Is this the DEA just being irresponsible ?

Judge: Feds owe trucking company nothing over DEA informant murder (update)

A Houston-based federal judge ruled that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration does not owe the owner of a small Texas trucking company anything, not even the cost of repairing the bullet holes to a tractor-trailer truck that the agency used without his permission for a wild 2011 drug cartel sting that resulted in the execution-style murder of the truck’s driver, who was secretly working as a government informant.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal, which was made public late Monday,  heads off a potentially embarrassing civil trial that was supposed to start early next month at the federal courthouse.

Andy Vickery, a lawyer representing trucking company,  said he was floored by the ruling.

“She is basically saying you can’t sue the feds,” he said by phone.

And he emailed this reaction:

A federally deputized corporal from the Houston Police Department decides to pay your small company’s driver to drive your truck to the Mexican border, load it up with illegal drugs, and try to catch some bad guys.   He knows that the driver is lying to “the owner” – although he doesn’t know your name or identity and doesn’t bother to find out.   The bad guys outwit the cops.   Your company’s driver is killed.   Your truck is riddled with bullet holes.

 Query:   is our federal government liable to pay for the damages to you and your property?

 Answer:   Nope. 

He said an appeal is already in the works.

Trucking company owner Craig Patty has said that the truck was used and damaged in a drug sting against one of Mexico’s most violent cartels without his permission and that his family lived in extreme fear they would face retaliation from the cartel, even though they had no idea what the government was doing.

They sought up to $6.4 million. Patty had said from the start his main goal was to shed light on the case and have the facts be known publicly. 

Officials have declined to discuss what, if any, compensation has privately been paid to the family of the deceased truck driving informant, Lawrence Chapa, who was working for a DEA task force that included federal agents as well as local law-enforcement officers.

With Rosenthal’s ruling, the government isn’t liable to damage to the truck, which was left sprayed with bullet holes and its cab that was splattered with blood.

Back in November 2011,  A DEA task force was supposed to be watching truck driver Chapa from the ground and the air as he delivered a load of marijuana fresh from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston. The plan was for Chapa to take them to where the load was to be delivered and arrest cartel members there.

But as the truck entered northwest Houston under the watch of approximately two dozen law enforcement officers, several heavily armed Los Zetas cartel-connected soldiers in sport utility vehicles converged on Patty’s truck.

In the ensuing firefight, Patty’s truck was wrecked and riddled with bullet holes, and a plainclothes Houston police officer shot and wounded a plainclothes Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was mistaken for a gangster.

The truck’s driver was killed and four attackers were arrested and charged with capital murder.

Patty’s truck was impounded and later released to him, but was out of service for months. The DEA refused to pay for the damages, as did Patty’s insurance company, which ruled that the truck had been used in a criminal act, and therefore the damages weren’t covered.

Patty had argued that he and his family lived through extreme emotional distress after fears that the cartel would come after them for some perception they had been complicit with police.

He also said that losing the truck for nearly 90 days after it had been damaged nearly crippled his business, which only had two trucks at the time.

Fred Shepherd, who worked with Vickery on the case said his client is astonished that he has no recourse.

“It is not just that you can’t sue the federal government., but that fed law enforcement agencies under this ruling can use anybody’s property to do anything they want to further their law enforcement mission and  not have to go get the permission from the owner of the property to do it.”

Patty vs DEA Lawsuit

2 Responses

  1. “The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal, which was made public late Monday, heads off a potentially embarrassing civil trial that was supposed to start early next month at the federal courthouse.”

    Here’s the problem. This judge is covering for the DEA, and the DEA doesn’t want information about its practices to become public. You know, because it’s confidential and might hinder other investigations (i.e., further ruin the DEA’s public image).

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