Policing

RSS Feed for this category

A Long Hot Summer of Drug War Deaths [FEATURE]

The killing of a young, black, unarmed Tampa man by a SWAT team that raided his home in an operation that turned up two grams of marijuana has sparked angry protests last week, including demonstrations last Thursday where people damaged vehicles, lit fires, and threw trash at police, leaving five people arrested and a community outraged.

Levonia Riggins. Unarmed, killed in his bedroom in a raid that netted two grams of weed. (family photo)
Levonia Riggins was shot and killed in his bedroom by Deputy Caleb Johnson of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office as the SWAT team executed a search warrant based on purchases of marijuana from Riggins by undercover officers earlier this summer. Police said they used the SWAT team because they had found guns in the house a year earlier.

When deputies arrived, they broke through a window and found Riggins in bed. "Mr. Riggins then jumped up and moved his hands toward his waistband," a police spokesman explained. Johnson then fired, killing Riggins in what police called "a split-second decision." The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office is now investigating the killing, as is a sheriff's internal team.

Riggins was only the last person to be killed in drug law enforcement operations this summer that left 10 other people dead in separate incidents, including a Tennessee police officer. According to the Drug War Chronicle, which has been tracking such deaths since 2011, the year's drug war death toll now stands at 33.

That's a rate of about one a week, a rate that has held constant throughout the five years the Chronicle has been counting. Also consistent is the ratio of civilians killed to police officers killed. It has been running at about 10:1 over the five-year period, and with three officers killed so far this year, that ratio is being maintained.

Here are the rest of the summer's drug war victims and the circumstances of their deaths:

On August 18, in Apache Junction, Arizona, a Maricopa County sheriff's SWAT Team member shot and killed Larry Eugene Kurtley, Jr., 53, as the SWAT team attempted to take him into custody on drugs, drug paraphernalia, and weapons charges. A woman who left the residence as police arrived told them he could be armed, and the SWAT team then began to negotiate his surrender, police said. But Kurtley refused to come out, so police fired tear gas into the home. When he emerged from the house, he was armed, police said, and one of the SWAT deputies opened fire, killing him. Kurtley had served multiple prison sentences dating back to the 1990s. The Pinal County Attorney's Office and the sheriff's office professional standards bureau are investigating.

On August 16, just outside Augusta, West Virginia, a sheriff's deputy shot and killed John O'Handley, 55, of Yellow Springs as he reportedly grabbed the deputy's gun while being transported to jail after being arrested on methamphetamine and other charges. Deputies had originally gone to O'Handley's residence in search of a stolen motorcycle, but discovered an active meth lab in the home, as well as homemade bombs and stolen property. O'Handley allegedly reached between the front seats of the police car and grabbed the arresting deputy's gun. "A struggle then ensued," and the deputy fired one shot, striking O'Handley in the head and killing him. The shooting is being investigated by the West Virginia State Police.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent De'Greaun Frazier. Killled during an undercover drug buy. (tn.gov/tbi)
On August 9, in Jackson, Tennessee, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent was shot and killed while conducting an undercover drug buy. Special Agent De'Greaun Frazier, 35,was assisting Jackson Metro Narcotics and was in the front seat of a vehicle when the man he was supposed to buy drugs from instead tried to rob him, shooting him from the back seat. That man, Brendan Burns, has now been charged with murder in his death. Frazier had earlier served on a DEA task force while working at the Millington Police Department.

On August 9, in Los Angeles, LAPD officers in Boyle Heights shot and killed Jesse Romero, 14, as he fled from them while they investigated a report of possible "gang writings" and drug activity. According to the LAPD account, Romero and another youth split up and took off running when police arrived, and a witness saw Romero shoot a handgun toward pursuing officers. One officer returned fire, striking and killing Romero. But another witness said she saw Romero pull a gun from his basketball shorts as he ran, then toss it toward a fence. The gun fired when it fell to the ground after hitting the fence, startling Romero. "He didn't shoot," she said. Police recovered an old revolver, but it is unclear how near it was to Romero's body. The officers involved were wearing body cameras, but under LAPD policy that footage is only released to the officers involved before they make an initial statement -- not to the public. The ACLU of Southern California released a statement saying it was "particularly concerned" about Romero's death and criticizing LAPD's body camera policies.

