For over a decade agents from The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) have been conducting sting operations. In many of these operations, an undercover agent will act as an upset drug dealer and recruit, sometimes even coerce, young men in the neighborhood to help him rob a stash house. A stash house is where drugs, weapons, and occasionally people are hidden. However, in these sting operations the stash house is a fictitious house made up by ATF agents themselves. The young men caught up in these fake robbery attempts and are convicted of drug conspiracy and often violent crimes for brandishing weapons, many times provided by ATF agents.
This past September a newly released investigation from USA Today put these sting operations in the spotlight, accusing them of discriminating based on race, as they are most often in poor African American neighborhoods. The research, performed by a Ph.D. professor from Columbia University, was filed in a federal court in Chicago. As a result of his findings, Fagan is an expert witness in several court cases in Illinois.
All Defendants are Either Black or Hispanic
Looking across the cases presented by the Bureau, almost all of the defendants are either black or hispanic. Fagan’s report shows that statistically there is only a 0.1 percent chance that the Bureau could have unbiasedly picked a population so racially skewed as they did, even when solely looking at those who already have a criminal record. Often, small-time criminals were being caught up in the fictitious robberies, at times provided with guns by the ATF, and then charged with having committed serious crimes that comes with sentences such as life in prison.
Dismissal of Federal Charges
With this new report the University of Chicago’s legal clinic filed three motions to dismiss federal drug and weapons cases that targeted minority males. The clinic is expected to file motions for at least seven more cases within the next month. Since the report, several charges among other defendants were dropped without explanation.
The local Chicago police are not the only ones who are causing racial profiling concerns. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is a federal agency that operates throughout the country. We are waiting to see the outcome of these upcoming cases. It is possible the defendants will be granted new trials. It is also possible that these cases will go all the way to the Supreme Court. If your civil liberties have been violated in any way, call the experienced Chicago civil rights violations attorneys of Barney and Hourihane today at 312-854-0906.