DEA Bribery Trial Evidence Befuddles Orange County Jurors

Categories: Court, Crime-iny
DEA agent lies, payment is made and OC jury is befuddled
Federal prosecutor Rob Keenan possesses unquestionable evidence that a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) task force agent in Riverside repeatedly lied to Orange County prosecutors in hopes of tricking them into giving unwarranted, special treatment to an accused John Wayne Airport assault defendant.

Keenan collected undeniable proof that Mission Viejo defense lawyer Lawrence Witsoe convinced Wayne Gillis, his Phoenix businessman client charged in the assault case, that if he quietly paid $2,500 to DEA task force agent Aaron Vigil, he'd win special treatment from the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

The veteran, assistant United States Attorney and his trial partner, Jennifer Waier, also have documentation that Witsoe ordered evidence of the conspiracy to be destroyed so that he, Gillis and Vigil wouldn't fall into "deep yogurt" if anyone honest in law enforcement discovered the ruse.

Indeed, Witsoe didn't know he was being recorded by the FBI when he told Gillis that he would route the $2,500 to the DEA agent through an intermediary.

"Mum's the word on everything," Witsoe was captured telling Gillis, who secretly worked for federal agents after his lawyer allegedly gave him the bribery option.

Yet, a jury summoned to render justice in U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford's 10-floor courtroom deliberated all day Monday, needed multiple replays of the FBI's audio tapes of the scheme and still couldn't reach unanimous verdicts.

The excellent courtroom work of Michael D. Schwartz and Ken Julian, criminal defense lawyers for Witsoe and Vigil, apparently has so far worked to befuddle jurors about the damning contents of the tapes.

The defense theory of the case is that the FBI didn't "connect the dots" to prove Gillis' money landed in Vigil's pocket--an assertion that might have been more credible if Witsoe hadn't said on the recordings to Gillis that he would take steps to funnel the money to the DEA agent who was at the time in the midst of a personal, financial mess that led to bankruptcy.

The female-dominated jury resumes its deliberations on Tuesday in Santa Ana's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.

Suburban-stacked juries in OC have historically found it almost impossible to find law enforcement officers guilty of anything regardless of the evidence against them.

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