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2 more cases tied to Milwaukee ATF sting dismissed

MILWAUKEE (AP) – Two more cases tied to a flawed U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sting in Milwaukee have been dismissed – this time because the prosecutor can’t use the top agent as a witness.

Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Karen Loebel said in court last week that she couldn’t call ATF Special Agent Jacqueline Sutton to testify, but she didn’t explain why, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday.

Loebel said only that she couldn’t explain why Sutton couldn’t testify because of “the manner in which I received the information.”

Sutton did not return calls and emails from the newspaper seeking comment.

ATF spokeswoman Ginger Colbrun said Sutton remains an ATF agent but declined to comment on the matter, saying it was a personnel issue.

Russell Jones, a lawyer who represented a man charged with selling cocaine to ATF agents, said he suspected the government wanted to avoid having more embarrassing details come out at trial.

“The DA played a game of chicken,” Jones said. “I don’t think they ever intended to take this case, or any of these cases, to trial.”

The latest dismissals mean eight of the 18 cases Loebel charged from the sting have now been dropped and none of the cases will go to trial. The other defendants in state court pleaded guilty, as did 16 charged in federal court.

The Milwaukee sting involved agents setting up a fake storefront to nab criminals selling guns and drugs. But agents lost weapons, left behind sensitive documents and saw their store burglarized. The agents also refused to pay their rent and warned the landlord against pursuing the matter.

Attorney Kiley Zellner, who represented the other man whose case was dismissed last week, said other defendants might now be second-guessing their guilty pleas.

“I wonder how many more cases would have been dismissed because they couldn’t call (Sutton),” Zellner said.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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