Incarceration, Asset Forfeiture, Arrests, Informants, Police Raids, Search and Seizure

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Alert: A SWAT Team Shot a Mother and Child Last Week -- Take Action Now to Stop the Madness!

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION TO STOP THE DEADLY SWAT RAIDS

In November 2006, 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was killed by police during a raid conducted at the wrong house. Ms. Johnston fired at the police officers as they were breaking in through her living room window. Three officers were injured, but Ms. Johnston was struck 39 times and died at the scene. In July 2007, Mike Lefort, 61, and his mother, Thelma, 83, were surprised and thrown to the ground when Thibodeau, Louisiana police burst into the wrong house with a "no knock" warrant. Thelma suffered from a spike in her blood pressure and had a difficult time overcoming the shock. In March 2007, masked police officers in Jacksonville, Florida, mistakenly burst into the home of Willie Davis, grandfather of murdered DreShawna Davis, and his mentally disabed son. The pair were forced to the ground, where they watched helplessly as police tore apart the memorabilia from DreShawn's funeral. The drug sale that never happened was said to involve all of two crack rocks worth $60.
One would think after Atlanta police killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, that they would get the idea, but they haven't. Last Friday, 1/4/08, a SWAT team, serving an ordinary drug search warrant, invaded the Ohio home of Tarika Wilson -- an innocent woman -- shot and killed her, and shot her one-year-old son. "They went in that home shooting," her mother said at a vigil that night. The boy lost at least one of his fingers. Two dogs were shot too. SWAT teams were created to deal with extreme situations, not routine ones. Yet police now conduct tens of thousands of SWAT raids every year, mostly in low-level drug enforcement. The result is that people like Wilson and Johnston continue to die in terror, with many thousands more having to go on living with trauma. But it's all for a drug war that has failed and can't be made to work. It's time to rein in the SWAT teams. Please sign our online petition: ">Enough is Enough: Petition to Limit Paramilitary Police Raids in America." A copy will be sent in your name to your US Representative and Senators, your state legislators, your governor, and the president. When you're done, please tell your friends and please spread the word wherever you can. This is a first step. Take it with us today, and there can be more. Enough is enough -- no more needless deaths from reckless SWAT raids! Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/policeraids for more information about this issue, including our October Zogby poll showing that 66% of Americans, when informed about the issue, don't think police should use aggressive entry tactics when doing routine drug enforcement.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION TO STOP THE DEADLY SWAT RAIDS

StoptheDrugWar.org (still known to many of our readers as DRCNet, the Drug Reform Coordination Network), is an international organization working for an end to drug prohibition worldwide and for reform of drug policy and the criminal justice system in the US. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle for the latest issue of our acclaimed weekly newsletter, Drug War Chronicle.
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Law Enforcement: Ohio SWAT Team Kills Woman, Wounds Toddler in Drug Raid


Stop the Deadly SWAT Raids! Click Here to Sign the Petition

In the latest example of overzealous policing gone fatally awry, a member of a Lima, Ohio, police SWAT team shot and killed a young mother and wounded the child she was holding in her arms during a raid aimed at the woman's boyfriend, who was alleged to be selling drugs from the residence. Tarika Wilson, 26, was killed last Friday in an upstairs bedroom, shot twice by Lima police Sgt. Joseph Chevalia. Her one-year-old son, Sincere, was also shot, as were two pit bulls at the house. The child lost his left index finger, but his injuries are not life-threatening. One of the pit bulls was killed.

In the week since the incident, Lima police have failed to provide any details on what led up to the shooting, except to say they were executing a drug search warrant for Wilson's boyfriend, Anthony Terry. Terry was arrested at the scene and charged with possession of crack cocaine, which, along with marijuana, was found at the house.

Lima police did, however, engage in some preemptive apologetics. "This is a terrible situation that resulted from a very dangerous situation that occurs when a high-risk search warrant is executed," Lima Police Chief George Garlock said.

Garlock did not explain what made the search warrant "high-risk," nor did he explain why he sent a SWAT team to raid a home where officers knew children were present. In addition to her one-year-old, Wilson was the mother of five other children between 3 and 8 who lived at the house.

