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A month after a federal judge called for a national investigation of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s handling of a Yemeni informant in California drug cases, the DEA is under fire again for questionable use of an informant in a public corruption prosecution. Defense lawyer Steven Gruel asked to withdraw the guilty plea for his client Eric Shaw last week, in part over the alleged DEA mishandling of the informant in Shaw’s case. Shaw was expected to be the star witness in the government’s prosecution of San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Robert Roland. Roland, a five-year veteran criminal prosecutor, is accused of going easy on several drug defendants in exchange for quantities of methamphetamine for his own personal use, according to the indictment, U.S. v. Roland, No. CR04-309CRB (N.D. Calif.). The government spent 16 months building a case with secret tape recordings in which Shaw allegedly boasted that he had a friend in the district attorney’s office who could fix drug cases, according to court documents. Among the tape recordings of the informant in Shaw’s case the DEA handler is heard firing the informant because he is suspected of criminal conduct. Despite the alleged firing, the DEA again used the informer a short time later against Shaw. Gruel said the potential misconduct by the DEA and the informant was not known to Shaw’s prior attorney when the guilty plea was struck. The discovery constitutes a ground to withdraw the plea, according to Gruel. Casey McEnry, a DEA spokeswoman in San Francisco, declined to comment. Prosecutors will face U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who last month asked the Justice Department to investigate the DEA’s continued use of a Yemeni informant, even after he was fired by the FBI for disclosing names of FBI agents during anti-terrorism investigations. “The informant issues are significant to Robert Roland in that [the informant] provided what we consider misinformation to the government and the government relied on it” to move on such things as search warrants, said Roland’s attorney, Cristina Arguedas of Arguedas, Cassman & Headley in Emeryville, Calif.

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