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Chronicle AM -- April 2, 2014

A new Pew Research poll has some surprising and heartening results, Madison (WI) says legalize it, Wisconsin passes a CBD medical marijuana bill, misbehaving cops get noticed, the Russians are griping about the Aghan poppy crop again, and more. Let's get to it:

Aghanistan opium poppy field (unodc.org)
Marijuana Policy

Dane County (Madison), Wisconsin, Voters Say Legalize It. Voters in Dane County approved a non-binding advisory referendum calling on legislators to legalize marijuana in the land of the Cheese Heads. The referendum passed with 64.5% of the vote.

Medical Marijuana

Missouri Senate Panel Holds Hearing on Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate General Laws Committee heard testimony on a medical marijuana bill Tuesday, but took no action. The measure, Senate Bill 951, is not expected to pass this session.

Wisconsin CBD Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Legislature. The Wisconsin legislature has approved a CBD medical marijuana bill. Assembly Bill 726 passed the Senate Tuesday, the last day of the legislative session. It had already passed the Assembly.

Drug Policy

Pew Poll Finds Tectonic Shift Underway on Drug Policy. A new Pew Research Center poll finds that the public is ready for a truce in America's long-running drug war. Two-thirds favored treatment over jail for heroin and cocaine users and strong majorities said that alcohol was more harmful than marijuana. Click on the link for full poll results, or read our feature story on it in this issue.

Prescription Drugs

US Senator Calls on DEA to Implement Prescription Drug Take Back Program. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) took to the Senate floor Tuesday to press the DEA to implement a 2010 law based on bipartisan legislation she sponsored. The law expands drug take back programs. "Prescription drug abuse has reached crisis levels and is leading to a spike in heroin abuse as well, and we should spare no effort to reverse this deadly trend," Klobuchar said. "My drug take back law will help keep drugs out of the wrong hands and prevent prescription drug abuse as well as heroin abuse. The Administration needs to implement this common sense law so that we can give families new tools to help fight this devastating epidemic." No word yet on any DEA response.

Law Enforcement

Minnesota Occupy Activists Given Drugs By Cops Can Sue, Judge Rules. In a bizarre story out of Minneapolis, a federal judge has ruled that Occupy activists plied with marijuana by Minnesota police doing a drug identification training exercise during the protests can sue. Law enforcement agencies that employed the officers involved had filed a motion to throw out the case, but US District Court Judge John Tunheim rejected the motion, noting that "in light of the clear prohibition on providing illicit drugs to citizens," the agencies "are not entitled to the protection of qualified immunity." Click on the link for all the weird details.

Lawsuit Charges Corruption, Harassment Among Alabama Narcs. A former Walker County deputy who worked for the department's Narcotics Enforcement Team before he was fired has filed a lawsuit against the county and the sheriff charging he was fired for cooperating in an FBI investigation of his boss, who killed himself after stealing drug money to pay personal bills and support his mistress. Click on the link for all the sordid details.

International

Russian Drug Czar Charges NATO Doesn't Care About Afghan Drug Production. NATO's decision to phase out cooperation with Russia in training anti-drug officers for Afghanistan reveals the alliance's unwillingness to really combat drug production in this country, Viktor Ivanov, the chief of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service, told Interfax on Wednesday. "This is not surprising. What could you have expected from NATO?" Ivanov said. "NATO has long been pursuing a policy aimed at the presence of its military component in Afghanistan. Now they are pulling out of this country, leaving massive drug production there," Ivanov said. Afghanistan accounts for nearly 90% of the world's illicit opium production, according to the UN.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Bad cop, bad cop, whatcha gonna do when they come for you? A Seattle-area drug task force deputy defects to the life, a Louisiana deputy parties too hard with stolen drug evidence, a Georgia cop resigns over pills, and more. Let's get to it:

In Lilburn, Georgia, a Lilburn police officer resigned last Monday amid an investigation of improper drug handling. Investigator Kim Banks is under investigation by the Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office after an officer assigned to the Evidence Unit discovered irregularities in prescription drug evidence. The matter is under both internal and criminal investigation.