Officers tossed at least one stun grenade before charging the residence, but that explosion took place outside because officers knew children were present. "Because of the possibility that we had children in there, they were not lobbed inside," Garlock said.

Lima police have turned the investigation of the incident over to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation because the shooting involved a Lima police officer. That investigation is expected to take several weeks.

By mid-week, the FBI announced that it was joining the investigation. But angry family and community members are not waiting for answers. A crowd of more than 300 people marched with family members from a community center to the home where the killing took place to express their outrage and from there to the police station.

"Remember that baby who is in a hospital and that woman laying on a slab being dissected because the Lima police overstepped their bounds," Brenda Johnson, executive director of the community center, told the crowd before the march began. Ms. Johnson said it was reckless for police to raid a home with so many children inside. "This time it was someone else's child," she said. "Next time it could be your child, your grandchild."

According to next door neighbor and Wilson cousin Junior Cook, police "broke down the door and started shooting." He also denied that Terry sold drugs from the house. "No one ever came and knocked on that door or bought drugs there," Cook said.

"Not all the police are bad. Some of them have children," Pastor Arnold Manley of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church told the crowd. "But the majority of the ones in Lima are."

Residents and community activists have vowed to march every Saturday until justice is done. On Monday, more than 200 of them showed up at a heated meeting with police officials and the city council to demand action.

"The man who shot her, he's not a suspect? What if that was me?" shouted Quintel Wilson, the victim's brother. "Where would I be? Locked up. No bond! Victim is the word here."

"We're going to see that justice is done," said Bishop Richard Cox, an official with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Councilman Tommy Pitts, chair of the council's safety services committee, said Lima police have long targeted blacks. "This comes as no surprise to me," he said about the shooting.

That the resort to heavily-armed, paramilitarized SWAT teams to do routine drug search warrants can result in civilian fatalities should come as no surprise to anyone who follows their use. In 2006, Cato Institute analyst Radley Balko produced an authoritative report on the topic, Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America, that showed dozens of cases of people killed or brutalized during such raids.

The raids continue despite little sign of public support for them. StoptheDrugWar.org (publisher of this newsletter) last October commissioned a Zogby poll that found that two-thirds oppose the use of SWAT-style teams in routine drug raids. Now, from Ohio, comes one more reason to oppose them.


Stop the Deadly SWAT Raids! Click Here to Sign the Petition

Police Who Steal From Drug Suspects Are Charged With Theft of "Government" Property

The drug war has a rather tragic tendency to turn police into perps. Our ability to run a weekly feature with the latest news on domestic drug war corruption is just one example of the ubiquity with which law-enforcement becomes complicit in the very activity they are responsible for preventing.

Inevitably, when one hears about a police officer being sentenced to jail time, you simply know that their crimes were drug war-related:
On one occasion, prosecutors said Silva acquiesced while Kasperzyk improperly relocated confiscated narcotics during a drug raid to solidify a case against a suspect. Another time, prosecutors said Kasperzyk stole $1,000 confiscated during a drug raid and later gave $500 to Silva. Silva kept the money and did not report the theft, prosecutors said.

Kasperzyk has pleaded guilty to theft of government property and a civil rights conspiracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced in March. [Hartford Courant]
So if police steal during a drug raid, they're charged with robbing the government, not the suspect. It is often literally impossible for a drug suspect to be robbed by police, because their property ceases to belong to them once police start grabbing at it. Whether it ends up in an evidence bag or an officer's pocket, it's all the same to the innocent-until-proven-guilty drug suspect.

Isn't it interesting that the government maintained its ownership of the property here even though the arresting officers turned out to be liars and thieves? Even when police are found guilty of planting and stealing evidence, the government still keeps the fruits of their felonious labor. Anyone presiding over a policy such as this has no business enforcing laws against theft in the first place.

