Fall Guy

Larry Gould was a long-time junkie on the mend in a methadone program until he was lured into a drug sting. Now he's doing five years. But he made a few undercover cops look good in the process, and that was the important thing.

Special Agent Tyndall asked Gould to make three transactions altogether, which he would later explain was necessary in order to nail the "bigger fish" Gould was buying from. Then, without making a bust or revealing he was a cop, he disappeared from Gould's life, which by then had reverted back to a constant quest for a fix. In fact, it was the worst stretch yet for Gould, who spent the next year trying to get back under control, at times craving heroin and methadone at the same time. While Gould struggled to get back off heroin, police presumably were using Jerosa to find and snare other drug dealers.

Sixteen months later, the cops showed up to arrest Gould at his house while he and his girlfriend were unpacking from a camping trip up north. At trial, Gould was convicted of three felony charges of third-degree narcotics possession. Since he had a record, when it came time to sentence him, the first charge earned him 44 months prison time. It also gave him one more "prior," so that when he was sentenced for the second count, he got 65 months. By the time they got to the third charge, Gould was looking at nearly six years in a state prison--the kind of hard time big-league dealers are supposed to do.

The BCA, meanwhile, never even arrested Gould's alleged supplier, Gerald Huisman. Turns out every cop in town was after the "big fish," who was eventually arrested for making five large sales to an undercover Hennepin County Sheriff's deputy. Nothing in his court file explains why three of the charges were dismissed or whether he cooperated with police, but Huisman was sentenced to just nine months in the workhouse. He was out on probation before Gould even went to trial.

There are few targets more perfect for a police narcotics operation than a guy in a methadone program, according to Scott Swanson, the public defender who recently appealed Gould's case to the state Supreme Court. A recovering drug user himself, Swanson points out that for starters, Gould was guaranteed to have sources for buying heroin. Second, he's an addict, which means that at some point he was almost certain to be swayed by the prospect of having dope in his hands.

And it's nearly impossible for a man like Gould to defend himself in court by arguing that he's the victim of police entrapment. In order to prove entrapment, defendants must show that they are not predisposed to commit the offense they were lured or pushed into doing. Heroin addicts with drug-related criminal records--no matter how picayune--are hard-pressed to prove they aren't predisposed to buy and sell drugs. And that just makes it all the easier for cops to control exactly what the targets of a sting get charged with and how much time they do for it. In Gould's case, Agent Tyndall asked for two grams of heroin, which made it a third-degree felony, the lowest level at which he would have gotten prison time.

Little is publicly known about the origins of the undercover operation that snared Gould. Jerosa, the informant, had originally approached the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which turned him over to the BCA. At Gould's trial, Tyndall testified that the snitch was being paid, but said he didn't know whether he was attempting to get out from under some charges of his own. Other BCA agents testified that they knew Gould was in a methadone program, but in their eyes, that didn't make any difference.

Tyndall also testified that the BCA had Gould make three separate buys because they needed more evidence about who his source was. The BCA had its suspicions on the first buy. The agent in charge of the undercover operation had already gotten Huisman's name from Minneapolis police. Plus, the informant had said he thought Huisman was Gould's supplier.

During each of the transactions, BCA agents followed Gould when he left the car and went to pick up Tyndall's heroin. On both the second and third buys the agents saw Huisman's car. On the third buy, they watched as Gould went into Huisman's house. Later, the BCA surveyed local law-enforcement agencies and learned that two other sets of cops were watching Huisman. The Hennepin County Sheriff had the best case--still another informant who was making buys directly from him.

Through Gould, the BCA gave Huisman $3,600 in taxpayers' money and the snitch $300 per buy. That was enough, Tyndall figured, if there was no bigger fish to fry. Eventually, they charged Gould in all three incidents.

Assistant Minnesota Attorney General John Docherty, one of the two prosecutors in Gould's case, says he typically charges defendants separately for each individual drug sale even if they're part of an ongoing sting. The state charged Gould with all three sales because it had solid evidence in each. "Sentencing manipulation can happen," Docherty concedes. "I won't deny that there are a minimum of cops who will, in the jargon, buy the guidelines." But in Gould's case, he says, the BCA agents made the second and third buys as part of a legitimate investigation. Besides, "imagine what it would mean if they had to arrest drug offenders on the first buy," Docherty adds. "Courts would be even more clogged with street-level dealers. And then you'd be constantly chasing the same people off of the same street corners.

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