Defense Brief Excerpts from the defense brief in the US v. Singleton appeal (some citations omitted)

When the government allies itself with criminals, when the ends of fighting the war on drugsjustifies the means of the fight, is it then any wonder that the people no longer respect the government, the law, or the United States? Statement of Facts

This matter arose out of a continuing investigation commenced in approximately April 1992, by the local Wichita, Kansas police and the United States Department of Revenue into a large number of wire transfers of money in amounts of $1,000.00 or greater. The investigation eventually led the authorities to what they believed was a ring of Wichitans who were involved in a conspiracy to sell drugs. Western Union was used by the alleged conspirators to send money from Wichita to California to pay for drugs and for other purposes.

According to the government, some of the men involved in the conspiracy came to Wichita from California to set up shop and sell cocaine. These men recruited local women whom they paid to transfer and pick up currency at various Western Union outlets. Some of the women transported cocaine from California to Wichita. Sonya Singleton was identified as being one of the women who allegedly wired transferred money.

In the process of identifying the individuals whom the authorities believed were involved in the conspiracy, the authorities discovered one Napoleon Ransom Douglas. At the time Douglas was interviewed by the authorities he was serving a prison sentence in Mississippi for conspiracy to sell cocaine. In exchange for promises made by the Assistant United Sates Attorney, Mr. Douglas cooperated with the authorities and provided them with his understanding of how the conspiracies to distribute cocaine and laundering money worked.

Ultimately Ms. Singleton, Eric, Johnson, Ronald O. McClelland, Napoleon Douglas, Jonathan Wendell Searcy, and Stephanie Coats were charged in a multiple count indictment with conspiracy to distribute powder cocaine and money laundering. Ms. Singleton moved to sever her trial from that of McClelland, Searcy, Douglas, Coats and Johnson. Her motion was sustained, in part, and her trial was severed from the trails of Douglas, McClelland, Searcy and Coats. On January 14, 1997, the United States dismissed all charges against Mr. Johnson, and Ms. Singleton proceeded to trial.

Prior to trial, Ms. Singleton moved to suppress the testimony of Mr. Douglas on the grounds that his testimony had been procured by the United States in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 201(c)(2) and Rule 3.4(b) of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct as adopted by the State of Kansas by Kansas Supreme Court Rule 225, and effective from and after March 1, 1988. On the first day of the trial, and prior to the selection of the jury, Judge Theis denied Ms. Singleton's motion, holding that §201(c)(2) did not apply to the government.

After Detective Jacobs of the Wichita Police Department and Special Agent McCormack of the Internal Revenue Service explained to the jury how the investigation had begun and what the authorities had learned about suspected cocaine sales and money laundering, the government presented the testimony of Mr. Douglas. The only evidence concerning sales of cocaine, and the only testimony which allegedly linked Ms. Singleton with a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, came from Douglas.

Douglas testified that he was a convicted cocaine distribution conspirator and money launderer, and that the United States had promised to file a motion seeking a downward departure from his sentence if he cooperated in the case against Ms. Singleton. He then testified that he had first come to Wichita, Kansas at the request of Ronald McClelland to make money selling drugs. According to Douglas, for approximately two weeks he lived in the MacArthur Apartments in Wichita with McClelland, Eric Johnson, and Ms. Singleton. During that time he observed Eric Johnson package cocaine, he engaged with Eric Johnson in conversations about drugs, and Ms. Singleton was present when there were drugs in the apartment. Douglas never saw Ms. Singleton sell drugs. ...


The American judicial system has long recognized that there exists an inherent danger of untruthfulness in the paid "occurrence" witness. In criminal cases payment can take many forms, ranging from outright cash payments to promises of leniency in the government's treatment of the "paid" witness. In reflecting upon the dangers of using paid witnesses in criminal cases, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has written: "Obviously promises of immunity or leniency premised on cooperation in a particular case may provide a strong inducement to testify falsely in that case." United States v. Meinster, 619 F.2d 1041, 1045 (4th Cir. 1980).

It is a crime to pay a witness -- other than an expert -- for testifying. Title 18 United States Code, Section 201 addresses the issue of providing something of value to a witness in exchange for his testimony. The section provides in pertinent part that:

(c) Whoever -

(2) directly or indirectly, gives, offers or promises anything of value to any person, for or because of the testimony under oath or affirmation given or to be given by such person as a witness upon a trial, hearing, or other proceeding, before any court, any committee of either House or both Houses of Congress, or any agency, commission, or officer authorized by the laws of the United States to hear evidence or take testimony, or for or because of such persons absence therefrom;

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than two years or both. 18 U.S.C. 201(c)(2) (Emphasis added).

Section 201(c)(2) does not require that the offer be made with the intention of the offeror to influence the testimony of the witness. ...

Despite this section of the United States Code which clearly prohibits and makes criminal the provision of anything of value to a witness in exchange for his testimony, the government, through the Department of Justice and the various United States Attorney's Offices, has a well established policy of providing witnesses with valuable consideration -- things of value -- in exchange for their testimony in criminal cases. It is not at all unusual for the government to promise leniency at sentencing, or to agree to accept a plea of guilty to a lesser charge, or to agree to file for a sentencing departure under §5K1 of the Sentencing Guidelines, or agree to intercede with the courts of the several states if the offeree agrees to cooperate and testify at the trial of others who stand accused of crimes. In fact, the Department of Justice has on several occasions paid substantial sums of money to witnesses who testify. See J. Richard Johnston, "Paying the Witness," Criminal Justice, Pages 21-22, Volume 11, Number 4, Winter 1977.