How can government possibly expect moral accountability from agents who are trained to steal on its behalf?
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Marijuana: Despite Law Allowing Ticketing for Pot Possession, Most Texas Counties Still Arrest

Thanks to a new state law that went into effect on September 1, law enforcement agencies in Texas now have the option of simply ticketing misdemeanor marijuana possession offenders instead of arresting them. The law, which also applies to a handful of other misdemeanor offenses, was designed to alleviate chronic overcrowding in Texas jails and make better use of police resources. However, almost no one in Texas is taking advantage of it.

According to a report this week in the Dallas Morning News, only the Travis County (Austin) Sheriff's Department is ticketing instead of arresting misdemeanor marijuana offenders. Officials in Dallas, Tarrant (Fort Worth), and Collin (suburban Dallas) counties gave varying reasons for failing to implement the cost-saving measure, ranging from "system inadequacies" to the belief it will "send the wrong message" about marijuana use.

"It may... lead some people to believe that drug use is no more serious than double parking," Collin County prosecutor Greg Davis told the Morning News.

"I think the legislature was very sensitive to the fact that there are so many jails that are overcrowded," said Terri Moore, Dallas County's first assistant district attorney. "This was a great idea, but it raises a lot more questions that we are not ready to answer."

"These are not just tickets. These are crimes that need to be appropriately dealt with," said Ron Stretcher, Dallas County's director of criminal justice. "We want to make sure we get them back to court to stand trial. It's not about emptying the jail. It's about making sure that we have room in the jail for the people who need to be there," he said.

But the Travis County Sheriff's Department said merely ticketing marijuana offenders was smart policy. "There are folks that think we are being soft on crime because we are just giving tickets. We are still hard on crime," said spokesman Roger Wade. "We believe if we can save resources and have the same effect on crime, then we should take advantage of this."

Prosecutors in north Texas counties also cited the lack of a system for dealing with misdemeanor tickets. But that seems pretty feeble.

Law Enforcement: Snitches Gone Bad

Just last week, Drug War Chronicle reviewed Ethan Brown's "Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice," which tells the story of the corruption and misdeeds fostered by federal drugs laws that virtually impel people who've been arrested to find others to inform on in order to avoid prison time themselves. We don't know if it's synchronicity or what, but in the week since then, bad snitch stories seem to be popping up all over. Here are three we've spotted in the past few days:

In Twin Falls, Idaho, a man charged in a Twin Falls murder was working as an informant for the Blaine County Narcotics Enforcement Team. John Henry McElhiney of Hailey is charged with killing an 18-year-old Twin Falls man in September. In response to press inquiries, the Blaine County Sheriff's Office has confirmed that McElhiney worked drug cases for the drug squad. The office stopped short of calling him a "confidential informant," however, instead referring to him as a "cooperative individual." It is unclear from local press accounts whether McElhiney became a snitch for money, to avoid prison time himself, or for some other reason. It is also unclear whether his assistance actually led to any other arrests. He awaits trial on the murder charge.

In Seattle, a "cooperating witness" pleaded guilty last Friday to framing people for drug sales offenses. Snitch Tina Rivard, 40, had been arrested in May for forging prescriptions, but instead of charging her, agents with the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force offered her a deal: leniency in exchange for helping to build cases against prescription drug dealers. Rivard helped in one case, but in a second, she framed a 21-year-old man on Oxycontin dealing charges by undermining the task force's "controlled buy" system. Although agents would punch the suspect's phone number into Rivard's phone, she would then secretly hit speed-dial and instead call a friend posing as the suspect. He would then make incriminating statements and set up drug deals. Rivard also faked a drug buy from the suspect under the agents' noses, having her friend actually bring the drugs she claimed to have bought. The 21-year-old was indicted and faced up to 20 years in prison, but Rivard eventually admitted she had set him up. Now the indictment against him has been dropped, and she faces 20 years.