On July 7, in Clovis, California, Clovis Police serving an arrest warrant on narcotics and related charges shot and killed Adam Smith, 33, as he attempted to flee in his vehicle. Police and his girlfriend's family lured him to the family residence, but he and his girlfriend tried to escape, jumping in his van in an alley. According to police, when they confronted the pair in the alley, the girlfriend jumped out of the van, Smith slammed it into reverse, nearly hitting her, then accelerated his vehicle toward the officers. Two of the three offices opened fire, fatally wounding Smith. He was not named in initial reports, but was later identified. In another report, an acquaintance said Smith was on heroin and had repeatedly said they he would die in a "suicide by cop," especially when he was on heroin.

Street meorial for 14-year-old Jesse Romero. (scpr.org)
On June 30, in Douglas, Wyoming, a US marshal shot and killed Jasen Scott Ramirez, 44, in the parking lot of a Catholic Church as he was leaving his father's funeral. The federal agents were seeking Ramirez to serve an arrest warrant on methamphetamine and weapons charges. Local police called to the scene after the shooting discovered 3.5 ounces of meth and two pistols in the vehicle he was driving, but it's unclear to whom the car, the guns, or the drugs belonged. It's also unclear whether Ramirez was brandishing or reaching for a weapon when he was shot and killed. The US Marshals Service has issued only a one-paragraph statement, short on details, including the name of the marshal who pulled the trigger. The agency said it would not be saying more until all investigations into the incident are concluded, including one by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. After the killing, an unconfirmed death threat was made against law enforcement, prompting authorities to temporarily lock down the county courthouse, city hall, and the hospital where Ramirez died.

On June 16, in Westminster, Colorado, a Westminster police officer shot and killed Nicholas Damon, 30, after Damon allegedly dragged the officer and ran over him with his car. Police were attempting to arrest Damon on outstanding drug and assault warrants when he hopped into his car and attempted to flee the scene. The officer involved was briefly hospitalized with "non-life threatening injuries." The killing is being reviewed by an Adams County special investigatory team.

On June 14, in Chula Vista, California, an undercover ICE agent shot and killed Fernando Geovanni Llanez, 22, as agents met with a half-dozen suspected marijuana traffickers in an apparent buy-bust deal at an Eastlake-area strip mall. The agent was part of the Homeland Security Investigations Operation Alliance drug task force, and the agency said Llanez attacked him in what could have been a robbery attempt. The agent fired several times, fatally wounding Llanez. His five companions fled, but were all chased down and arrested on charges of possession of marijuana for sale, conspiracy, and suspicion of robbery. Chula Vista police declined to confirm that it was an undercover operation and would not say if any cash or drugs were seized. There was no mention of any weapon.

On June 8, in Kansas City, Missouri, members of a DEA task force executing a search warrant shot and killed Carlos Garcia, 43, after he fired at officers from inside the house and then refused to exit, leading to an hours-long standoff. Finally, after police shot tear gas into the house, Garcia ran out the back door of the residence aiming his rifle at officers, police said. Task force members then opened fire on Garcia, killing him in the back yard.

