Free Markets, Free People

DEA sting gone wrong violated Texas truck owner’s rights

Need a story to get you all fired up this morning?  Looking for something to make you see red?

The DEA provides it (from the Houston Chronicle via NRO):

The phone rang before sunrise. It woke Craig Patty, owner of a tiny North Texas trucking company, to vexing news about Truck 793 — a big red semi supposedly getting repairs in Houston.

“Your driver was shot in your truck,” said the caller, a business colleague. “Your truck was loaded with marijuana. He was shot eight times while sitting in the cab. Do you know anything about your driver hauling marijuana?”

“What did you say?” Patty recalled asking. “Could you please repeat that?”

The truck, it turned out, had been everywhere but in the repair shop.

Commandeered by one of his drivers, who was secretly working with federal agents, the truck had been hauling marijuana from the border as part of an undercover operation. And without Patty’s knowledge, the Drug Enforcement Administration was paying his driver, Lawrence Chapa, to use the truck to bust traffickers.

The concept of private property?  Completely ignored.  Permission?  We don’t need no stinkin’ permission.  We’re the federal government.  We’re the DEA.

But eight months later, Patty still can’t get recompense from the U.S. government’s decision to use his truck and employee without his permission.

His company, which hauls sand as part of hydraulic fracturing operations for oil and gas companies, was pushed to the brink of failure after the attack because the truck was knocked out of commission, he said.

Patty had only one other truck in operation.

In documents shared with the Houston Chronicle, he is demanding that the DEA pay $133,532 in repairs and lost wages over the bullet-sprayed truck, and $1.3 million more for the damage to himself and his family, who fear retaliation by a drug cartel over the bungled narcotics sting.

Out of control?  That’s a vast understatement.  This is like Fast and Furious Jr.  Who thought this up? Who approved it?  Why didn’t they seek the permission and cooperation of the owner of the business and property?  Where in the world do they get off commandeering private property and endangering the life and livelihood of a citizen without seeking his okay to use his property?

The operation was a fiasco:

At least 17 hours before that early morning phone call, Chapa was shot dead in front of more than a dozen law enforcement officers – all of them taken by surprise by hijackers trying to steal the red Kenworth T600 truck and its load of pot.

In the confusion of the attack in northwest Harris County, compounded by officers in the operation not all knowing each other, a Houston policeman shot and wounded a Harris County sheriff’s deputy.

17 hours before the owner of the truck was notified and that notification didn’t come from either the police or the DEA.  The only thing the DEA didn’t commandeer for this operation was a clown car.  Said Patty:

"I was not part of this," he said. "I had absolutely no knowledge of any of it until after it happened."

For its part, the DEA has not admitted that it was using Chapa as a spy because its official policy is not to comment on whether someone was an informant.

Lisa Johnson, a spokeswoman for the DEA Houston Division, confirmed that Patty’s demand had been received and noted that it would be investigated by the agency. But the Chronicle established Chapa was an informant based on interviews with multiple law-enforcement officials who spoke on the condition they not be named, and later by courtroom comments of prosecutors.

So now the DEA will drag its feet, pretend like it is investigating this, refuse to admit anything, and, as is fairly standard and routine behavior for government agencies violating the rights of the citizens these days, obfuscate, evade and attempt to block every move to shine a light on this operation.

This is outrageous.  And, if the facts presented by the Chronicle are true, whoever put this together and executed it deserves to be put on trial and put in jail.  That’s right, jail.  We want someone held accountable for this travesty for a change.

As for Patty, pay the man, DEA.  You screwed up big time, you were wrong to commandeer his property and put his life in danger.  You had no right to do any of that and you owe him the chance to get his life and that of his family back in order.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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44 Responses to DEA sting gone wrong violated Texas truck owner’s rights

  • A truly amazing and chilling story.
    I’m sure Chapa was told “We have your back”.  Not worth much, huh?
    In an economy where big trucks are sold cheap, the DEA could not just BUY a freaking fleet of trucks to conduct sting ops with???  Man them with agents, instead of hapless private drivers?
    This whole “war on drugs” thing needs to be reconsidered.  Like the tax code, start with a clean sheet of paper.

    •  
      “the DEA could not just BUY a freaking fleet of trucks to conduct sting ops with???  Man them with agents, instead of hapless private drivers?”
       
      I am sure they already have a few in inventory from previous seizures and civil asset forfeiture. As for driving them, that takes skills, something these bozos seem to lack.

