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In the year since a federal agent took the Fifth on U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer’s witness stand, the underlying cocaine and methamphetamine case has been a relentless perturbation for San Francisco federal prosecutors. But at a Wednesday hearing it seemed that irritation may end soon, thanks to the Justice Department’s apparent willingness to pay the problems away. Both sides told Breyer that a settlement in the defense’s pursuit of attorney fees is expected within six weeks � which will apparently prevent U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan and a number of his deputies from being deposed. The drug case against Nabil Ismael turned into a mess last summer when Drug Enforcement Administration agent Dwayne Bareng contradicted himself on the stand, first denying � and later admitting � that he knew the FBI had fired a snitch at the center of the case due to credibility issues. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to dismiss the case then, forcing Bareng to undergo further cross-examination by Ismael’s attorney, Ian Loveseth. Eventually, Bareng took the Fifth, upsetting Breyer and forcing the prosecutors to dismiss the case. Things just got worse after that. At the prodding of a frustrated Breyer, the Justice Department began an investigation into whether the DEA handled the troubled snitch properly. And then Loveseth filed a motion under the Hyde Amendment, a rarely invoked law allowing defendants to recoup attorney’s fees in cases where they were improperly prosecuted. In February, Breyer ordered that Loveseth be be allowed to depose Ryan, top deputy Eumi Choi and four other prosecutors in connection with the fee request. Those depositions were not scheduled, though, as Loveseth and Patrick McLaughlin � an assistant U.S. attorney in the Central District of California who is now handling the case � tried to negotiate a settlement. At a hearing Wednesday, McLaughlin and Loveseth said those talks are ongoing, and they expect to reach a deal by their next hearing, which is scheduled for Oct. 4. But the money’s still an issue. The lawyers told Breyer that an agreement expired today in which Loveseth said he wouldn’t perform work that would result in significant new expenses prior to settlement. And Loveseth said after the hearing that he plans to start prepping for depositions of Ryan and the other prosecutors, which could increase the cost of settling. A spokesman for Ryan had no comment. But in court, McLaughlin told Breyer � who was considerably more subdued than in past hearings on the matter � that he expects a deal to be in place by the October court date. “Hopefully, by then we’ll have good news,” he said. Breyer’s terse response seemed somewhat skeptical: “Whatever.”

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