On June 7, in Turlock, California, two Modesto police officers who were members of the Stanislaus County Drug Enforcement Agency "involved in a narcotics investigation" shot and killed Omar Villagomez after the vehicle he was driving collided with unmarked police vehicles as they attempted to arrest him. The passenger in the vehicle was not shot, but was injured by debris from the collision. He was charged with suspicion of meth possession with intent to sell, transportation of meth, possession of a controlled substance while armed, and possession of a loaded and concealed firearm.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Ohio sheriff gets popped for his pain pill habit, a New Mexico cop videotapes himself stealing marijuana, a San Francisco cop heads to prison for illegal tactics and lying about them, and more. Let's get to it:

In Fremont, Ohio, the Sandusky County sheriff was arrested last Tuesday after a local grand jury indicted him for allegedly illegal obtaining prescription drugs and misusing department funds. Sheriff Kyle Overmyer was indicted on 43 counts, including misusing department money and tampering with records. State investigators said he took pills from prescription drug disposal boxes and deceived doctors and pharmacists to obtain more.

In Jackson, Mississippi, a Hinds County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Wednesday for trying to illegally obtain pain pills. Deputy Douglas Jay Nelson, 54, is accused of conspiring to possess and possessing 30 Oxycodone tablets.

In Grants, New Mexico, a Grants police sergeant was arrested last Wednesday after unwittingly recording himself on a body camera taking marijuana from his office and giving it to his girlfriend. Sgt. Roshern McKinney is also accused of embezzling $785 and a half-pound brick of weed that he never submitted to the department's evidence room. He is charge with distribution of marijuana, conspiracy, and felony embezzlement.

In Sanford, Florida, a Seminole County sheriff's jail deputy was arrested last Thursday on charges he stole prescription pain pills from a narcotics storage safe on at least four occasions. Lt. Jason Bender is accused of stealing around 40 pills, 10 each on four different occasions, for his own use. He faces four counts of grand theft of a controlled substance.

In San Francisco, a former San Francisco police officer was sentenced Tuesday to a year and two months in federal prison for conducting an unlawful search of a residential hotel room and writing a false report about it. Arshad Razzak, 44, had been convicted on four counts of conspiring to violate civil rights, violating the rights of a hotel resident during the search, falsifying an informant's pay slip, and falsifying a police report.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

From Key West to Alaska, law enforcement and prison and jail guard misconduct is exposed. Just another week on the crooked cop front. Let's get to it:

In Nashville, Tennessee, a Nashville Metro Police officer was arrested last Tuesday for punching a drug suspect in the face after she got stuck with a needle hidden in the suspect's bra. Officer Elizabeth Berry-Loucks was searching the woman suspect after arresting her on heroin and gun charges, and reacted to the needle-stick by immediately hitting her in the face. She is now charged with misdemeanor assault.

In Key West, Florida, a Monroe County jail deputy was arrested last Thursday after he allegedly agreed to let a convicted drug dealer escape in exchange for $400,000 in cash he needed to pay off credit card debts. Elizardo Ortueta, 50, was caught red-handed picking up cash from an undercover informant. First, Ortueta asked the imprisoned drug dealer for $50,000 in exchange for preferential treatment, but then approached him seeking $400,000 and offering to help him escape. The drug dealer instead ratted him out, and he went down in an undercover sting. He now faces felony charges of receiving unlawful compensation for official behavior, smuggling contraband into a corrections facility, use of a two-way communications device to facilitate a felony and a misdemeanor charge of not having a valid Florida driver's license, although he has a valid one from North Carolina.

In Kinston, North Carolina, a state prison guard was arrested Saturday after being caught with marijuana on his person as he came to work. Guard Kristopher Williams, 22, got nailed with three grams of the green. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance on prison premises.

In Point MacKenzie, Alaska, a former state prison guard pleaded guilty last Monday to smuggling heroin and marijuana into the Goose Creek Correctional Center. Adam Jason Spindler copped to one count of drug conspiracy and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. Spindler went down after the Department of Corrections warned the FBI it had information he was smuggling drugs into the prison. He's looking at up to 20 years in federal prison, but will probably get much less since he pleaded guilty.

In Auburn, Georgia, a former Auburn police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to stealing drugs and money from one drug trafficker while working for another. Charles Hubbard, 51, conducted fake police stops to steal drugs in exchange for cash payments. He got $5,000 for one such incident. In another incident, he stole money from a confidential informant, giving him a receipt from the "East Metro Drug Task Force," which does not actually exist. He copped to drug trafficking and conspiracy charges and will be sentenced in November.

