Prosecutors Drop Weapons Charges After ‘New Evidence’ EmergesSeptember 25, 2015 | Written by Dan Margolis
To an observer, someone can only plead guilty to a crime because they did what prosecutors charged them with. But the truth is often more complicated.
A guilty plea can mean several things. It can be the result of a plea bargain, in which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for prosecutors dropping more serious charges. It may simply be due to pressure from prosecutors, who are often reluctant to go to trial.
Sometimes, the prosecution’s case is much more fragile than it seems, especially from initial news reports, which tend to rely heavily on the assertions of authorities. That apparently is what happened to a federal case against two men, including one from Ohio. Earlier this month, federal prosecutor abruptly dropped weapons charges against the defendants, even after they were set to plead guilty.
According to AL.com, the Ohio man was charged with illegally purchasing grenade fuses from the other defendant, an explosives dealer from Alabama. The Ohio man was scheduled to plead guilty later this month, but before that could happen, prosecutors asked the judge presiding over the case to dismiss all charges, which he did.
The U.S. attorney’s office would only say that “an issue developed with a witness” that apparently made their case fall apart. An attorney for the Alabama defendant said that evidence presented to prosecutors “directly affected the Government’s prosecution.”
We do not know what that evidence is, or whether it impacts the credibility of the witness the U.S. attorney’s office was apparently relying on. But it is clear that it was strong enough to make a guilty plea “a manifest injustice,” in the defense attorney’s words.