An Afghan national jailed in the United States for his alleged role in a global heroin enterprise will remain in custody at least until February, when federal prosecutors in Washington plan to mount a second trial.
A jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia deadlocked Friday in the prosecution of Haji Bagcho, charged in November 2006 in a drug trafficking conspiracy that prosecutors said pumped heroin into the United States.
The case against Bagcho used common investigative techniques in the drug enforcement arena, including recorded phone calls, audio and video surveillance and controlled drug deals.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said Bagcho participated in a large-scale heroin trafficking operation in the Nangarhar province of eastern Afghanistan. A confidential source allegedly purchased heroin from Bagcho that had a U.S. street value of about $3 million.
The jury deliberated for several days before it said in two notes last week that it was deadlocked. Senior Judge Thomas Hogan of Washington federal district court declared a mistrial Friday afternoon.
Prosecutors in court papers called the charges against Bagcho “the product of a long-term international heroin trafficking and narco-terrorism investigation” in Afghanistan and in several other countries.
The case against Bagcho marked a rare prosecution under the DEA’s expanded authority to target international drug rings with alleged ties to terrorism and terror activity.
That power came from a 2006 federal law that made it a crime to provide anything of pecuniary value to a person or group involved in terrorism. Prosecutors contend Bagcho was providing support to the Taliban. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is examining the scope of the law.
"People who commit crimes against the United States from outside our borders are not immune from justice, as this indictment proves," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a statement in 2009.
Prosecutors unsuccessfully asked for an anonymous jury to keep secret the names and employment history of panel members for their safety. An assistant federal public defender, Shawn Moore, argued juror anonymity is unnecessary and unfair. Moore said an anonymous juror would “severely limit the ability of Mr. Bagcho and counsel to select an unbiased jury.”
Hogan is scheduled to meet with the lawyers in the case next month for a status hearing. The retrial is scheduled for Feb. 21.