In Rome, Georgia, a former Floyd County sheriff's deputy was sentenced last Thursday to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to repeatedly stealing prescription pills. Jessie Stiles had been indicted on 53 counts, including multiple counts of theft by taking and drug possession, as well as five counts of exploiting an elderly person, three counts of burglary, and 10 counts of violating his oath of office. It wasn't clear which counts he actually copped to.

Chronicle AM: At Least Four States Voting on MedMJ, Filipino Prez Could Face ICC, More... (8/25/16)

Michigan legalizers lose a court battle, Oklahoma medical marijuana advocates look to be heading for the ballot box, the 10th Circuit rules that having license plates from marijuana states is not sufficient reason for a stop and search, and more.

Medical marijuana will be on the ballot in at least four states. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

Michigan Legalizers Lose Court Bid to Get on Ballot. The backers of the MI Legalize legalization initiative have struck out in court in their bid to get their measure on this year's ballot. The group had collected some 354,000 signatures, well above the 220,00 required, but more than 200,000 of the signatures were gathered outside a 180-day window that the State Board of Canvassers was the only time signatures could be considered. The campaign argued that the 180-day rule was unconstitutional and unfair, but the state Court of Claims ruled Wednesday that the Board of Canvassers was correct. The campaign says it will appeal to the state Supreme Court, but the election clock is ticking and time is running out.

Medical Marijuana

These Four States Will Definitely Be Voting on Medical Marijuana in November. Get a look at the details of and prospects for medical marijuana initiatives that have officially qualified for the November ballot in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota. There is also an Oklahoma initiative that may still qualify (see below), a second Arkansas initiative that may qualify, and a Montana anti-marijuana initiative that is appealing come up short on signatures.

Arkansas Prohibitionists Go to Court to Block Medical Marijuana Initiative. A group calling itself Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana Wednesday asked the state Supreme Court to block the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act from appearing on the November ballot. The measure has already qualified, but the group's lawsuit claims the wording of the proposal is misleading and omits key information.

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Initiative Has Enough Signatures, But Is Not on the Ballot Yet. Secretary of State Chris Benge announced Tuesday that a medical marijuana initiative, State Question 788, has handed in 67,761 valid voter signatures. It only needs 65,987 to qualify for the November ballot, but there are still a couple more hurdles to overcome. The secretary of state's office must send a report on its findings to the state Supreme Court, which will then determine if the number of signatures is enough to put the initiative on the ballot.

Incarceration

Report Finds Women Increasingly Jailed for Drug Offenses. A new report from the Vera Institute for Justice finds that the arrest rate for drug possession for women tripled between 1980 and 2009 and that 29% of women in jails were there for drug offenses. Two-thirds of those women are black or Hispanic, and nearly 80% are mothers, largely single mothers. The report called for localities to adopt cite and release policies and/or decriminalizing drug possession.

Search and Seizure

Marijuana State License Plate is No Reason for Police Stops and Searches, Fed Court Rules. In a case involving a Colorado man pulled over in Kansas, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that police violated his constitutional rights by stopping and searching him based primarily on the fact that he came from a state that was a "known drug source." Cops can't do that, the court ruled bluntly. To allow such a practice would justify searching drivers from the 25 states that allow medical or fully legal marijuana. "It is time to abandon the pretense that state citizenship is a permissible basis upon which to justify the detention and search of out-of-state motorists, and time to stop the practice of detention of motorists for nothing more than an out-of-state license plate," Circuit Judge Carlos Lucero wrote in the opinion. "Absent a demonstrated extraordinary circumstance, the continued use of state residency as a justification for the fact of or continuation of a stop is impermissible," he added.

