Lawsuit claiming DEA paid New Mexico man in crack tossed
Sep. 30, 2015
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A lawsuit filed by a New Mexico man who says federal agents wrongfully supplied him with crack cocaine, reigniting his addiction to the drug, was dismissed Wednesday by a federal judge
In a 16-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez said the law doesn't allow for damages when a person's own wrongful conduct is the cause of injury.
Aaron Romero said in court papers that he was unknowingly targeted during an undercover investigation because he was a struggling addict and did not know he was helping agents break up a Las Vegas, New Mexico, drug operation.
The lawsuit says Romero was given a portion of crack cocaine for help with deals in an undercover investigation into a case known as "Operation Smack City." That arrangement was in violation of DEA policy because the agency did not get prior approval from prosecutors, the lawsuit said.
Romero, 39, sued the Drug Enforcement Administration and its agents in July 2014 seeking $8.5 million in damages for the loss of "love, familial relationships, and companionship" related to Romero's ongoing crack addiction.
Romero's attorney, Erlinda Ocampo Johnson, told the Associated Press that she "absolutely" plans to appeal the ruling.
"The court missed the point," Johnson said. "The government exploited a mental health illness, that being a drug addiction."
That means Romero is entitled to damages for injuries, she said.
Johnson said last year that her client was being wrongly accused by some of working for the DEA and had received threatening phone calls.
"(The threatening calls) are another result of the DEA's actions," Johnson said. "He now fears for his life."
In a separate opinion, Vazquez dismissed claims that DEA agents intentionally targeted Romero to stack drug-related charges against him. She ruled that Romero's lawsuit was barred by his acknowledgement that the government acted for a legitimate investigative purpose in fighting drug crime.
Romero was later charged with distribution of drugs in connection with the investigation, but federal prosecutors dropped the charges in January 2014.
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