Thursday, March 27, 2008

Questions about snitch busted in Austin undercover operation

Bully for the Travis County Sheriff's Office: When an informant showed up for an undercover operation, they searched his vehicle before proceeding and found an ounce of coke in the trunk of his Porsche. Rather than ignore the crime and proceed with the undercover operation, they arrested the guy and took him to jail.

It can be tempting for police to cover for their informants' misdeeds, so these deputies deserve credit for doing the right thing when they found drugs on the guy.

Still, given my interest in the subject of snitching, the case raises additional questions that I hope will come out in proceedings against the would-be CI that follow:

I wonder, how much coke were they planning to have the informant buy? Was the CI holding more drugs than the people they were targeting?

Did they get a search warrant for his home and foundation offices to look for more drugs before he was released on bail? If he had an ounce in his car, there's probably more somewhere.

The informant is president of a local philanthropic foundation, so he doesn't seem like a typical drug snitch. Was he working off a separate criminal charge by participating in this undercover drug sting? If so, what was it, and will he now be charged with the crime that deputies previously overlooked? If not, was he paid for his informant work and how much?

Has this fellow been used previously as a snitch in undercover cases, and if so was he using or selling cocaine (an ounce is quite a bit of blow) while he was working with police in those cases?

I ask these questions because of my growing impression that the use of drug informants experiences little oversight, and too often the big fish get off while the little fish get eaten. The guys driving Porsches don't tend to go to prison, but we're filling up plenty of cells with young black men on drug charges who barely have two nickels to rub together.

I'm glad the Travis Sheriff's deputies pulled the plug on this guy, but it sure makes you think twice about the caliber of people used as police agents in undercover operations. If this fool had just left his dope at home when he went to meet with the cops (!), we'd never have heard about this story.

UPDATE: More from the Austin Statesman. It turns out the fellow was indeed arrested previously for using coke and, instead of prosecuting him he was offered an informant deal, which is apparently standard departmental policy, according to the paper:

After Mitte offered to help bust a supplier, the sheriff's office put the charge "on the back burner," Wade said.

Wade said the department routinely uses people who have been arrested in drug cases as informants.

"We'd much rather get the supplier than the user," he said. "So, it's offered to everybody."

So snitch deals are "offered to everybody"? You mean everyone the Travis County Sheriff arrests for drugs can get out of the charge by ratting on someone else? What a flaky, porous system. If this case is typical, that policy amounts to knowingly tolerating illegal activity on a fairly large scale. Such situations are why Prof. Alexandra Natapoff has written that frequently snitch deals, rather than solving crimes, can be "destructive, crime-producing, and corrupting."

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

If this fool had just left his dope at home when he went to meet with the cops (!), we'd never have heard about this story.

It could be worse than that - could it be that this guy was setting up the dealer?

Dara & Doug said...

There are more details in today's Statesman. This is actually the second time Scott was busted for cocaine.

The sad thing about this is that it's besmirching the Mitte name. The Mittes gave a lot to Texas State University and our honors program is named after them. Will students really want to claim to be a Mitte Scholar when the Mitte name is now tied to a cokehead?

elvez1975 said...

This has been our experience, that for every significant drug arrest, APD will offer a dismissal if the defendant acts as informer and their actions lead to x arrests. For example, I have heard a felony suspect was offered a probation for certain number of arrests and a deferred adjudication for a higher number (almost like a menu or selling girl scout cookies, huh?).

It would be very interesting to see if this information is disclosed to defense attorneys (meaning particular snitch deal information in particular cases) as part of the State's Brady obligations.

Anonymous said...

"If he had an ounce in his car, there's probably more somewhere."

Really?

Anonymous said...

"Foundation Runs out of Money & Cancels Scholarship" reports The Chronicle of Higher Education in the 3 06 08 philanthropy.com newsletter. No comment was given by the Mitte Foundation's executive director, Cheryl Nolting as to why the promised monies were canceled. "Scott Mitte, who is the founding couple's son reportedly spent money extravagently as the president of the fund" as per the article. How much of the canceled money to numerous universities was appropriated up Scott Mitte's nose and how many lap dances can a non profit foundation finance?
This foundation needs an audit of it's financial records and an accounting of how much money was promised to schools and actually paid before the scholarships were canceled.

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