In Cleveland, Ohio, an informant for the DEA has been convicted of framing innocent people and getting them sent to prison. Informant Jerrell Bray staged drug deals with friends while investigators watched, but gave investigators the names of people not involved in the deals, then testified or gave sworn statements saying that the innocent people were the drug dealers. Bray managed to set up four people, including a woman who had refused to date him, while working under DEA agent Lee Lucas. It is unclear whether Lucas or other law enforcement personnel knew what Bray was up to, but a federal grand jury will meet next month to investigate obstruction of justice, perjury, and weapons charges against Bray "and others." Bray was sentenced to 15 years in prison on perjury and deprivation of civil rights charges, a sentence that will run concurrently with state time for shooting a man in a drug-related robbery.

Ironically, Bray can gain a sentence cut on the federal time if he "cooperates fully." When will they learn?

Law Enforcement: Chicago's Courts Are in Crisis, and the Drug War Is a Big Contributor, Report Finds

Judges in Chicago's main Criminal Court Building at 26th and California hear some 28,000 felony cases a year, with each judge hearing about 800, or about four per judge per work day. Nonviolent, drug-related charges make up more than half of them, according to a report recently released by the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Social Justice, a research and advocacy organization focused on social justice and governmental effectiveness, especially regarding the criminal justice system. The clogging of the courts with low-level drug offenders is a major factor in a gravely dysfunctional criminal justice system, the report concludes.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/cookcountycourthouse.jpg
Cook County court house (chicagopc.info)
Based on more than 100 interviews with criminal justice system professionals, more than 160 hours of courtroom observation of more than 500 proceedings, interviews with victims, defendants, witnesses, and family members, and surveys of judges, prosecutors, and public defenders, A Report on Chicago's Felony Courts is a thorough, comprehensive, and eye-opening look at the way justice is served in one of the nation's largest cities.

"The sheer volume of cases in Chicago's felony courts overwhelms the judges,
prosecutors, and public defenders," the report notes in the first sentence of its executive summary. After enumerating the dimensions of the crisis, the report's authors go on to make a series of findings and recommendations aimed at everyone from the state legislature (it "has overburdened the criminal courts by passing criminal laws without regard to cost, impact, or resources" and should quit doing so) to the Cook County Board (quit using the courts for patronage, provide them with sufficient resources) to the 26th Street court administrators (increase professionalism, improve facilities).

But the bulk of the report's recommendations are devoted to dealing with nonviolent drug offenders. As the authors noted in describing the problem: "Non-violent, drug-related charges make up more than half of the cases. When asked to identify changes they would like to see in the criminal justice system, more than a third of the professionals focused on drug cases. There was nearly unanimous frustration: 'Drug cases have crippled the system,' said one prosecutor. Another prosecutor said: 'We've become a factory mill, just concerned with the disposition of the case. There's not enough consideration of if the person needs prison time or needs an extra attempt at rehabilitation.' The volume of drug prosecutions is dealt with through assembly-line plea bargaining. There is a feeling of grim reality among courtroom professionals about the system's inability to rehabilitate addicts, but there is no consensus about how to deal with drug abuse. Many judges believe that the existing alternative treatment programs are ineffective. Another prosecutor said that the system 'has no choice' but to ship offenders to prison.

"Because of the restricted sentencing options," the authors continued, "prosecutors and judges try to avoid treating these drug cases as felonies, especially for first-time offenders. 'People charged with small amounts of possession usually are dismissed because of the number of cases,' notes one prosecutor, 'and those are the cases that should be getting treatment alternatives.' There is also a strong incentive for defendants to plead guilty to drug charges to avoid harsh minimum sentences. Even though reduced charges in drug cases may allow for probation instead of jail
time, many offenders fail probation because the system does not provide the supervision and rehabilitation needed to return them to productive society. One former probation officer told us, 'adult probation that provides only one unsupervised check-in is useless as a way to give real services.' Judges vary as to whether they enforce the conditions of probation. Probation cannot work without a well-funded, consistently applied program."

