ST. LOUIS • A federal judge has rejected claims that a Drug Enforcement Administration sex scandal should result in evidence being thrown out in a St. Louis drug case.
Lawyers representing four people accused of a deadly drug conspiracy in St. Louis were claiming that evidence collected by DEA agents in Atlanta had been tainted by an undisclosed affair between a DEA supervisor and a confidential informer.
But U.S. Magistrate Judge Shirley Padmore Mensah ruled Jan. 12 in St. Louis that Dionne L. Gatling and three others had “failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that any government agent or any informant acting as a government agent deliberately or recklessly included a false statement” in an affidavit that led to a wiretap that itself would help lead to Gatling’s indictment.
St. Louis agents applied for wiretaps in 2012 that led to the 2014 indictment of Gatling, Andre Alphonso Rush, Timothy Lamont Rush and Lorenzo Gibbs on various drug-related charges. A superseding indictment in 2015 accuses Gatling, then 47, and Andre Rush, then 50, of involvement in the murder of two men they believed had cooperated with police, or believed might cooperate.
The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on the ruling Monday.
Three defense lawyers contacted in the last week also declined to comment. One could not be reached for comment. They have until Feb. 9 to respond in court filings.
The defense claims were the subject of a series of hearings in late 2016 and early 2017. The supervisor, Keith Cromer, denied having sex with the informer, or falsifying reports to justify a total of $212,000 in payments to her.
Cromer admitted that the relationship “became personal in violation of DEA policy but denied that it was ever sexual,” Mensah’s ruling says. But Mensah deemed Cromer’s testimony “not entirely credible” in light of the testimony of the informer, the trips the pair took and “intimate photographs of Agent Cromer” that were on the informer’s cellphone. Cromer testified that he didn’t know how she got in his hotel room in 2012 to take a photo of him sleeping.
DEA agents are forbidden from even being alone with sources, or having a relationship closer than “arm’s length.”
The informer claimed the relationship was sexual. She also said she was puzzled about some of the DEA payments to her.
Cromer has been suspended without pay, a DEA spokesman said Friday. Cromer also came under criminal and internal investigations, according to court testimony. There is no indication that he has been criminally charged.
A DEA spokesman said Thursday that Cromer is no longer with the agency.
DEA agents in St. Louis have not been accused of misconduct in the case. They were aware of Gatling from other investigations and corroborated the information provided by the informer, the ruling says.
Prosecutors have long argued that the allegations of misconduct were confined to Atlanta and should not affect the criminal case in St. Louis.