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Will Bistrong’s Plea Impact The Africa Sting Cases?

Last week Richard Bistrong’s plea agreement was made public.

Who is Richard Bistrong?

He is “Individual 1” – the person who worked with FBI agents as alleged in the Africa Sting indictments. (See here). (See here for the superseding indictment).

Bistrong was soon identified as Individual 1 and criminally charged.

Not in connection with the Africa Sting case, but a completely different matter. (See here). The criminal information (here) charges Bistrong with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’s antibribery provisions, books and records provisions, and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and related Export Administration Regulations.

The conspiracy was broad in scope and included charges that Bistrong conspired with others: (i) to obtain for his employer [Armor Holdings, a former publicly-traded company, currently a subsidiary of BAE Systems] United Nations body armor contracts (valued at $6 million) by causing his employer to pay $200,000 in commissions to an agent while knowing that the agent would pass along a portion of that money to a United Nations procurement officer (a “foreign official” per the FCPA) to cause the officer to award the contracts; (ii) to obtain for his employer, a $2.4 million pepper spray contract with the National Police Services Agency of the Netherlands by paying a Dutch agent approximately $15,000 while knowing that the agent would pass along some of that money to a procurement officer with the Police Services Agency to influence the contract; and (iii) to obtain for his employer (although it was never obtained), a contract to sell fingerprint ink pads to the Independent National Elections Commission of Nigeria by making kickback payments to a commission official indirectly through an intermediary company.

Bistrong’s criminal information was filed on January 21, 2010.

It turns out that Bistrong agreed to plead guilty nearly a year before that – in February 2009, as indicated in the Bistrong plea agreement (see here).

So what did Bistrong agree to when he signed the plea agreement in February 2009?

To cooperate fully with with the government, including:

“whenever requested by the Government, working in an undercover role to record meetings and telephone calls under the supervision of United States law enforcement;” and

“attending all meetings at which the Government requests his presence.”

Per the Bistrong plea agreement, Bistrong “and the Department of Justice agree that the [Sentencing Guidelines] sentence is five years’ imprisonment.” Even so, the plea agreement states: “if in the sole and unreviewable judgment of the Government the defendant’s cooperation is of such quality and significance to the investigation or prosecution of other criminal matters as to warrant the Court’s downward departure from the sentence calculated by the Sentencing Guidelines, the Government may at or before sentencing make a motion pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines reflecting that the defendant has provided substantial assistance and recommending a downward departure from the applicable guideline range.”

Brady Toensing (diGenova & Toensing, LLP) (see here) represents Bistrong.

What impact will Bistrong’s plea have in the Africa Sting case – particularly the defendants’ expected entrapment defense?

Per the superseding indictment, the earliest conduct forming the basis of the criminal charges against the Africa Sting defendants occurred in May 2009. In other words, Bistrong had already agreed to plead guilty to separate criminal charges prior to introducing the Africa Sting defendants to the undercover “foreign official” or the “foreign official’s” undercover representative.

Will this matter?

Unlikely says Dru Stevenson, a Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law (see here). Professor Stevenson previously offered his thoughts on the entrapment issue (here) and offered these thoughts in light of Bistrong’s plea.

“The incentives of the informant or undercover agent have never mattered in an entrapment defense, under either of the tests that courts use. For the subjective test (used in federal court), entrapment analysis focuses entirely on the defendant’s predisposition to commit the crime. The incentives of the agent provocateur are irrelevant. For the objective test (used in a minority of states, but never in the federal courts), entrapment analysis focuses on the actual conduct of the undercover agents – how outrageous it was – but not on the agent’s incentives or motives. It would be a completely novel approach if a court gives any weight to the fact that the agent provocateur had made a plea bargain. And it is not clear why this should matter any more than an undercover police officer who is paid to trick criminals into committing crimes as part of a sting operation.”

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