A bizarre South Florida case involving an indicted fraud suspect who spied on his co-defendants — and their lawyers — after secretly making a plea deal led a federal judge to blast the U.S. Attorney's Office for letting it happen.
After two days of hearings on the allegations against the "mole," his lawyer and the prosecution, U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles issued a blistering ruling in court in Miami late Tuesday. He barred the man from testifying against his co-defendants when they go to trial in May and strongly criticized federal prosecutors' "extraordinary" handling of the matter.
The defense asked the judge to punish the prosecution by throwing out the charges against Pisoni, Pradel and Ramirez. The judge said prosecutors previously had so much evidence that it was impossible for him to rule that Leon's actions affected the case enough to dismiss the charges against the other three.
But the judge expressed shock that the prosecution was still considering letting Leon testify, in some limited way, in trial against the other three men.
"If the government isn't willing to bar him, I will," Judge Gayles said, ruling Leon was prohibited from testifying.
Prosecutors told the judge they regretted not running the decision about how to handle Leon up the chain of command at their office but said they thought what they did was allowed by law. The judge said they should have, at a minimum, consulted their bosses and sought the judge's explicit approval.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer declined to comment because the case is pending. Officials also declined to say if any disciplinary investigation is underway or anticipated.
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
"I don't know what's happening at the U.S. Attorney's Office. This is the latest of a series of incidents that is affecting the credibility of this office ... Someone has got to look at this thing … There's a problem here that needs to be rectified in some way."
That was Judge Darrin Gayles in a strong rebuke of his former office. We wrote about this latest in a string of prosecutorial misconduct cases on the blog here. Paula McMahon covers the judge's decision, which was delivered orally (there is no written order) in this article: