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CRM 500-999

648. Entrapment—Outrageous Government Conduct

While the essence of the entrapment defense is the defendant's lack of predisposition to commit the offense, the "defense" of outrageous government conduct presupposes predisposition but seeks dismissal of the indictment on the ground that the conduct of law enforcement agents was "so outrageous that due process principles would absolutely bar the government from invoking judicial process to obtain a conviction." United States v. Russell, 411 U.S. 423, 431-32 (1973). Thus, the outrageous government conduct defense is not really a defense at all. Rather, it is a claim that the institution of the prosecution suffers from a purely legal defect; as such, the claim is waived unless raised prior to trial under Fed. R. Crim. P. 12(b)(1) and (b)(2). See, e.g., United States v. Henderson-Durand, 985 F.2d 970, 973 & n. 5 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 856 (1993); United States v. Duncan, 896 F.2d 271, 274 (7th Cir. 1990); United States v. Nunez-Rios, 622 F.2d 1093, 1099 (2d Cir. 1980).

The Supreme Court has never held that the government's mere use of undercover agents or informants, or the use of deception by them, gives rise to a due process violation, although in Russell it left open that possibility. The requisite level of outrageousness could be reached only where government conduct is so fundamentally unfair as to be "shocking to the universal sense of justice." Id. at 432. No court of appeals has held that a predisposed defendant may establish a due process violation simply because he purportedly was induced to commit the crime by an undercover agent or informant. See, e.g., United States v. Pedraza, 27 F.3d 1515, 1521 (10th Cir.) (not outrageous for government "to infiltrate an ongoing criminal enterprise, or to induce a defendant to repeat, continue, or even expand criminal activity."), cert. denied, 115 S. Ct. 347 (1994).

Defendants who claim to be victims of outrageous government conduct sometimes also argue that the district court should dismiss the indictment in the exercise of its supervisory power. In the absence of a due process violation, however, a district court has no authority to dismiss an indictment on this basis. See, e.g., United States v. Simpson, 927 F.2d 1088, 1090 (9th Cir. 1991).

[cited in JM 9-18.000]