Noting that many drug offenders can be rehabilitated and arguing that their potential value as productive members of society merits more flexibility, the report made the following recommendations:

  • Increase funding for and oversight of the probation system.
  • Expand the use of private, community-based organizations for supervised, rehabilitative probation.
  • Redefine young, nonviolent offenders as a "post juvenile" category of defendants.
  • Expunge criminal record after successful completion of probation.
  • Create up to four new drug courts with a focus on diversion/treatment programs.
  • Facilities are needed with courtrooms dedicated exclusively to narcotics cases in which the defendants are eligible for diversion and cases involving mental health issues.
  • Create, through legislation, a station adjustment model for dealing with possession of small amounts of controlled substances. [Editor's Note: A "station adjustment" allows police to handle a matter without involving the court system, i.e. with a warning or a referral to a treatment program.]
  • The drug school concept, operated on a deferred prosecution basis by the State's Attorney's Office, should be expanded. The Juvenile Drug School Program, eliminated due to budget constraints, should be re-established.
  • Increase training for defense counsel, prosecutors, and judges about the availability of diversion and treatment programs.
  • In creating legislation, attention should be paid to replacing mandatory minimum jail sentences with treatment and rehabilitation alternatives.

Chicago area judges, politicians, and legislators have expressed interest in the report and its findings. Whether that interest holds past the next news cycle remains to be seen. In the meantime, the wheels of justice grind on in the City of Big Shoulders, but just barely.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Snitch: Informants, Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice," by Ethan Brown (2007, Public Affairs Press, 273 pp., $25.95 HB)

When a Baltimore hustler clothing line manufacturer and barber named Rodney Bethea released a straight-to-DVD documentary about life on the mean streets of West Baltimore back in 2004 in a bid to further the hip-hop careers of some of his street-savvy friends, he had no idea "Stop Fucking Snitching, Vol. I" (better known simply as "Stop Snitching") would soon become a touchstone in a festering conflict over drugs and crime on the streets of America and what to do about it.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/snitchbook.gif
In a steadily rising crescendo of concern that reached a peak earlier this year when CBS' 60 Minutes ran a segment on the stop snitching phenomenon, police, politicians and prosecutors from across the country, but especially the big cities of the East Coast, lamented the rise of the stop snitching movement. Describing it as nothing more than witness intimidation by thugs out to break the law and get away with it, they charged that "stop snitching" was perverting the American justice system.

Not surprisingly, the view was a little different from the streets. Thanks largely to the war on drugs and the repressive legal apparatus ginned up to prosecute it, the traditional mistrust of police and the criminal justice system by poor, often minority, citizens has sharpened into a combination of disdain, despair, and defiance that identifies snitching -- or "informing" or "cooperating," if one wishes to be more diplomatic -- as a means of perpetuating an unjust system on the backs of one's friends and neighbors.

At least that's the argument Ethan Brown makes rather convincingly in "Snitch." According to Brown, the roots of the stop snitching movement can be traced directly to the draconian drug war legislation of the mid-1980s, when the introduction of mandatory minimums and harsh federal sentencing guidelines -- five grams of crack can get you five years in federal prison -- led to a massive increase in the federal prison population and a desperate scramble among low-level offenders to do anything to avoid years, if not decades, behind bars.

The result, Brown writes, has been a "cottage industry of cooperators" who will say whatever they think prosecutors want to hear and repeat their lies on the witness stand in order to win a "5K" motion from prosecutors, meaning they have offered "substantial assistance" to the government and are eligible for a downward departure from their guidelines sentence. Such practices are perverse when properly operated -- they encourage people to roll over on anyone they can to avoid prison time -- but approach the downright criminal when abused.

And, as Brown shows in chapter after chapter of detailed examples, abuse of the system appears almost the norm. In one case Brown details, a violent cooperator ended up murdering a well-loved Richmond, Virginia, family. In another, the still unsolved death of Baltimore federal prosecutor Richard Luna, the FBI seems determined to obscure the relationship between Luna and another violent cooperator. In still another unsolved murder, that of rapper Tupac Shakur, Brown details the apparent use of snitches to frame a man authorities suspect knows more about the killing than he is saying. In perhaps the saddest chapter, he tells the story of Euka Washington, a poor Chicago man now doing life in prison as a major Iowa crack dealer. He was convicted solely on the basis of uncorroborated and almost certainly false testimony from cooperators.