    • I’m just surprised that they didn’t do a civil seizure of the truck

  • Those trucks are not cheap.  If he has assets of more than $250,000 then that makes him rich and he just needs to learn to pay his fair share.  Right?

  • My guess is that if the dust ever settles and we ever learn the whole story, is that Chapa was probably arrested and turned informant instead of having the charges filed and going to jail. After that, the DEA just used the guy (with his knowledge).
    Then used his boss (without his knowledge) to pay the guy and to provide them with a truck.

    The whole informant system (and drug war in general) is ridiculous and begs for disasters like this to happen, But what is a guy going to do when he is blackmailed to either work for the DEA (and commit crimes for them) or go to prison. Ultimately, they will probably blame the dead informant for stealing his employers time and truck. If he had in fact violated the drug laws, there will of course be people say that he got himself into this. That will be nonsense of course.

    The fact that we still have a war on drugs, decades after any rational person concluded that it was a waste of time, resources, and lives, is testament to how intractable policies can be. Common sense loses to politics, over and over again.

    • I say that the WoD has been as successful as the War on Poverty (WoP). And yet we keep at it…

  • But what is a guy going to do when he is blackmailed to either work for the DEA (and commit crimes for them) or go to prison.

    Chapa DID violate the laws.  He wasn’t “blackmailed”.  He was given an choice, and he took it.  He DID get himself into this.
    And, yes indeedy, this is how criminal conspiracies are commonly penetrated.
    What an idiot.  And what a typical idiot comment.

    • “Chapa DID violate the laws.”

      There is no indication in this story as to HOW Chapa became an informant. I guessed that he himself had been busted and turned informant rather than face charges, but that is not made clear in the story. from the information in this story, you cannot possibly say that he was not blackmailed by the DEA to become an informant, conversely, you cannot say that he definitely committed crimes BEFORE he became an informant. But it is fairly common for both to happen in the informant system. Which is my complaint, the DEA could pick any one of millions of casual drug users and apply pressure of excessive prosecution to blackmail them into becoming DEA informants.

      As to whether he was committing crimes as an informant, separate from exactly how his boss was defrauded, I don’t think working with the DEA in a sting operation is a crime anymore than an undercover cop trying to drugs is a crime.

      But of course, since I posted it, you ears steam and nastiness hits the keyboard, and logic and comprehension are left in the wind. Before I commented, he was just a “hapless private driver” to you.

      • Well, as is so often the case, I know more about this than do you.

        The 53-year-old career trucker could carry himself in shady circles and had a string of arrests, including for cocaine possession, resisting arrest, and assault for an August incident in which he threw punches and a tire at a store clerk.

        But, according to the same source, Chapa was just in the informant game for the money.
        http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/How-one-man-s-drug-mission-ended-in-violent-death-2342566.php
        So, Chapa is no “victim”.  Nor would he have been had he chosen to assist LEOs if he’d done it because he violated the law.  Your stupid assertion is stupid any way you cut it.
        Look up the definition of “blackmail”.  And remember, you don’t get away with the Collectivist game of post-modernizing words here.
        Now, that is a TOTALLY different issue than his employer’s being wronged by the DEA.

        • “Nor would he have been had he chosen to assist LEOs if he’d done it because he violated the law. ”

          I speculated that was the case, and it is often the case, but with this new information, it appears that I was wrong.

          Since you admire your source so much, here is another quote from it…

          “He was leading law enforcement authorities further into drug distribution networks on U.S. soil. Unlike many informants, who work to get criminal charges dropped or bust their competitors, Chapa was an informant just for the cash.”

          You had more information than I did, and better information than I did, and you still managed to be wrong.

          But if he was working with the LEO’s, and they considered him one of them, would he not be a victim just as any police officer is a victim when killed in the line of duty?

          It looks like the main outstanding question is how/why he came to be using that truck for that purpose without his boss’ knowledge. Did the DEA know or did Chapa just take the truck and perhaps get paid for it’s use?

          • …would he not be a victim just as any police officer is a victim when killed in the line of duty?

            Oh, THAT was cute!  YOU were trying to make him a VICTIM OF the LEOs…NOT LIKE the LEOs!
            What a POS.
            (And learn to read.  I said what you pretend you “discovered”)

  • All the debate about whether the driver was or was not guilty is moot. The real story here is about the Government using citizens to further the ends of the DEA. One day, legislators (Thats polite talk for alligators in suits) will realize that prohibition is the tool which criminals use to exploit the desires of people who want was is prohibited. Maybe they’ll read a history book and notice something about Al Capone. Maybe, but I doubt it.

