Remember those SHOT Show arrests?

Cuffed on Page 1, convicted in the NYT, acquitted in court, uncuffed in media silence…

In 2010, the SHOT Show was roiled by the news of almost two dozen executives arrested in a massive bribery sting. The case has just concluded two years of falling apart with an interesting result: the 22 executives arrested are free and clear, and the FBI’s ace informant, who seems to be a shockingly bad bloke even as CIs go, is going up the river on the charges that they were holding over his head.

The taxpayers are out many millions (tens of millions?) on a political prosecution led by a familiar name — Lanny Breuer — to besmirch the shooting industry’s main annual event, and there’s nothing to show for it but gigantic lawyers’ bills for the framed defendants (including a SWHC VP) and a major hit to the FBI’s reputation for professionalism and probity.

We really can’t improve on The Firearm Blog’s analysis of this, so we’ll just send you over there, although we’re unable to resist providing a couple of comments after their lede below, to add a smidgen of perspective.

In 2010 the BATFE arrested 21 people, including Smith & Wesson executives for beaching the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a law which prohibits US corporations, citizens and residents from bribing foreign officials. Those arrested were charged with conspiring to bribe officials in the African state of Gabon as part of a deal to sell $15 million of equipment to the 1,800 man strong Gabon Presidential (Republican) Guard.

via The Firearm Blog » Sting Charges Dismissed, Guilty Pleas Vacated, FBI Informant Sentenced to Prison.

Absolutely, positively read the whole thing, and read the legal news reports of the Beltway defense law firm that TFB linked. This one is the most recent and includes links to their earlier commentary on this case.

After his arrest, [Richard] Bistrong agreed to cooperate with the FBI in an undercover sting operation aimed at the defense and law enforcement industry. Bistrong acted as an informant and participated in hundreds of recorded meetings and phone calls. The information he gathered was central to the DOJ’s charges against 22 individuals for FCPA violations, in relation to a supposed $15 million dollar equipment sales contract to the government of Gabon. However, after two consecutive mistrials and multiple acquittals and dismissals, the DOJ dismissed all charges against all 22 defendants earlier this year.

It’s a problem with a bribery case when the biggest crooks are the FBI informant, his handlers, and the prosecuting attorneys.

One of the major reasons for the case’s collapse was the poor credibility of Bistrong and his FBI and DOJ handlers. Far from the conspiracy alleged in the indictments, what seems to have taken place is a lot of lying by Bistrong, lying by FBI agents, and lying by DOJ attorneys. A half a year –  26 weeks — was spent in trial, and yet all they had to show for it was accquittals, dismissals, and hung juries.

Amazingly, after all this, the DOJ prosecutors begged the judge to let Bistrong walk, ostensibly because he was so helpful on the collapsed SHOT show case, but maybe because they were having fun hanging out, smoking expensive cigars and doing lines, and trying to frame gun-industry people with him .(You think we’re exaggerating? Read the links, then we’ll talk).

The case is unlikely to have been brought but for the anti-gun agenda of Clinton family made guy Lanny Breuer, who was also instrumental in Fast & Furious, one of several ATF operations that deliberately supplied modern weapons to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, both to counterweight the stronger rival Zetas, and to amp up border crime to provide a pretext for a reintroduction of the lapsed Clinton era gun ban. At least three thousand weapons were provided to Mexican criminals through straw-buyer networks, in the hopes that they would commit violent crimes with them.

Of course, from the FBI point of view, this case was a win. Sure, they didn’t get any convictions out of it, but they got reams of press, and that’s how they roll. The arrests were, thanks to Breuer’s cozy relationship with the press, front page news in the New York Times and the Washington Post, which never reported the acquittals of some or the dismissals with prejudice of all the other charges. Those papers are about destroying reputations, not restoring them.

So do go read the links, and don’t miss the case documents. In particular, compare the bluster of the indictments to the tail-between-the-legs request for dismissal, and the Judge Leon’s remarks on accepting the same.

At the Firearm Blog, the comments have a pretty good signal-to-noise ratio. Our favorite was the butthurt NSSF lawyer, sniveling out the technicality that the 21 defendants bagged at the SHOT Show were not actually arrested on the show grounds. (It’s true, as far as it goes: they were there to attend the show, but they were arrested in their hotel rooms. The 22nd target was arrested in Miami).

4 thoughts on “Remember those SHOT Show arrests?

  1. Dean Weingarten

    Excellent post and analysis. I notice nothing was made of this until after the election.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I don’t see the election as a factor. The case was pretty much wrapped up in February ’12, definitely stone cold and in the ground a couple of months ago. We were not on top of it. (We, meaning WeaponsMan.com, as well as the gun blogosphere in general). So it was us not noticing that caused the delay in this coming to light.

      It’s just the nature of things that the general-purpose media is not going to be as interested in acquittals and dismissals as nice, loud, showy indictments and arrests. The guys who were on top of it were those few law blogs that specialize in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. (As far as I know, we’re the only nation that criminalizes a bribe paid in another country by a citizen of a third country, involving neither US bribe-maker or bribe-taker). From reading those blogs, it looks like the prosecution was a real reach that the DOJ was hoping would be a precedent.

      1. Sillystring

        If Mitt Romney’s campaign were serious this story would have been a regular feature in his campaign. It contains all the elements you need – a politically hatched botched scheme carried out by corrupt government thugs. It’s ready made for a winning campaign…if one were ever launched.

        1. Hognose Post author

          I think Romney’s campaign was pretty serious. He had the serious gun culture guys in his corner, and people worried about government excesses were not turning out to vote for President Candyman. What we’re seeing is a demographic change, where much of the country WANTS government excesses, because they think they will benefit.

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