Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice

Overview

Our criminal justice system favors defendants who know how to play the "5K game": criminals who are so savvy about the cooperation process that they repeatedly commit serious crimes knowing they can be sent back to the streets if they simply cooperate with prosecutors. In Snitch, investigative reporter Ethan Brown shows through a compelling series of case profiles how the sentencing guidelines for drug-related offenses, along with the 5K1.1 section, have unintentionally created a "cottage industry of ...

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Snitch: Informants, Cooperators & the Corruption of Justice

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Overview

Our criminal justice system favors defendants who know how to play the "5K game": criminals who are so savvy about the cooperation process that they repeatedly commit serious crimes knowing they can be sent back to the streets if they simply cooperate with prosecutors. In Snitch, investigative reporter Ethan Brown shows through a compelling series of case profiles how the sentencing guidelines for drug-related offenses, along with the 5K1.1 section, have unintentionally created a "cottage industry of cooperators," and led to fabricated evidence. The result is wrongful convictions and appallingly gruesome crimes, including the grisly murder of the Harvey family in Richmond, Virginia and the well-publicized murder of Imette St. Guillen in New York City.

This cooperator-coddling criminal justice system has ignited the infamous "Stop Snitching" movement in urban neighborhoods, deplored by everyone from the NAACP to the mayor of Boston for encouraging witness intimidation. But as Snitch shows, the movement is actually a cry against the harsh sentencing guidelines for drug-related crimes, and a call for hustlers to return to "old school" street values, like: do the crime, do the time. Combining deep knowledge of the criminal justice system with frontline true crime reporting, Snitch is a shocking and brutally troubling report about the state of American justice when it's no longer clear who are the good guys and who are the bad.

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Editorial Reviews

Legal Times
Brown's evidence is overwhelming
Penthouse
This chilling investigative report explores an evil that affects almost every American... Snitch is necessary reading as we go into a presidential election year.
Kirkus Reviews
Trading reduced sentences to drug criminals for information has utterly corrupted the American justice system, argues Brown (Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent, and the Rise of the Hip-Hop Hustler, 2005). The author isn't the first to make a book-length argument that America's criminal justice structure is fatally flawed when it comes to drug crimes, and he won't be the last. His focus, however, is quite fresh: The combination of tough, federally mandated sentences and overeager prosecutors willing to make a case simply on the testimony of an unreliable informant or two, he writes, "has transformed drug enforcement into a game of tag in which small-time dealers constantly turn on one another." Given the heavy punishments meted out for even small drug offenses, it's not surprising that prosecutors can draw on a large pool of potential snitches happy to provide any information-true or not-to get off the hook. Brown uses a number of poorly handled cases to demonstrate that police departments around the country will use the word of a snitch, any snitch, to lock up their targets. The snitches often get revolving-door treatment for their own offenses, not to mention cash stipends and even a strange sense of camaraderie with the cops. As a result, investigative work and evidence-gathering fall by the wayside, and some informants are even freed to commit more heinous crimes as a reward for their self-serving lies. Unfortunately, Brown's tone is often tepid when it should be angry. He moves from one case to the next with little sense of proportion, going into lengthy and frequently irrelevant detail that distracts from his main point. Appalled by the shocking ineptitude and outright duplicityof law-enforcement personnel that his research uncovered, Brown seems to feel honor-bound to report every single instance, at the cost of disastrously diluting what could have been a stunning book. A powerful case poorly argued. Agent: Jud Laghi/LJK Literary Management
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586484927
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 11/26/2007
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Ethan Brown writes about pop music, crime, and drug policy for publications such as Wired, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, and GQ. He is the author of Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent and the Rise of the Hip-Hop Hustler. He lives in New York.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     xi
Prologue: Says Who? Cooperators and Informants Replace Investigative Work     1
Introduction: Section 5K1.1 and the Rise of the Cooperator Institution     9
Feeding the Federal Beast: Giuliani Day, Congress's Anticrime Bills, and Candy Bar Justice     19
Bad to Worse: Snitching Scandals, Coddled Cooperators     43
King Tut's Third Strike: The Murder of Tupac, Three Strikes Legislation, and the Fall of Brooklyn's Most Storied Hustler     55
Line 'Em Up and Indict 'Em: The Cooperator Casting Call that Brought Down Euka Wadlington     81
Mark's Bad Trip: The Shaky Science that Led to Increased Penalties for Ecstasy Dealing and the Dealer Who Turned Cooperator Because of Them     99
Brotherhood of the Bookstore: The {dollar}100,000 Informant, the Thirty-fourth Street Bomb Plot, and the Preemptive Indictment Brought by the Feds     119
Jonathan Luna's Last Days: The Rap Label, the Rogue Cooperator, and the Murdered Prosecutor     135
Killer Cooperators: The Harvey Family and St. Guillen Murders     153
Stop Snitching: The Barber, the Corrupt Cops, and the Prosecutor on the Frontlines of the Battle over Witness Intimidation in Baltimore     169
A Session with Sessions: Sentencing Reform and Snitching Solutions     195
Epilogue: Case Closed? Are Stop Snitching and Witness Intimidation Leading to Low Clearance Ratesand a Return to the "Bad Old Days" of the 1980s?     215
Endnotes     225
Documents     255
Index     261
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 29, 2012

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    The information here is both fascinating and appalling. Ethan Br

    The information here is both fascinating and appalling. Ethan Brown takes us into the world of police cooperators. These aren't like informants, who are people on the streets being paid to provide police with information on criminal activity. Cooperators are the criminals who have been arrested, then given a lighter sentence (or no sentence at all) in return for 'snitching' on someone else. These people have every incentive to lie - and often do. Entire FBI cases have been tried and won on nothing more than the word of cooperators.

    Snitch is a mixture of real stories that read like crime fiction and jaw-dropping facts. This is one of those books I think everyone should read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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