    • “All the debate about whether the driver was or was not guilty is moot”

      I agree, my point was about how the DEA will spin it.

      On your overall point, I agree with that as well, as I said, The fact that we still have a war on drugs, decades after any rational person concluded that it was a waste of time, resources, and lives, is testament to how intractable policies can be. Common sense loses to politics, over and over again.

      • Common sense loses to politics, over and over again.

        Or, “I really hate it when a majority of public opinion cuts against what I want”.
        The omnibus war on drugs is bad policy on a global level.  That requires a change in public opinion to correct.  That is “common sense”.

        • “That requires a change in public opinion to correct.  That is “common sense”.”

          It’s hard to say, since that is not a position that is offered as a real choice by American voters.

          While voting between candidates who likely support the drug war, the American people consider it a failure.

          “Only 10 per cent of respondents believe that the “War on Drugs”—a term that has been used to describe the efforts of the U.S. government to reduce the illegal drug trade—has been a success, while 66 per cent deem it a failure. Majorities of Democrats (63%), Republicans (63%) and Independents (69%) agree with the notion that the “War on Drugs” has not been fruitful. Across the country, 52 per cent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, while 44 per cent oppose it. Majorities of men (60%), Independents (57%) and Democrats (54%) would like to see marijuana legalized. Women (45%), respondents over the age of 55 (48%) and Republicans (43%) are not as supportive of legalization. In four nationwide surveys conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion on the topic of marijuana legalization since 2009, support has always surpassed the 50 per cent mark in the United States, and opposition has not reached 45 per cent”

          So no, I stand by original assertion, it is not a shift in public opinion that is needed, the public opinion is there. It is a shift in the choices that the public are given by the politicians that is needed. otherwise, we will continue to see common sense losing to politics, over and over again.

          • Ummmm…  Juries are made up of the public.
            Juries convict.  Are you really this stupid?

          • @Ragspierre

            The courts explicitly prohibit defense attornies from arguing for jury nullification on grounds of unjust laws and too few people understand that this is a real and important option deliberately built into the jury system.

            On top of this, from what I have read, drug cases are plead out far more often than any other type of criminal case.  The vast majority of them will never see a jury so no opportunity for nullification.

          • Really?  What jurisdictions do YOU practice law in?

          • Juries convict because they are told the law and they are told the evidence, and they are told that if the evidence shows the person broke the law, beyond a reasonable doubt, then they are commanded to convict the person. If jurors are aware of jury nullification, or have an existing opinion regarding the laws, they will likely be tossed in voir dire. If they lie and say they have no opinion, and that can be grounds for criminal charges.

            ” There is no shortage of case law, however, that upholds the power of judges to refuse to let lawyers argue nullification or emphasize to the jury that they have this power. The Supreme Court said as much in the 1895 case of Sparf and Hansen v. U.S., 156 U.S. 51:”

            “Public and private safety alike would be in peril if the principle be established that juries in criminal cases may, of right, disregard the law as expounded to them by the court, and become a law unto themselves. Under such a system, the principal function of the judge would be to preside and keep order while jurymen, untrained in the law, would determine questions affecting life, liberty, or property according to such legal principles as, in their judgment, were applicable to the particular case being tried. … We must hold firmly to the doctrine that in the courts of the United States it is the duty of juries in criminal cases to take the law from the court, and apply that law to the facts as they find them to be from the evidence.”

            To compare juries to the electorate is ridiculous, until or unless juries would be informed that they can simply acquit on the grounds that the laws themselves are unjust.

          • How many voir dire sessions have you conducted, you lying puke?
            How many have you SEEN conducted?
            I have NEVER seen a jury instructed on nullification.
            Jurors COMMONLY step outside of their instructions in my EXPERIENCE as a trial attorney.
            But show me the GROUNDSWELL of public support to end all drug laws…not smoking dope…ALLLLLLL flucking drug laws.
             

          • Ragspierre: “Ummmm…  Juries are made up of the public.
            Juries convict.  Are you really this stupid?”
             
            Ummmm… The “drug war” as an aggregate has never been put to a jury, only individual cases.  So if some juries convict defendants on the basis of “drug war” legislation, then that does not necessarily translate to the “drug war” being convicted as an aggregate.  That would be a logical fallacy.
             
