Houston seeks informant’s ID

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‘I’ve got a right to question that witness’

By Damon Lawrence

Leon Houston has been trying to find out the identity of the confidential informant who spoke to the FBI about his brother possessing firearms.
Rocky Houston, a convicted felon, is not allowed to possess firearms. After a months-long investigation, he was indicted by a federal grand jury in January on 14 counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Leon Houston is charged in federal court with possessing a firearm while being an unlawful user of a controlled substance and threatening to kill attorney James Logan by telephone.
He filed a motion in June requesting that the identity of the confidential informant be revealed.
“I feel like I’ve got a right to question that witness,” Leon told U.S. Magistrate C. Clifford Shirley Jr. on Monday. “If the government can’t furnish that witness, I would move to dismiss the indictment.”
Shirley issued an order on July 19, denying the motion on the confidential informant.
“For the umpteenth time, Mr. Houston, today is not for you to tell me that you don’t like my rulings,” Shirley said Monday. “You filed a motion in regards to the confidential informant. I ruled on it. If you don’t like my ruling, appeal it.”
According to court records, the confidential informant is a long-time acquaintance of the Houston brothers.
He told the FBI the Houston brothers had multiple firearms in their South of the River homes, carried two pistols on them at all times and carried the same caliber weapons so they could buy ammunition in bulk.
Court records said the confidential informant has a criminal history so his reliability and credibility needed to be supported by corroborating evidence. Last October the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had Volunteer Energy Cooperative install a video camera on a public utility pole on Dogtown Road. The camera provided views of the Houstons’ property, and Rocky Houston was allegedly observed carrying and shooting firearms on multiple occasions.
One of the reasons Shirley gave for denying Leon Houston’s motion was that it was untimely filed. The motion would have been denied even if it was timely filed, however.
“The circumstances of the defendant’s arrest and subsequent charge have nothing to do with the information provided by the confidential informant, and the confidential informant’s testimony in this case would be absolutely irrelevant,” Shirley said in his order.     
Because of that, Shirley said, Leon Houston is not entitled to know the identity of the informant.
“The information provided by the confidential informant is not helpful or even relevant to the defendant’s defense of possessing a firearm while being an unlawful user of a controlled substance,” Shirley said in his order. “The target of the investigation was Rocky, not the defendant, and the confidential informant provided information about Rocky’s criminal activity. The confidential informant did not provide any information with regard to the defendant’s underlying charge, nor did the confidential informant attribute any criminal activity to the defendant.”