Craig Patty asked his employee Lawrence Chapa to help take one of his two trucks to the garage, not realizing that Chapa was a DEA undercover planning to fill the truck with weed, which ended in a firefight with a Los Zetas hit squad that killed the driver, who was a DEA informant.
The DEA says it doesn't owe Patty anything for the more than $100,000 in repairs that were required for the truck, and disclaim any responsibility for the death of Patty's employee. Also, they won't do anything about the fact that they led the Zetas to believe that Patty was a rival drug-runner.
A federal judge in Texas dismissed Patty's lawsuit against the DEA, because when the DEA is undertaking a "clandestine" operation, it can operate with total legal impunity.
Orchestrating a covert controlled drug delivery using a vehicle and driver unconnected to any law enforcement organization to obtain evidence against a suspected drug cartel smuggling operation to prosecute those responsible fits within and furthers these policy goals. Deciding to carry out the operation without giving the vehicle owner advance notice and obtaining his consent is consistent with maintaining the covert nature of the operation and therefore with the policy goals.
Patty argues that Villasana’s testimony shows that he did not make a conscious decision whether to get Patty’s permission to use the truck, and therefore did not consider public-policy interests. But “the proper inquiry under prong two is not whether [the government actor] in fact engaged in a policy analysis when reaching his decision but instead whether his decision was ‘susceptible to policy analysis.’” Spotts v. United States, 613 F.3d 559, 572 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Gaubert, 499 U.S. at 325). Courts have consistently held that covert law-enforcement operations like the one at issue here are susceptible to policy analysis and covered by the discretionary function exception.
Who Pays When The DEA Destroys Your Vehicle And Kills Your Employee During A Botched Sting? Hint: Not The DEA [Tim Cushing/Techdirt]
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