International

Philippines President Could Face International Tribunal Over Drug War Killings, Senator Says. President Rodrigo Duterte could be charged with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the wave of killings of alleged drug users and sellers since he took office two months ago, according to Sen. Leila de Lima. "There are some experts who are saying that… if this spate of killings go unabated and unchecked, it could reach that point that the ICC could send a prosecutor to our country and investigate all these for possible prosecution under the Rome Statute," she was quoted saying. "This is not a joke. The last thing we need right now is for our dear president to be subjected to an investigation by an international tribunal like the International Criminal Court. I am not threatening the president. I am just stating a fact," she added.

License Plate from a Marijuana State? That's No Reason to Stop and Search, Fed Court Says

Drivers from pot-friendly West Coast states have long complained of "license plate profiling," claiming state troopers more interested in drug interdiction than traffic safety perch like vultures along the nation's east-west interstate highways pull them over on pretextual traffic stops -- going 71 in a 70 mph zone, failing to wait two full seconds after signaling before making a lane change, weaving within a lane -- because their plates make them suspected marijuana traffickers.

Since Colorado blossomed as a medical marijuana state around 2008 (and ever more so since it legalized weed in 2012), drivers bearing the state's license plates have been complaining of getting the same treatment. The practice is so common and well-known along the I-80 corridor in Nebraska that Omaha lawyers advertise about it.

Now, one Colorado driver has managed to get something done about it. Peter Vasquez sued a pair of Kansas Highway Patrol officers over a stop and search on I-70 that turned up no drugs and resulted in no arrest, and on Tuesday, a federal appeals court vindicated him.

On a 2-1 vote, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that the two troopers violated Vasquez's constitutional rights by stopping and searching him based primarily on the fact that he came from a state that was a "known drug source."

Cops can't do that, the court ruled bluntly. To allow such a practice would justify searching drivers from the 25 states that allow medical or fully legal marijuana.

"It is time to abandon the pretense that state citizenship is a permissible basis upon which to justify the detention and search of out-of-state motorists, and time to stop the practice of detention of motorists for nothing more than an out-of-state license plate," Circuit Judge Carlos Lucero wrote in the opinion. "Absent a demonstrated extraordinary circumstance, the continued use of state residency as a justification for the fact of or continuation of a stop is impermissible," he added.

And the troopers didn't really have much other basis for suspicion, the court noted. The troopers said their basis was that Vasquez was driving alone, at night, on a "drug corridor," from "a known drug source area," he had a blanket and a pillow in his car, the blanket might have obscured something, and he seemed nervous.

"Such conduct, taken together, is hardly suspicious, nor is it unusual," Lucero noted.

Vasquez was originally pulled over because the troopers "could not read Vasquez's temporary tag," and when that issue was dealt with, they issued him a warning ticket. What the law required, the court said, was that the troopers then end their contact with him and allow him to go on his way.

But instead, they asked him to submit to a search of his vehicle, and he declined. They then detained him for 15 minutes until a drug dog could be summoned -- another drug war tactic the US Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in April. The drug dog found nothing, and Vasquez was then released.

The troopers may have been done with Vasquez, but he wasn't done with them or what he saw as their unlawful conduct. He filed a civil lawsuit against the two troopers, Richard Jimerson and Dax Lewis, for violating his 4th Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The case had been thrown out in federal district court, but Tuesday's decision revives it. It also sets legal precedent for the entire 10th Circuit, meaning that cops in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming can't pull you over and search you just because you have a pot-state license plate.

Kansas officials say they plan to appeal to the 10th Circuit's full bench, though, but for now, at least, it's the law.

Denver, CO
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A North Carolina detective had a thing for "nudish fetish catfights," a Pennsylvania state trooper had a snitch scoring coke for him, an Oregon crime lab tech had a bad case of sticky fingers, and more. Let's get to it:

In Myrtle Beach, North Carolina, a former Horry County police detective was accused Monday of sexually abusing drug-using women in a civil suit. Three other women have already filed similar suits against Detective Allen Large. In the case of Jane Doe #4, Large is accused of calling a woman and telling her he knew she used drugs, visiting her home and forcing her into a non-consensual sex act, then later providing her with drugs, and continuing "to contact (her) on a daily basis to demand that she engage in nude fetish catfights," the lawsuit said. He gave up on the woman after she entered drug treatment in 2015. The lawsuit doesn't name Large; instead it accuses his supervisors, including the police chief, of knowing what Large was up to and failing to do anything about it.

