A federal judge on Thursday tossed all charges against nearly a dozen defendants in a major D.C. heroin trafficking case amid a criminal misconduct probe into an unnamed FBI agent who worked on the case.
U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg ordered the dismissal of all convictions of and pending indictments against 10 defendants in a 2012 drug conspiracy case that saw investigators rely on wiretaps, surveillance and undercover drug buys.
The judge noted in an order that prosecutors agreed to the move.
A day earlier, the U.S. attorney’s office in the District filed motions to dismiss charges in six federal drug cases involving 28 defendants, including several who were facing the possibility of decades in prison and others who had already pleaded guilty.
The FBI last month confirmed one of its special agents may have been involved in tampering with firearms, narcotics and other evidence, according to newly unsealed documents. The documents don’t name the agent, and it’s unclear whether other cases could be jeopardized.
The Washington Post identified the agent Thursday as Matthew Lowry, 33, the son of an Anne Arundel County police official. The report said Mr. Lowry was involved in a task force that worked with local police.
Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said prosecutors are conducting a “case by case” review of matters involving the FBI agent.
“We have already begun taking steps to address this issue and are committed to doing everything that is necessary to preserve the integrity of the criminal justice process,” Mr. Miller wrote in an email.
While prosecutors aren’t revealing the name of the agent, an attorney for Kevin Black, a defendant in another pending drug case, filed a motion Thursday to try to force the government to reveal it.
“Mr. Black has reason to believe that the task force unit which investigated his case had the officer who committed the wrongful acts,” the lawyer, Peter Fayne, wrote in a motion Thursday morning.
Mr. Fayne said he and a lot of other defense attorneys in the District are awaiting more details to find out how other cases could be impacted.
Mr. Miller said the U.S. attorney’s office is recused from any criminal investigation into the agent. A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington Field Office said the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General is handling that investigation.
“During the week of September 29, 2014, the Washington Field Office became aware of possible misconduct by a Special Agent,” FBI spokeswoman Lindsay G. Ram said in a statement.
“The Field Office took immediate steps address the incident, to include notification to the appropriate U.S. Attorney’s Offices. The misconduct has been referred to the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General. Due to the ongoing investigation, we must decline further comment.”