Pubdate: Wed, 12 Feb 2003
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2003 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Associated Press


PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A jury has sided with two narcotics agents who claimed 
their boss -- the Pennsylvania attorney general -- retaliated against them 
because they uncovered a drug-trafficking ring that diverted profits to a 
CIA-backed Dominican presidential candidate.

Agents John McLaughlin and Charles Micewski filed a lawsuit claiming their 
forcible transfer from the Philadelphia office of the state Bureau of 
Narcotics Investigation violated their civil rights.

A federal jury in northeastern Pennsylvania agreed, awarding $1.5 million 
to McLaughlin and Micewski on Friday after a one-week trial. The verdict 
capped more than five years of litigation.

"They won their lives and their reputations back," Don Bailey, attorney for 
the plaintiffs, said Tuesday. "These people were just destroyed, devastated."

Through a spokesman, state Attorney General Mike Fisher said he will 
appeal. The agents' allegations involved leftist politician Jose Francisco 
Pena Gomez, the longtime leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party and a 
three-time presidential hopeful. Gomez died in 1998.

McLaughlin and Micewski said they had uncovered a Dominican 
drug-trafficking ring operating in Philadelphia, New York and other Eastern 
cities that funneled drug profits to the Dominican Revolutionary Party, 
which they claimed was supported by the Central Intelligence Agency and 
State Department. The agents said the federal government had allowed Gomez 
to return to the Dominican Republic after a 1995 fund-raising swing through 
New York with $500,000 in alleged drug profits.

Shortly after their allegations surfaced, the Philadelphia district 
attorney and U.S. Attorney's office began questioning the agents' 
credibility and stopped prosecuting their drug cases. More than 125 drug 
cases ultimately were dismissed or dropped after prosecutors accused agents 
of fabricating evidence and lying on the witness stand.

McLaughlin, Micewski and other agents from the drug agency's Philadelphia 
office were subsequently transferred to other bureaus -- and removed from 
street duty -- by then-state Attorney General Tom Corbett.

The agents filed a civil rights lawsuit in 1997, saying they had "become 
the targets of vicious unfounded attacks on their credibility and careers 
by the federal government," with the "marionetted support" of the 
Philadelphia DA's office and Corbett.

The lawsuit also claimed that Gomez's Dominican Revolutionary Party "was, 
and is, protected and sanctioned, unlawfully, by agencies of the United 
States government, to include the CIA and the State Department, enabling 
the Dominicans to distribute illegal drugs at will to the black and 
Hispanic populations of the Eastern Seaboard."

That lawsuit ultimately was dismissed. Undeterred, the agents filed a 
second lawsuit -- the subject of last week's federal trial in Wilkes-Barre 
- -- claiming the state attorney general and his deputies had retaliated 
against them for the first lawsuit.

The jury awarded $1 million in punitive damages and $500,000 in actual damages.

"We were certainly surprised by the jury's verdict and we respectfully 
disagree with it. We intend to pursue all our post-trial and appellate 
remedies," said Fisher's spokesman, Sean Connolly.

Though it's been several years since McLaughlin and Micewski worked 
Philadelphia streets, Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham said her 
policy of refusing their cases remains in effect.

"We are very disappointed," said Cathie Abookire, Abraham's spokeswoman. 
"The verdict will not in any way cause us to change our policy in declining 
cases in which these officers have participated."
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