The system is rotten and engenders antipathy toward the law, Brown writes. The ultimate solution, he says, is to change the federal drug and sentencing laws, but he notes how difficult that can be, especially when Democrats are perpetually fearful of being Willy Hortoned every time they propose a reform. The current glacial progress of bills that would address one of the most egregious drug war injustices, the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity, is a sad case in point.

Brown addresses the quickness with which police and politicians blamed the stop snitching movement for increases in crime, but calls that a "distraction from law enforcement failures." It's much easier for cops and politicians to blame the streets than to take the heat for failing to prosecute cases and protect witnesses, and it's more convenient to blame the street than to notice rising income equality and a declining economy.

While Brown doesn't appear to want to throw the drug war baby out with the snitching bathwater, he does make a few useful suggestions for beginning to change the way the drug war is prosecuted. Instead of blindly going after dealers by weight, he argues, following UCLA professor Mark Kleiman, target those who engage in truly harmful behavior. That will not only make communities safer by ridding them of violent offenders, it will reduce the pressure to cooperate by low-level offenders as police attention and resources shift away from them.

Cooperating witnesses also need greater scrutiny, limits need to be put on 5K motions, cooperator testimony must be corroborated, and perjuring cooperators should be prosecuted, Brown adds. Too bad he doesn't have much to say about what to do with police and prosecutors who knowingly rely on dishonest snitches.

"It was never meant to intimidate people from calling the cops," Rodney Bethea said of his DVD, "and it was never directed at civilians. If your grandmother calls the cops on people who are dealing drugs on her block, she's supposed to do that because she's not living that lifestyle. When people say 'stop snitching' on the DVD, they're referring to criminals who lead a criminal life who make a profit from criminal activities... What we're saying is you have to take responsibility for your actions. When it comes time for you to pay, don't not want to pay because that is part of what you knew you were getting into in the first place. Stop Snitching is about taking it back to old-school street values, old-school street rules."

Playing by the old-school rules would be a good thing for street hustlers. It would also be a good thing for the federal law enforcement apparatus. It's an open question which group is going to get honorable first.

Law Enforcement: Snitch in Deadly Atlanta Raid Case Sues

A man who made a career out of snitching on his neighbors for profit is suing the Atlanta Police Department and the city, claiming he lost his job after the November 2006 drug raid that left 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston dead. The professional informant, Alex White, claims police held him for hours against his will, hoping he would help them cover up their misdeeds in the fatal raid.

Atlanta narcotics officers told a judge a confidential informant had told them cocaine was being sold and stored at Johnston's residence, but no such informant existed. They went to White after the fact to try to cook up support for their fable.

A frightened White instead went to the FBI and spent seven months in protective custody while working with federal prosecutors building a case against the three officers involved. All three officers were charged in the case. Two have pleaded guilty to state manslaughter and federal civil rights charges and are set to report to prison this month. A third awaits trial.

White, 25, had made up to $30,000 a year snitching on drug offenders, his attorney, Fenn Little, Jr. told the Associated Press. He is seeking compensation for lost wages as well as punitive damages. White's life has been "essentially ruined" because of the case, and he will now have to find a new line of work, Fenn added.

Medical Marijuana: DEA Threatens San Francisco Dispensary Landlords, Dispensaries Sue, Conyers to Hold Hearings

In a reprise of a tactic first used against Los Angeles and Sacramento area dispensaries, the DEA this week sent letters to dozens of owners of buildings leased to San Francisco dispensaries warning them that their buildings could be seized. Dispensary operators responded by filing suit in federal court to stop the agency, and a high-ranking congressman has promised to hold hearings on the matter.

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, and currently, hundreds of dispensaries are operating in the state to provide marijuana to patients qualified under the state's admittedly loose law. DEA raids and federal prosecution have failed to blunt their growth, and the landlord letters are only the latest wrinkle in the agency's war on the will of California voters.

"By this notice, you have been made aware of the purposes for which the property is being used," said a copy of the letter sent to San Francisco landlords, signed by the special agent in charge of the DEA's San Francisco office, Javier Pena. "You are further advised that violations of federal laws relating to marijuana may result in criminal prosecution, imprisonment, fines and forfeiture of assets."