In Avondale, Pennsylvania, a state trooper was arrested last Friday after he was caught buying cocaine from a confidential informant. Trooper Jose Lebron allegedly gave the informant cash to buy drugs over a period of months and was repeatedly seen snorting cocaine by the informant. Lebron also began paying the informant with cocaine, saying it was too expensive to keep paying with cash. Lebron went down in a controlled buy at a local McDonald's. He is charged with one felony count of criminal use of a communication facility as well as misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is free on $5,000 bail.

In Pendleton, Indiana, a jail guard at the Pendleton Correctional Industrial Facility was arrested last Friday after he got caught trying to smuggle drugs into the prison. Guard Mark Wooten went down after consenting to a search in which officials found 200 suboxone strips. He is charged with one count of trafficking in a controlled substance with an inmate and one count of possession of a controlled substance.

In Portsmouth, Virginia, a former Portsmouth police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he went rogue in trying to bust a drug dealer. Mark Anthony Deluca, Jr. is accused of lying to a judge to obtain a search warrant to raid a home where heroin was found. Deluca gave conflicting accounts of what happened, and the charges were dropped against the homeowner. Now, Deluca faces one count of forgery, one count of uttering a forged public instrument, and three counts of perjury.

In Gadsden, Alabama, a former Etowah County sheriff's deputy was arrested Monday on charges he smuggled drugs into the county jail. Detention Deputy Erick Bullock, 33, went down after his name came up in an internal investigation into contraband at the jail and meth, salvia, suboxone, tobacco, and a cell phone were found in his bag. He is charged with one count of first-degree promoting prison contraband, one count of second-degree promoting prison contraband, two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, one count of salvia possession and one count of third-degree promoting prison contraband. He is now residing at his former workplace until he comes up with a $9,500 bond.

In Portland, Oregon, an Oregon State Crime lab forensic scientist pleaded guilty Monday to stealing as many as 700 pills from more than 50 separate evidence specimens submitted to the labs. Nika Elise Larsen, 36, copped to two counts of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, and deception. She admitted stealing meth, morphine, hydrodocone, morphine, and methadone while overseeing cases. She's looking at up to three years in prison, according to her plea bargain agreement. She could have been looking at up to eight years.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A former Virginia police chief goes down for using the drug buy fund to buy pills for himself, a former Guamanian customs agent goes down for helping a relative import meth, and a former New Jersey police sergeant goes down for peddling weed on the side. Let's get to it:

In Alta Vista, Virginia, the former Alta Vista police chief pleaded guilty Wednesday to one felony count for using department drug buy funds to buy pills for himself and faking paperwork to hide it. Former Chief Kenneth Walsh, 51, had been charged with 15 felonies, but pleaded guilty to a single count of forging public documents. He also entered Alford pleas -- meaning he maintained his innocence while acknowledging there was evidence to convict him -- to 11 counts of forging public documents, one count of embezzlement, and one count of obtaining drugs by fraud. His sentencing is set for October.

In Linden, New Jersey, a former Linden police sergeant was sentenced last Friday to probation after he was busted for selling marijuana. Former Sgt. William Turbett III, 30, went down after police served a search warrant on his home and found "a small amount" of weed. He was a seven-year veteran of the department and earned a salary of $105,000 last year. He can no longer work in law enforcement.

In Hagatna, Guam, a former Guam customs agent was sentenced Monday to 14 years in federal prison for participating in a scheme to import two pounds of methamphetamine into the US territory. Jayvin Wyll Ueda Remoket pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and one count of warning the subject of a search. Remoket used his position as a customs agent to help a relative get the packages through customs.

