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DEMARIA v. JONES

May 3, 1976

Michael DeMARIA and Frank Bachetti, Petitioners,
v.
Robert JONES, Special Agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Individually and in his official capacity, et al., Respondents



The opinion of the court was delivered by: TENNEY

TENNEY, District Judge.

 Petitioners moved before this Court, by order to show cause, for injunctive relief pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a) and for money damages. Jurisdiction was predicated upon 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343 and 2201, invoking the Court's authority to hear issues raised under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Respondents have moved to dismiss the complaint according to Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs' motion is denied, and defendants' motion is granted in all respects.

 Petitioners are two individuals currently charged by New York State with violating its drug laws and facing prosecution in state supreme court, People of the State of New York v. Frank Bachetti and Michael DeMaria, No. N1394-558/1974. Respondents in this action include Robert Jones, a special agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (hereinafter "DEA"), a federal agency within the United States Department of Justice; David Ben Israel, an individual alleged to be an informant of the DEA; Peter B. Bensinger, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration; John W. Fallon, New York Regional Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration; Robert B. Fiske, Jr., United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; James E. Nesland, Assistant United States Attorney; and Sterling Johnson, Special Prosecutor for drug offenses in the City of New York.

 The complaint depicts a story suitable for an "X" rated cinema, charging first that respondents Jones and Israel violated petitioners' rights by entrapping them into criminal drug transactions by means of an elaborate scheme whereby Israel "held himself out to be a physician and wormed his way into the confidence of the entire De-Maria family, even treating female members of that family gynecologically." (Complaint para. XIV).

 The second part of the complaint charges that agent Jones and Israel conspired with the other respondents to coerce petitioners to cooperate with further DEA investigations by entrapping others in illegal narcotics transactions. Specifically, the complaint charges that:

 
"XIX. On September 17, 1974, after the arrest of each Petitioner, they were each taken to Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters in New York City. While there, separately Respondent JONES threatened each of them that unless he cooperated in inducing other persons to sell drugs to agents, JONES would turn his case over to the State authorities, thereby subjecting Petitioners to an increase in punishment from a sentence of up to 15 years at the discretion of a Federal Judge, to a mandatory sentence of life with a minimum of 15 years in prison in a State Proceeding.
 
"XX. On information and belief, the threats which were ultimately carried out, were made with the full knowledge of Respondents PETER B. BENSINGER, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, JOHN W. FALLON, New York Regional Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration; ROBERT FISK [sic], United States Attorney, JAMES E. NESLAND, Asst. United States Attorney; and STERLING JOHNSON, Special Prosecutor for drug offenses in New York City, who have made it a matter of policy to make and enforce the threats referred to as a matter of course among persons accused of dealing small amounts of drugs who are apprehended by Federal Authorities."

 Basically, petitioners present a two-pronged complaint. The first claim concerns unconstitutional entrapment. The second charges a conspiracy among DEA agents, the United States Attorney's office and the Special Prosecutor for drug offenses in the City of New York, consisting of carefully calculated practices aimed at coercing the cooperation of arrestees in other drug investigations. The illegal practice allegedly proceeds as follows:

 
"XXI. Each and all of the Respondents have conspired with each other and with others unknown to use the color of laws of New York State to deprive the Petitioners of their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of the laws by sanctioning and participating in the use of threats of increased penalties to coerce the Petitioners and others in their position to engage in activities patently illegal and highly immoral.
 
"XXII. As part of this scheme or plan, it is necessary to make good on the threats to increase the penalty on recalcitrants in order to instill fear in other persons in a like situation to that of the Petitioner." (Complaint).

 In sum, the complaint asks that this Court enjoin defendant Jones from testifying against DeMaria and Bachetti in the state court prosecution, and seeks a declaration that the actions of the respondents jointly and severally violate federal law.

 I. Petitioners' Motion for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief

 Because a state court prosecution is pending against petitioners, their request that the key prosecution witness, DEA agent Jones, be enjoined from testifying in that trial would seem to fly directly in the face of the prohibition against federal court interference in state proceedings. Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 95 S. Ct. 1200, 43 L. Ed. 2d 482, rehearing denied, 421 U.S. 971, 95 S. Ct. 1969, 44 L. Ed. 2d 463 (1975); Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66, 91 S. Ct. 764, 27 L. Ed. 2d 688 (1971); Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S. Ct. 746, 27 L. Ed. 2d 669 (1971). Even though petitioners do not ask for direct interference with the state court proceeding, the "practical impact" of enjoining Jones' testimony would be to dismantle the entire prosecution in that court. See Samuels v. Mackell, supra, 401 U.S. at 73, 91 S. Ct. at 768, 27 L. Ed. 2d at 693; Martin v. Merola, 532 F.2d 191 at 194-95 (2d Cir., 1976) (per curiam). This principle of noninterference with state court proceedings is firmly entrenched in established concepts of "federalism" and "comity". Younger v. Harris, supra, 401 U.S. at 43-44, 91 S. Ct. at 750, 27 L. Ed. 2d at 675; Fried v. New York State Court of Appeals, 76 Civ. 1212 (S.D.N.Y. March 23, 1976), on the understanding that the federal court is admonished to respect the integrity of a State's administration of its own laws. Petitioners do not challenge the validity of the state drug laws or their application, but rather the circumstance of presenting their defense in state court rather than in federal court. *fn1"

 Recently, the Supreme Court has explained that

 
"In the absence of exceptional circumstances creating a threat of irreparable injury 'both great and immediate,' a federal court must not intervene by way of either injunction or declaratory ...

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