The letter gave no deadlines.

San Francisco once had as many as 40 dispensaries, although only 28 have applied for licenses under a city regulatory process that began in July. But dispensaries may also be linked to other buildings where medical marijuana grows or storage take place.

"The feds do as they please... (and) they've done it before," San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi told the San Francisco Chronicle, adding he would not be surprised at a crackdown. "I would only hope they would coordinate with local law enforcement and that they are aware of the new regulatory system we have in place, and are sensitive to it."

Dispensary operators, however, were not quite so sanguine. A previously little known industry grouping, the Union of Medical Marijuana Providers, last week joined the Los Angeles area Arts District Healing Center in filing a federal lawsuit charging the DEA with extorting landlords. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to bar the DEA from sending any more threatening letters.

Dispensary operators and their supporters are also looking forward to hearings on the issue in the House Judiciary Committee. In response to complaints from California, last Friday, committee chair Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) announced he would hold hearings on the issue.

"I am deeply concerned about recent reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration is threatening private landlords with asset forfeiture and possible imprisonment if they refuse to evict organizations legally dispensing medical marijuana to suffering patients," Conyers said in a statement. "The committee has already questioned the DEA about its efforts to undermine California state law on this subject, and we intend to sharply question this specific tactic as part of our oversight efforts."

"When I saw Representative Conyers statement regarding the DEA's abuse of their power in order to thwart California's law, I knew that our legal efforts were beginning to pay off," said James Shaw, executive director of the Union. "The DEA has alienated too many citizens with their heavy-handed 'above the law tactics' for too long. We welcome all the support we can find in our efforts to ensure our rights are protected."

Steven Schectman, the Union's chief counsel, said he has contacted Representative Conyers' office in order to provide his staff copies of the litigation that was filed in both state and federal Court. "I am hopeful we can support the Judiciary Committee in any way possible. As a result of our research and investigation of the DEA's threatening letter campaign, in preparation of our litigation, we have become the most knowledgeable group, outside the DEA, who best understands the scope and import of their tactics. We are here to help."

Press Conference at Prison Art Gallery

DC Corrections Director Devon Brown and Representatives from Prisons Across America To Receive Donated Guitars for Inmates A press conference will be held to present new guitars to DC Corrections Director Devon Brown and other officials representing prisons from across America. The guitars are intended for use by prison inmates for therapeutic and rehabilitative purposes. They were donated by well-known English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg. In addition to Devon Brown, other officials who will attend the press conference to receive guitars include Jolene Constance, Assistant Warden of the C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in Louisiana; Chaplain George Holley of the Craggy Correctional Center in North Carolina; Barbara Allen of the Maryland Correctional Training Center; officials from St. Elizabeth's hospital John Howard forensic unit, a 200-bed prison in Washington, DC; and a representative from the Handlon Correctional Facility in Michigan. On hand at the press conference to test and play the guitars before they are presented to the prison officials will be two former jailhouse guitarists, Ron Kemp and Dennis Sobin. Since their release from prison, Kemp and Sobin have had success with music, both having recorded CDs and having appeared at the Kennedy Center. Sobin also serves as director of the Prisons Foundation, which is sponsoring this program. The guitar giveway initiative began this past summer when Joe Shade, along with the Prisons Foundation, organized a concert to raise money for guitars for a local prison drawing inspiration from Billy Bragg's Jail Guitar Doors program in Great Britain. After hearing of the success of his program stateside, Billy Bragg raised money during his recent US tour specifically for the US based Jail Guitar Doors instrument donation program. "We are a musical country and we know that the demand is huge for musical instruments in prisons in America," Shade says. "We are pleased that Billy Bragg has helped us get this project going." The guitars being donated were provided at cost by Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center. Shade and Sobin hope that the press conference will encourage musical instrument donations from others. All donations of instruments are tax deductible since the Prisons Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. For further information, please call 202-393-1511.
Date: 
Fri, 12/14/2007 - 2:00pm
Location: 
1600 K Street NW, Suite 501
Washington, DC
United States

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