Chronicle AM: NYC MJ Arrests Rising Again, Dark Web Drug Sales Up Dramatically, More... (8/9/16)

Marijuana arrest numbers are headed in the wrong direction in New York City, Ohio makes a first move toward implementing medical marijuana, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer declares war on new psychoactive substances, and more.

Chuck Schumer wants to play whack-a-mole with K2 and Spice. (LA Dept. of Health)
Marijuana Policy

New York City Marijuana Arrests on the Rise Again. After declining during the first two years of Mayor Bill de Blasio's (D) administration, pot arrests are on the rise again in the Big Apple. The 9,331 people arrested on possession charges in the first half of this year is a 30% increase over the same period last year. That's not good news, but it's still nowhere near as bad as it was under Michael Bloomberg. In 2010, more than 50,000 were arrested for pot; this year, if current trends keep up, it will still be under 20,000.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio Takes First Step Toward Getting Medical Marijuana Up and Running. The state Medical Marijuana Control Program has unveiled a website with the first information on how it plans to implement the state's new medical marijuana law. Medical marijuana will not be available before September 2018, as the state works to develop rules and regulations.

South Dakota Judge Rejects Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign's Appeal. The state will not be voting on the issue this November after a state court judge denied a request from the campaign to overturn Secretary of State Shantel Krebs' finding that the group did not hand in enough valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. South Dakota has twice previously rejected medical marijuana at the polls -- the only state to do so.

New Psychoactive Substances

Sen. Schumer Responds to New Drugs With Old Prohibitionist "Whack-A-Mole" Strategy. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced today that he is filing a new bill that would criminalize the chemicals used to make new psychoactive substances such as synthetic cannabinoids ("Spice," "K2"), synthetic stimulants ("bath salts"), and synthetic opioids. "We need a federal hammer to nail these toxic concoctions of synthetic drugs to reverse this troubling trend… This federal legislation will ban 22 synthetic drugs, including powerful forms of fentanyl, crippling the unlawful chemists cooking up these drugs and the cartels that push them to our local stores and streets. Banning these drugs quickly will help the feds step up their game of whack-a-mole so that we can help stem the tide of synthetic drug use here in New York State and across the country."

International

Dark Web Drug Sales Triple Since End of Silk Road. It's been three years since federal authorities shut down the Silk Road dark web drug sales website, but online illicit drug sales have never been higher. Drug sales have tripled since then to somewhere between $12 million and $20 million a month, while revenues have doubled, according to a study published by Rand Corporation Europe. While dark web drugs sales make up only a small fraction of all illicit drug sales, many of the transactions are for more than $1,000, suggesting that drugs are being purchased online for resale on the streets.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We have a real doozey from Oklahoma, jail guards go bad all over the place, and more. Let's get to it:

In Marietta, Oklahoma, the Love County sheriff was arrested July 19 on charges of corruption, neglect of duty, and housing a fugitive. Sheriff Marion "Joe" Russell is accused of turning a blind eye to meth dealing out of his own home by his adult son, covering up a missing person case where another family member is the main suspect, and harboring a fugitive. His son, Willie Russell, has already pleaded guilty to meth dealing. The fugitive, a young woman, was dating Willie and staying at the sheriff's house even though she had four arrest warrants outstanding. He is also accused of arresting drunken women in bikinis and taking them to his house instead of to jail. There, they were allegedly sexually assaulted and given meth. The missing persons case involves a young couple who were last seen in a car owned by Russell's nephew.

In Florence, Alabama, a jail guard was arrested July 23 for trying to smuggle drugs into the jail inside a Bible. Kenneth Lee Lawson, 32, went down when fellow officers discovered suboxone hidden in the holy book. He is charged with bringing contraband into a jail facility.

