Is the U.S. Justice Department running out of things to do? In 2014, the federal government secured a grand jury indictment of FedEx, on allegations that the delivery giant was in fact a giant drug dealer. The feds claimed FedEx knowingly allowed drug dealers and drug addicts to send and receive illegal shipments of pharmaceutical drugs, some of which were intercepted by wild-eyed addicts en route to rural destinations in opiate-ravaged parts of the Midwest.
Legal observers at the time said the case was a reach. FedEx even asked the Justice Department to share a list of known dealers and addicts so that it could suspend service; the feds refused. After all, if convicted, FedEx could have been fined $1.6 billion.
Instead, Justice Department attorneys took the extraordinary step of abandoning the case mid-trial last week. You could ask yourself why the government waited that long.
The feds agreed to a trial by judge, rather than jury; and in the spring, that judge, Charles Breyer, dismissed most of the 18 charges filed against FedEx, citing sloppy evidence. Breyer was no kinder in court last week when the feds finally ceded the field.
[jump] Breyer made note of the Drug Enforcement Administration's refusal to supply FedEx with a list of known drug dealers and drug users when asked. He also called the government's case “novel,” which is a nice, judge-like way of calling it “bullshit.”
“The court has been asked to determine if defendant should be held criminally liable as a co-conspirator,” Breyer said in his decision accepting the government's motion to dismiss the case. “As a result of detailed opening statements by the government and defense and accepting factual assertions as uncontested, the court concludes the defendants are factually innocent. They did not have criminal intent.”
FedEx lead attorney Cristina Aguedas cut a finger-wagging figure. “The government should take a very hard look at how they made the remendously poor decision to file these charges,” she said Friday. “Many companies would not have the courage or the resources to defend themselves against these false charges. The power of the government was greatly misused when the case was brought.”
The FedEx case was inherited by current U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch from his predecessor, Melinda Haag. Haag, you may recall, wasn't exactly beloved in local drug reform circles for her office's pursuit of asset forfeiture proceedings against state-legal medical cannabis dispensaries.
Several of those cases were finally dropped this year as well.