Iowa City, Iowa - A judge is considering sanctioning prosecutors after finding that a federal agent withheld information from a defense lawyer about the use of GPS tracking devices to investigate the suspected leader of an Iowa drug ring.
U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett found that Drug Enforcement Administration investigator David Jensen "acted in bad faith" when he failed to mention the repeated GPS monitoring of vehicles in reports detailing the investigation of Angel Amaya of Sioux City.
The judge scoffed at Jensen's claim that he was trying to protect investigative techniques, noting that the technology is widely known. Bennett said DEA policy requires agents to indicate such tracking in reports to avoid suggestions that evidence was concealed, "the precise situation that arose here!"
Bennett blamed the concealment for causing a mistrial in the case in December, but he refused to throw out the tracking evidence for Amaya's upcoming retrial. The judge said the tracking, done without a warrant, was legal because agents had reasonable suspicion that Amaya was using the vehicles in drug trafficking.
Bennett scheduled an April 30 hearing to determine whether prosecutors should face sanctions for the discovery violation, such as taking away their closing rebuttal argument or limiting their ability to choose jurors during Amaya's trial. Bennett found that prosecutors also did not turn over a wiretap application to Amaya's lawyer that would have revealed the tracking, but he called that an inadvertent mistake.