In Canton, Georgia, a Cherokee County sheriff's deputy was arrested July 23 for stealing drugs from the department evidence locker. Deputy Jeffrey Goettel, 41, went down after the sheriff requested an audit of evidence and found that drugs were missing. An investigation pointed to Goettel, who authorities said pilfered morphine and oxycodone. He is charged with violating his oath of office, possession of a Schedule II drug, and theft by taking.

In Swan Quarter, North Carolina, a Hyde County jail guard was arrested last Friday for smuggling marijuana, tobacco, a cell phone, and knife into the jail. Guard Joshua Carawan is charged with possession of a controlled substance, tobacco, an electronics communication device, and a dangerous weapon inside a jail facility.

In Philadelphia, a former city jail guard was sentenced last Thursday to four years in federal prison for smuggling drugs and other contraband to inmates. John Wesley Herder, 50, was one of six guards charged last September with smuggling Oxycontin and cell phones in exchange for cash. Herder made $2,000 for twice smuggled dope and phones into the jail, but was also fined $2,300 in addition to prison time.

Chronicle AM: Obama Commutes More Drug Sentences, Boston's First MedMJ Shop Opens, More... (8/3/16)

Obama commutes more drug sentences, Boston gets its first dispensary, more signs of how horrid South Dakota is on marijuana, Utah SWAT deployment data, and more.

Utah SWAT is aimed mostly at drug offenders. (Wikipedia/Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon US Attorney Prosecuting Black Teen Over One Gram of Weed. In the first federal marijuana possession prosecution in the state in five years, teenager Devontre Thomas has been charged over a gram of pot found in another student's backpack at the federal Indian School they both attended. The other teen claimed he got the weed from Thomas, and that's enough for US Attorney Billy J. Williams to charge Thomas with "knowingly and intentionally possessing marijuana." Williams is getting blowback from many, including US Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who said "situations like this are best handled by the state."

South Dakota to Prosecute Consultants for Aborted Indian Tribe Pot Grow. Attorney General Marty Jackley announced Wednesday that two men who consulted with the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in its effort to grow marijuana have been indicted on a range of marijuana possession charges. The tribe began to grow after the federal government signaled that tribes could do so, but destroyed its crop after federal officials raided other tribes than had entered the business and after state officials threatened to arrest non-Indians who used marijuana there. One of the consultants was hit with felony possession and is looking at up to 7 ½ years in prison, while the other, who cooperated with authorities, only got a misdemeanor charge.

Medical Marijuana

Boston Gets Its First Dispensary. The Patriot Cares dispensary is open on Boston's Milk Street as of today. The company says it's ready for 150 patients a day and that 200 patients have already registered.

South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Supporters Sue Over Signatures. The secretary of state's office said petitions from the South Dakota Coalition for Compassion came up short on signatures, blocking the measure from going to the voters, and now, the coalition has filed a complaint alleging that signatures were not properly counted. The coalition is seeking to have the secretary of state's decision thrown out and that a local judge will order the initiative placed on the November ballot.

Law Enforcement

Utah SWAT Used Overwhelmingly for Drug Crimes. Utah is the only state to currently require reporting on SWAT deployments, and the 2015 report has just been released. SWAT was deployed 457 times in 2015, including 281 forced entries into private residences. Three-quarters of those forced entries were drug raids. The data also showed that police were more likely to use "no-knock" search warrants against drug suspects than against violent crime suspects. Go figure.

Pardons and Clemency

Obama Frees More Federal Drug Prisoners, But Time is Running Out. Some 214 federal drug war prisoners saw their prison sentences commuted Wednesday as President Obama took another step toward fulfilling his administration's pledge to use his pardon power to cut draconian drug sentences and free prisoners serving decades-long stretches for non-violent drug crimes.Those whose sentences were commuted Wednesday will walk out of prison on December 1. With Wednesday's commutations, Obama has now commuted the sentences of 562 men and women sentenced under harsh federal drug laws, including 197 people doing life for drug offenses. That's more commutations than the last nine presidents combined.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School