A 46-year-old man serving a 19.5 year prison sentence for federal drug trafficking was put behind bars in part based on the testimony of a confidential informant. That may sound like no big deal on its own, but after some detective work of his own while in prison, Rene Cobar has learned that the informant has since been disqualified from assisting in federal drug cases for lying to the feds about cases he was informing on.
Cobar submitted a request for information about the DEA informant who testified against him via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in 2011. The FOIA request was accompanied by an affidavit from a DEA agent identifying the informant in Cobar's case.
The confidential informant had failed at least one polygraph examination and admitted to given false information to the DEA agents he was working with. The informant was also fingered as a heroin supplier for a known drug dealer. This all happened in 2009, the same year that Cobar was convicted on federal drug crimes.
The government has been fighting compliance with the FOIA request, citing a privilege against disclosure of documents used for law enforcement purposes and privacy rights of the informant. Cobar has taken the fight to federal court and has survived the government's first attempt to silence his request. The district judge denied the government's motion for summary judgment, allowing the FOIA case to proceed.
It remains to be seen whether Cobar will ever get his hands on the information he seeks about the informant in his case. The government still may have the option to provide a Vaughn index of the requested documents that includes the legal basis for withholding the information from Cobar.
Source: Courthouse News Service, "DEA May Have to Share Records on Ex-Informant," June 11, 2013