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The case of a Drug Enforcement Administration undercover informant gone wrong could produce a national investigation of all the cases the informant and his DEA handler have been involved in since 2002, potentially affecting cases in California, Michigan and Maryland. The Justice Department last week appointed federal prosecutor from San Diego, Edward C. Weiner, to investigate alleged misconduct and potential perjury by DEA agent Dwayne Bareng and drug informant Essam Magid. In re Appointment as Special Attorney to the U.S. Attorney General in the Northern District of California, No. CR05-90395. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco called for the investigation on Aug. 26 after accusing Bareng of perjury during a drug trial. Bareng had repeatedly denied knowledge that informant Magid, a Yemeni, had been fired by the FBI for exposing agents’ names in a 2002 terror investigation in Northern California, even though an FBI agent testified to the contrary. The DEA rehired Magid to resume his work on drug cases but did not tell defense lawyers about Magid’s dubious past with the FBI. Since 2002 at least 11 other defendants have been convicted with the help of Magid, four in San Francisco and seven in Fresno, Calif., but he also worked in Michigan and Maryland, according to defense attorney Ian G. Loveseth of San Francisco. Judge wants inquiry Breyer dismissed the drug charge against Loveseth’s client, at the government’s request, after the allegations of perjury and potential witness tampering were exposed in the case. Breyer said he wants an inquiry into Bareng’s conduct, including: “Who he talked to. What cases he worked on. Did he destroy notes or reports? What did the informant do? What cases did they both work on? I am talking about a national inquiry,” he said. When Breyer asked that Weiner “respond by tomorrow” on the scope of his inquiry, Weiner replied that he was not prepared, “based on separation of powers,” to respond to the judge’s request to lay out the details of the probe. The judge said he would leave a separation of powers debate for a later date. Weiner added he would use the Justice Department’s independent Office of Inspector General to assist in the investigation. A separate internal DEA investigation is not under Weiner’s control. Breyer expressed his clear frustration that a lawyer for the DEA did not appear for the hearing as promised a week earlier by the agency’s general counsel. A second special appointment by the Justice Department put a Los Angeles federal prosecutor, Patrick McLaughlin, in charge of sorting out the fate of four defendants who had previously pleaded guilty in the San Francisco drug case, U.S. v. Al-Mamari, No. CR04-0376CRB. None of the four has been sentenced. Conduct by agent Bareng and the informant, if found wanting, may not benefit all of the defendants. Those in Fresno who have already been sentenced will have no recourse, while those awaiting sentencing will have a chance to withdraw guilty pleas in order to seek trial or renegotiate their deals. Neither McLaughlin nor Weiner would discuss the case outside the courtroom. Paul Wolf, defense attorney for one of the four men who pleaded guilty without knowing Magid’s checkered history, said that his client is a “hard-working garbageman who did a favor” for someone he knew. He faced 10 years in prison. Now the U.S. attorney’s office “is not returning my calls.”

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