An agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified Monday that last February, even as a federal witness was preparing to testify about the allegedly corrupt activities of former Streets and Sanitation commissioner Al Sanchez, that witness was selling cocaine to undercover agents in northwest Indiana.
Agent Elena Iatarola said, as is routine, the buy was made with government money and that agents made routine database checks which revealed the subject had previous contacts with the Chicago FBI.
Defense attorneys for Sanchez are seeking a new trial, contending they were never informed that the witness, Brian Gabriel, was a drug dealer, and a high ranking member of the Spanish Vice Lords.
The defense contends Gabriel had more than ample motive to lie about Sanchez, his involvement with the Hispanic Democratic Organization, and allegations that Sanchez engineered a scheme involving political work and city jobs.
The government counters that Gabriel had no reason to believe he was under investigation for his gang activities when he was assisting with the Sanchez investigation. But the case focuses on who knew what, when they knew it, and who they told about Gabriel's nefarious life.
Defense attorneys say even if prosecutors only knew Gabriel as a "former gang member", that information should have been disclosed, so that they could have questioned him about his criminal life in open court.
Another agent on the Indiana drug. investigation, Adam Pohl, testified that because of the database checks, he was aware the Chicago FBI had been in contact with Gabriel, but he admitted he never contacted Chicago about the nature of those contacts, and never informed them their witness was a member of a violent street gang.
Pohl said that even though he read FBI reports about Gabriel which mentioned Al Sanchez, he did not know who Sanchez was. The reports mentioned Sanchez's indictment and pending trial, but the agent said he never drew the connection that his drug suspect was due to testify as a witness.
"It never crossed my mind," Pohl said.
The agent conceded that in April, just two months after the undercover cocaine buy, he used the Sanchez matter as a ruse to get Gabriel to appear at the FBI's Indiana offices, as part of the ongoing drug investigation. The Sanchez trial had just concluded.
Even Judge Robert Gettelman seemed taken aback by the agent's testimony.
"You did read about Al Sanchez, you just didn't connect the dots?" he asked.
"Basically yes," said Pohl. "It was not about gangs or drugs or anything we were dealing with."
Gabriel himself took the stand in court Monday morning. Citing a pending state trial, he refused to answer questions, taking the Fifth Amendment more than 120 times.