The federal drug agent who accidentally shot himself during a gun and drug safety demonstration in Florida says the Drug Enforcement Administration violated internal rules in failing to protect a video of the incident that drew national publicity.
The agent, Lee Paige, has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to revive a suit in Washington federal district court that alleges the DEA's handling of the video of the shooting violated privacy rights. The appeals court said this week it will hear the case in October.
Lawyers for Paige, a former undercover agent, say the questions for the D.C. Circuit include whether the DEA intentionally disclosed the video to the public and whether the agency must reveal the person who disclosed the recording. The case also explores the DEA’s internal rules on the control of evidence.
A federal trial judge shut down the suit last December, saying Paige cannot demonstrate willfulness because the identity of the leaker is unknown.
“The exact number and chain-of-custody of the copies is unknown due to the free-for-all and massive violation of DEA rules concerning the video, including the large number of copies made, the absence of virtually any record-keeping, and contradictory and false testimony and purported failures of recollection by various DEA agents,” an attorney for Paige, Ward Meythaler of Tampa’s Merkle Magri & Meythaler, said in court papers (PDF) filed this month in the appeals court.
Meythaler said the video “was a private fact, particularly since the video revealed his identity and subjected him to the very real threat of being killed because of his undercover activities.” And disclosure of the video, Meythaler said, made Paige “a laughing stock around the world despite his notable and often extremely dangerous service to the United States.”