So common is the practice of offering things of value to witnesses for their testimony that prior to trial Ms. Singleton believed that such promises had been made to Douglas. This belief was ultimately borne out by the testimony of Douglas when he admitted that in exchange for his cooperation the government had promised to seek a departure from his sentence for conspiracy and money laundering and that the government planned to ask the courts of Mississippi to reduce his sentence in that state.

Prosecution is appropriate for those who violate §201(c)(2). Can there be any doubt, if defense counsel began to offer things of value to occurrence witnesses, that the government would have a field day announcing prosecutions of the defense bar? However; it is unrealistic to expect the government to prosecute Assistant Untied States Attorneys for violating §201(c)(2) when the courts have, over the years, been liberal in allowing the testimony of witnesses who have been "paid."...

Promises of leniency are strong inducements to testify falsely. The use of purchased testimony is not only unethical, it is unlawful and dangerous. While the courts have been willing to admit the testimony of "paid" witnesses over challenges arising other than out of §201(c)(2), the courts have also recognized that the government's paying witnesses and offering reduced sentences in exchange for testimony breaches established ethical standards and "patently permits perversion of the trial process." U.S. v Cervantes-Pacheco, 826 F.2d 310, 315-15 (concurring opinion) (5th Cir. 1987.)

Over the passage of time the courts have become more and more willing to allow the admission of the paid testimony of occurrence witnesses. An interesting discussion of this process can be found in United States v. Cervantes - Pacheco, 826 F.2d 310 (5th Cir. 1987). It appears that the courts, with the encouragement of the Department of Justice, have all too willingly accepted the testimony of paid occurrence witnesses as a method of fighting the war on drugs. The ends, convicting drug lords, have come to justify the means - the use of the paid testimony of criminals. This has resulted in a coarsening of the trial process which has come to match the coarsening which occurred in general.

By presenting these "paid" witnesses, the government provides them with a mantle of credibility, reliability, and respectability. It is then assumed by the courts that, through the process of vigorous cross examination, the reliability and veracity of the paid witness can be challenged and the jury will be able to divine the truth.

When the government offers the paid testimony of a admitted and convicted felon, it enters into a compact with evil. The result is the ultimate erosion of respect for government which all people must have in order to maintain a free society. The courts should not allow the law to be used to aid the government in this process.

Justice Brandeis recognized this danger and foreshadowed it in 1928, when he wrote:

The court's aid is denied only when he who seeks it has violated the law in connection with the very transaction as to which he seeks legal redress. Then aid is denied despite the defendant's wrong. It is denied in order to maintain respect for law; in order to promote confidence in the administration of justice; in order to preserve the judicial process from contamination . . .

Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example . . .To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means - to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal - would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this court should resolutely set its face.

Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 484, 48 S.Ct. 564, 574-75, 73 L.Ed. 944 (1928) (Brandeis, J., dissenting) (footnote omitted).

If the government breaks the law in an attempt to secure a conviction, as it has in the present case by its violation of §201(c)(2), it is the province and the duty of the courts to say, "No, this cannot be." This court has the enviable duty of protecting the government from itself. As Justice Brandeis recognized, in a free democratic society, the end may never justify the means.

When the government allies itself with criminals, when the ends of fighting the war on drugs justifies the means of the fight, is it then any wonder that the people no longer respect the government, the law, or the United States? By granting Ms. Singleton's motion for sanctions, this court strikes a blow which promotes confidence in the administration of justice.

The government has not paid heed to Justice Brandeis. It has ignored his warning and it continues to argue that the only way to secure convictions of organized criminals, conspirators, and others is to make deals with other criminals. It believes that in order to triumph over lawbreakers it must embrace lawbreakers. Things of value have regularly been given to "paid" witnesses to secure their cooperation and testimony. Prior criminal conduct is regularly overlooked. And it had gotten worse.

In the case of John Gotti, the reputed boss of the former Gambino crime family, the government relied primarily on the testimony of a mass murderer, Gotti's lieutenant and co-defendant Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano (spelling approximate). Gravano -- hardly an alter boy - an admitted multiple murderer and organized crime soldier, was offered valuable considerations by the United States in order to induce him to testify against Gotti. Gravano accepted the offer, testified, and Gotti was convicted. Now Gravano has written a book about his experience, and the government is assisting him in retaining the royalties. Was Gotti a modern day godfather? Quite possibly. Is society worsened by the government's embrace of the mass murderer Gravano? Undoubtedly!

In the motion picture Batman, the Joker, asked his victims, "Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?" The United States dances that dance every time it offers valuable considerations to criminals to induce them to "cooperate." The government clutches to its bosom and wraps the flag about criminal "paid" witness.

Douglas was such a "paid" criminal witness. ... The value he received for his testimony was the assistance of the United States in seeking to reduce his various prison sentences. His testimony was solicited and offered by the government in clear violation of the prohibitions of §201(c)(2) and Rule 4.3 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct as adopted by the Kansas Supreme Court.

The District Court erred in admitting the testimony of Douglas over the objection of Ms. Singleton. The testimony of "paid" witnesses should not be submitted to any jury and it should not have been admitted to this jury. The testimony should have been stricken, and had it been, there would have been no evidence that Ms. Singleton may have been involved in a cocaine conspiracy or money laundering. Her convictions for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and money laundering should be overturned.

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