            Then you double-down on logical fallacy by claiming argumentum ad verecundiam – another logical fallacy.  So rather than argue on the facts, or on logic, you simply state that you’re an attorney so we better just heed deference to your judgment.  Something I doubt most of QandO’s readership is willing to do.
             
            You may very well be an attorney.  I’m going to take you at your word simply because I’ve known other attorneys to be idiots as well, but judging by your incompetence at logical reasoning, I’m going to bet that you’re not a very good attorney.
             
            Now, we’ll see your unhinged, ALL-CAPS tirade in 3… 2… 1…

          • So rather than argue on the facts, or on logic, you simply state that you’re an attorney

            I understand you find this difficult, and that you hate me for punking you on prior occasions, but consider this….
            I am factually not simply an attorney, but one who does trial work.
            I regularly do voir dire, since I regularly try cases to a jury.
            I have files of jury instructions gleaned from my own and other attorney’s cases.
            I stated facts based on my experience AND my observations of other trials (ZOMG…caps!!!).
            I challenged others here referring to nullification to recite their own FACTUAL (caps again…hide your wimmins!!!) information (as delineated from what the learned on Wiki-work).
            See?

          • Funny, he is arguing with himself now. I never said that juries were instructed in jury nullification, I said they were not. But it’s probably hard for him to read through the steam coming out of his ears.

            Got to be the angriest person I have encountered online.

            I feel sorry for the guy.

          • If jurors are aware of jury nullification, or have an existing opinion regarding the laws, they will likely be tossed in voir dire.

            Not only can I read, I can infer.  This separates me from you on two counts!
            Now, why don’t you tell us how many voir dire interrogations you’ve conducted, and how many you’ve observed.
            You DO understand that a trial attorney does NOT ask questions strategically, in addition to not having time to ask enough questions of the entire venire panel.
            Right???  (I know, silly questions…)

          • I am a longtime reader here and I do work in a courtroom. I am a bailiff.
            I have seen numerous instances of juries being instructed on the subject of nullification. I have never questioned a jury panel. But I have watched many a voit dire. And I have personally “escorted” a lawyer from the part after they ignored a judge’s warning not bring up the subject of nullification.
            It saddens me that Ragspierre and I agree so often, since his conduct here tends toward such juvenile behavior. But then he said he’s a lawyer.

          • ” the public opinion is there.”

            Nonsense. Prove it.

          • “Got to be the angriest person I have encountered online.
            I feel sorry for the guy.”

            Some of us do get angry at invincible ignorance and repetitive, willful stupidity.

          • ” If jurors are aware of jury nullification, or have an existing opinion regarding the laws, they will likely be tossed in voir dire.”

            Not likely at all. Having been in a number of jury pools in several states and having undergone voir dire several times, I think I can safely say the subject of jury nullification seldom, if ever, comes up.

          • Ragspierre: “I understand you find this difficult, and that you hate me for punking you on prior occasions, but consider this….”
             
            Riiiight. You always get me sooo good.  And I hate you for it… that’s why I can’t help but to comment on everything you write here.
             
            Hey man, you believe what you want.  Whatever keeps you from going Postal is alright by me.

  • “all of them taken by surprise by hijackers trying to steal the red Kenworth T600 truck and its load of pot.”
     
    Because gangs of criminals would never, ever, hijack a truck with a valuable cargo. Especially one driven by a fellow criminal; “Honor among thieves” and all that.

    • On top of the probable criminal act (grand theft) they add incompetence and downright stupidity. Maybe they thought it was just eminent domain.
       
      I like this quote from Rags’ link; “For us to speculate about anything on such a complex and delicate investigation would be unfair, negligent and, frankly, unprofessional on our part,” said Christina Garza, a spokeswoman for the sheriff.”
       
      A little late to worry about that, I think.

      • Nothing EVER makes anything “complex and delicate” like getting caught with your pants around your ankles!

        • It was taken out of context! (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

  • What are “we the people” going to do about it.  nothing…sad but true.
    It is so ass backwards…mind numbing.

    • I expect the DoJ will have to pay Mr. Patty some damages.  I hope that money comes from drug profit seizures, and has an accounting trail.
      As to the supervisors involved, they should be disciplined.  I would even favor some criminal penalties in the right circumstances.  Will that happen.
      Experience says, Not likely.

