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DOJ Pressed For Details On Decision To Drop Redflex Corruption Case
Legal analysts sue US Department of Justice over non-prosecution agreements with companies, including red light camera vendor Redflex.

Jon Ashley and Brandon Garrett
By Richard Diamond

Why did the US Department of Justice drop the corruption case against Redflex Traffic Systems, despite a company executive's admission that he bribed politicians in more than a dozen states? A University of Virginia law school librarian and a Duke University law professor have filed a freedom of information act lawsuit that might point toward an answer. The case was assigned to US District Judge Reggie B. Walton on Monday.

The law librarian, Jonathan Ashley, and the professor, Brandon L. Garrett, are going after the text of several non-prosecution deals, including the one that the DOJ entered with the Australian red light camera operator. They believe public access to these documents is important to understanding how the criminal justice system works. Ashley and Garrett maintain the Corporate Prosecution Registry which maintains more than 4000 records that researchers can use to learn more about the disposition of various corporate crimes, including obstruction of justice, antitrust or -- as in the case of Redflex -- bribery.

"Our request is not focused on an particular case, but rather a desire to include more complete information regarding prosecution agreements with corporations," Garrett told TheNewspaper in an email. "These written agreements may not fully shed light on prosecutors' reasons, to be sure; they do not have to disclose their reasons. And if they decline charges entirely, there will be no agreement; we are only looking at cases with written agreements with corporations."

So far, the Justice Department has ignored the document request that was formally filed on April 20, 2020. Ashley and Garrett sent multiple follow-up requests before filing an appeal with the DOJ.

"The DOJ has not communicated the scope of documents it intends to produce or withhold, the reasons for this decision, or any documents in accordance with the first, second, and third FOIA requests detailed above, and is therefore in violation of its statutory duties under FOIA," Ashley's attorney, Jennifer A. Nelson, wrote to the department on September 29, 2020.

That letter prompted a form letter response from the Justice Department three weeks later that explained the request had been "referred" to another office within DOJ. More than a year has elapsed since then.

While it is not the focus of the legal researchers, the Redflex case is a clear example of the government making a deliberate choice to retreat in its prosecution. Redflex lobbyist John P. Raphael went to jail for soliciting bribes from the photo enforcement firm, but he refused to implicate the powerful Democratic politicians in Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, who received campaign donations from him, according to public finance and court records. Raphael was released from prison on October 30, 2017, having served 15 months behind bars. No Ohio politicians were charged.

Raphael's attorney at the time slammed the "get out of jail free card" DOJ issued to Redflex executive vice president Aaron Rosenberg, saying the agency offered the deal, "even though Rosenberg admittedly engaged in multiple conspiracies to bribe elected public officials committed federal program fraud over a ten year time period in dozens of municipalities within, but not limited to, at least a minimum of fifteen states."

Rosenberg admitted to bribing local and state officials in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, but federal officials decided not to pursue the matter. DOJ announced that decision in 2016, issuing a statement just two days after Christmas. Redflex US chief, Karen Finley, and two others were sent to prison. Redflex has since been acquired by Verra Mobility (formerly American Traffic Solutions).

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