaine transporting and distribution "on the side." The Russian and his Moscow-born wife were arrested in Austria in late 2004 when the second of two large loads was interdicted. The Austrians allowed the woman to leave after two or three months, and she ran like a rabbit to D.E.A. and government lawyers in The Southern District of Florida: her teen-aged son had already created problems for himself in making false statements to agents about safe-deposit boxes full of jewelry while she was in jail, and her husband, who's still being held in Austria today, also was indicted in South Carolina for the first of the two loads. She told the government (here) that she could deliver up a "money-launderer" (the defendant, of course, whom she'd met through her husband) whom she'd previously pleaded to help her move (legitimate) assets out of the country to avoid seizure. Ultimately, the government indicted the man and, when he refused to "co-operate", charged his wife, too - - in a twenty-three count money-laundering indictment. There were more than a dozen body-mounted recordings, telephone tapes, undercover agents, surveillance photographs, bank account records, and, of course, the informant's testimony. (She'd been indicted anew by the Austrians, which made her cross-examination that much more fun.) Result (after approximately three weeks of trial in October of 2006)? Both man and woman not guilty of all twenty three counts, the woman's case having been taken from the jury by the court, and he having been acquitted of all by the jury. Ever seen a verdict like that (I can tell you: very, very few lawyers in these parts or elsewhere have)? Want to?

Villalobos Not Guilty Verdicts






©2005 Douglas L. Williams. All Rights Reserved.