  • Hello all ! Just a thought I haven’t heard. It is an HONOR to be elected by the people that are governed under you, wouldn’t you say?? My question is, why can’t these people earn the same meager wage as we. I have a real problem with people (elected) to earn 5 X’s my salary telling me how great I have it under their control. Let’s get someone in there that will do the job for around $37K and actually get something done. Maybe the rest will go away or others will follow to do the right thing.

  • On nullification

    Judges are not any more homogeneous than any other population of humans.  But I have found that I can nicely leaven a venire panel on the subject by asking, “Who is the most powerful person in this room?”.  I then go on to suggest that the eventual members of the jury panel will be.  Some judges may resent that, but I’ve never been contradicted by a judge, since they are elected in Texas, and tend to be quite deferential to venire panels.  But I have ALSO found that jurors ignore a lot of what both judges and lawyers tell them, and I know this because I also interview jury members post-trial.  A lot of jurors DO nullification that have no idea of the concept and have never heard the word.

    On this incident

    Like the ATF, the DEA has developed a rogue culture.  It needs to be jerked back into line.  Well, along with virtually all the Federal government, but some worse than others.

    On Mr. Chapa

    Sounds like he was attacked by a lethal bunch of thugs and nothing was going to stop that.  I appears it might have been a surprise to the LEOs, as one of them who was escorting Chapa was shot.  Dunno.  What I do know is that Mr. Chapa was not a victim of anybody except the thugs.

    On the drug war

    Laws generally come from public pressure.  These laws appear to be supported by the public to the extent they are still on the books, and still enforced in our courts.  The global, omnibus war on drugs is a serious failure and a threat to our civil liberties.  We need to readdress the entire catalog of our drug laws, and decriminalize what makes sense to, while holding some substances to be controlled still, and perhaps administered under professional supervision.  Maybe not even those.  Dunno.  What I do know is that it will take some shaping of the public’s opinion (education).

    • I am not a lawer, however from what I have read from various sources the majority of drug cases are plead out and never see a jury. Which would invalidate jury nullification as a measrue of public oppinion on the drug laws. Taking you at your word that you are a practicing trial attourney in the area of criminal law, can you address this issue.
      I also I do not believe that the fact that noting gets done about the existing drug laws is a good indicator of public support for the drug laws.
      As others have commented polls consistently show that a majority believe that the drug war is a dismal failure. The problem with enacting reform is that those who do support the current laws and / or want tougher laws present a united front against real reform and the opposition is divided.
      There are several different camps on the side of those who believe the drug war is a failure and they don’t agree on what to do about it which leaves the supporters with a plurality and effective political control.
      These camps can be divided several ways, I propose one here, but I don’t clam my list to be comprehensive.
      Enforcement has gone way too far and should be scaled back but the law largely left as is. I actually know someone who holds this oppinion.
      No out right legalization, but should have sentencing reform and signigicant scale back of enforcement.
      Legalize some drugs for medical and/or recreational use with restrictions similar to alchohol/tobbaco but leave other on the prohibited list. I personally fall into this group. even within this group, there is not broad aggrement on which drugs to legalize or scope of enforcement / penalties for drugs that remain prohibited.
      Full decriminalization.
      Nothing gets done not because the supporters of the drug laws are an outright majority, but because they are loud and united and their opposition is devided over what reform should look like.

      • First, I am not a criminal trial attorney.  I limit my practice (some limit!) to civil law, which includes family law.  I have many friends who are criminal attorneys, and am sometimes asked to sit second chair on more complex cases.
        Second, you’ll see in the literature on plea bargains that something on the order of 90% of all criminal cases are resolved by a plea bargain.  I have never seen the “root authority” for that, and it could be an urban myth.  We’ll assume arguendo it is not.  I see no reason to assume that drug charges would be different.
        Third, I an NOT sanguine about the practice of criminal plea bargains.  It leads, IMNHO, to sometimes innocent people making a terrible choice they regard the best of their terrible choices using an intuitive application of game theory.

        Nothing gets done not because the supporters of the drug laws are an outright majority, but because they are loud and united and their opposition is devided…

        OK.  That is how democratic systems work.  As I noted, we need to educate people if we want to see these laws reviewed.  Which, I take it, we do.

        • I don’t see it as an issue of education, as much as it is an issue of leadership.

          Somebody from the opposition to the drug war has to get all the factions together and come up with a reform plan that all the opposition factions can back as a first step.