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Executive Summary:

John Delorean was a very successful executive at General Motors and was known for developing the Pontiac GTO, the Pontiac Firebird, Pontiac Grand Prix, Chevrolet Vega, and the DeLorean DMC-12 sports car, which was later featured in the 1985 film Back to the Future. In 1982 Delorean was arrested by the FBI for drug trafficking. "The alleged drug trafficking was supposedly an attempt to raise funds for his struggling company, which declared bankruptcy that same year. He successfully defended himself against the drug trafficking charges, showing that his alleged involvement was a result of entrapment by federal agents". Delorean was found not guilty on August 16, 1984.

Entrapment:

The FBI Legal Handbook for Special Agents defines entrapment as "a defense asserted frequently by defendants in cases in which informants have played an active role. Entrapment is established if the evidence shows the idea or plan for the criminal act originated with the Government, and the government implanted that idea by various forms of inducement in the mind of an otherwise innocent (not predisposed) person who then commits the alleged crime."

"Predisposition in Federal cases can be established by many different types of evidence. Federal courts generally permit the Government to introduce at trial the following types of predisposition evidence as long as it is similar to the crime for which the defendant is currently charged."

  1. Prior convictions.
  2. Prior arrests.
  3. Preoffense criminal activity.
  4. Postoffense criminal activity.
  5. Delorean had none of the above.

Background:

Delorean first met John Hoffman in 1980 when he was on vacation with his family. Hoffman was a convicted drug dealer and government informant at the time and was aware that John needed money for his car company. Hoffman allegedly told his handling agent, "I met John Delorean and as bad as he needs money, I can deliver him to you".

On June 29, 1982, Hoffman called Delorean's office and said that he knew some people who might be interested in investing in the Delorean Company. Hoffman pushed for a meeting as soon as possible but Delorean was skeptical since he did not know Hoffman well. Delorean suggested that they meet in a hotel room but Hoffman refused. Hoffman said he wanted to meet Deloren in a bar one on one. When they met, Hoffman took Delorean to the back of the bar in a secluded and dark area. Delorean later found out that the booth was wired to record the conversation. Hoffman said that his people would loan Delorean $15 million (which was urgently needed). The tape recording of this meeting was never made public and Delorean later heard that the recording had been destroyed since it would show that he was not predisposed to enter into an illegal transaction.

Hoffman requested another meeting on September 4, 1982, at Washington DC in a room that was set up to record the meeting. Hoffman said he had found some other investors from Columbia and they could bring in as much as $30 million for the Delorean Company. Delorean became concerned that Hoffman might have connections with an illegal drug operation in Columbia. Hoffman said that he would need $2 million for his commission. Delorean told Hoffman that he did not want to get involved in a drug deal and was concerned that he might have been given an offer that could not be refused. He was concerned that if he terminated his relationship with the Columbians, that they might retaliate against him and his family. Hoffman allegedly told Delorean. "You know too much - you can't get out - if you try to get out there'll be a bloody mess - I'll send your baby daughter's head home in a shopping bag!

Delorean contacted an attorney friend and told him that he was being "pressured" to invest in an illegal transaction involving some extremely dangerous people who he thought were associated with organized crime. Delorean's friend told him to make no commitment, to not enter into any illegal transaction, not to give them any money, and not to accept money from them.

On October 19, 1982, at the next meeting in a Los Angeles motel, Delorean was arrested by the FBI and charged with trafficking in cocaine. A briefcase full of cocaine (which belonged to the government) was found in the room. The video of this arrest was eventually released to the media.

Delorean successfully defended himself with a procedural defense, despite video evidence of him referring to the suitcase full of cocaine as "good as gold" - arguing that the FBI had enticed a convicted narcotics smuggler to get Delorean to supply the money to buy the cocaine. His attorney stated in Time (March 19, 1984), "This [was] a fictitious crime. Without the government, there would be no crime." Delorean was found not guilty on August 16, 1984.

Delorean died on March 19, 2005 at Summit, New Jersey. He was 80.

Significant Events Before and During the Trial

  1. Evidence fabricated by undercover FBI agent. (Testimony of FBI undercover agent).
  2. Evidence (original notes of FBI undercover agent) was destroyed by the FBI undercover agent - a violation of FBI policies and procedures and Federal law. (Testimony of FBI undercover agent).
  3. Delorean did not know cocaine was going to be in the room where he was arrested. (Testimony of FBI undercover agent)
  4. One of the DEA agents working the case resigned and agreed to testify for Delorean.
  5. Delorean never put up any cash. (Trial Testimony)
  6. The FBI undercover agent did not think Delorean was in the heroin or cocaine business or associated with cocaine sellers. (Testimony of FBI undercover agent).

Conclusion

The FBI has strict entrapment policies and procedures which state that the person under investigation must be predisposed to commit the crime. This predisposition needs to be documented via recordings of all meetings by the informant. The informant is prohibited from manipulating the suspect to commit the crime. As soon as it becomes apparent that the informant is engaging in outrageous conduct or violating informant policies and procedures, the case should be re-evaluated to determine if entrapment and improper informant conduct is taking place. If so, then the case should be closed and not presented for prosecution.

Additional Sources

  1. You Tube, Media Mayhem, "The Delorean Cocaine Car Trial with Attorney Donald Re." Re was one of the Delorean lawyers.
  2. You Tube, The Lip TV, "Why John Delorean Was Found Not Guilty of Coke Dealing".
  3. You Tube, "Rare Interview of John Delorean" by Linda Soloman.
  4. Legal Solutions Blog, Thomason Reuters, "Today in 1984: Carmaker John Delorean Acquitted of Cocaine Charges by Reason of Entrapment" by Jeremy Byellin.
  5. FBI Manual of Investigative Operations and Guidelines Volume 2, Part 1, Section 137, Informants. (fbi.gov)
  6. Informants and Undercover Investigations by Dennis G. Fitzgerald, CRC Press. 2007.
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Dan L. Vogel is Forensic Consultant Expert Witness based in Oklahoma City. He has 27 years of Federal law enforcement experience and has testified as an expert in Federal and state court. Pro Bono work is performed on a case by case basis. He is currently a member of the Consulting Committee, The American Investigative Society of Cold Cases. dvogel1@cox.net

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