In Seattle, a former King County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Monday on drug distribution charges. Mitch Wright, a 10-year veteran who worked on a joint narcotics task force, went down after an investigation involving local law enforcement and the DEA that began when a woman was arrested using drugs in a car belonging to him. That led to evidence of more criminal activity. Wright then resigned before being fired, but his home was searched and he was arrested on state drug, theft, and evidence tampering charges. He then began hanging out in "high narcotic and prostitution areas" in north King and south Snohomish counties, which sparked the DEA's assistance. He now faces federal conspiracy and narcotics distribution charges.

In Denham Springs, Louisiana, a Livingston Parish sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday after shooting a gun in his neighborhood and wrecking his car, where deputies found a sheriff's office narcotics evidence envelope. Deputy Leo Barthelmy, Jr. That led them to his home, where the shots were fired earlier that day. He is charged with malfeasance in office/tampering with evidence, and illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities. The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office says he has been released on a $25,000 bond.

In Los Angeles, an LAPD officer was convicted last Thursday of lying under oath in a drug case. Officer Bernardo Ortiz is the third of three LAPD officers convicted over a 2008 drug possession arrest in which they claimed the defendant had thrown down drugs, but surveillance camera video contradicted their testimony. Charges against the drug defendant were dropped, and Ortiz and the other two cops, Evan Samuel and Rachard Amio, were charged. The latter two were convicted in November 2012, but a jury in that trial deadlocked on Ortiz, and he was retried. Ortiz was convicted of one count each of conspiracy and perjury under oath.

In Dallas, a former Arlington police officer was sentenced last Tuesday to a year in prison for tipping off a steroid dealer the cops were after him. Thomas Kantzos, 45, went down for using a law enforcement data base to run a license plate number for his steroid dealer, who correctly thought he was under law enforcement surveillance. He pleaded guilty in October to an indictment charging exceeding access to a protected computer.

California Cops Generate Two More Drug War Deaths

California police have shot and killed two people in separate drug law enforcement incidents in the past week. Luis Morin of Coachella and Mark Ayala of El Centro become the 7th and 8th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the San Bernardino Sun, citing police sources, the first killing, which occurred last Monday night, happened when a Riverside County sheriff's deputy attempted to arrest Morin on felony warrants.

"When the officer attempted to take the subject into custody, an altercation occurred, which resulted in an officer-involved shooting," Deputy Armando Munoz said.

Morin died at the scene, according to the coroner's office.

Police didn't specify what the warrants were for, but later in the week, Morin's family members told KESQ TV News that one was for possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and the other was for grand theft auto. The family also expressed anger with the unnamed deputy who shot Morin.

"He did not come to serve a warrant," said Morin's father. "He came with bad intentions. I would love to see him prosecuted."

The deputy has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by Riverside County prosecutors.

Two days later, according to KSWT 13 News, citing police sources, members of the Imperial County Narcotics Task Force shot and killed Ayala in a taxi in El Centro. The Imperial Valley Press reported that task force members present included Border Patrol and DEA agents, as well as agents from the Imperial County District Attorney's Office.

Police said Ayala was wanted for unspecified parole or probation violations and that he was armed. But they did not say whether he had brandished a weapon or fired at them. Ayala was hit by multiple shots and died at the scene. No police were injured.

A witness, who didn't want her name used, told KSWT 13 that Ayala was still in the back seat of the taxi when officers opened fire.

"I was in the kitchen and heard tires screeching and then I went outside," said the woman identified only as Guadelupe, whose remarks were printed in Spanish. "When I got outside, I saw a taxi and the officers were already pointing their guns at the guy in the back seat. "There was a lot of shooting," she said.

CA
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Bad cops get sued in Chicago, drugs are missing in Baltimore, an Ohio cop rips off the DARE program, and a Louisiana jailer gets caught smuggling pot and tobacco. Let's get to it:

In Chicago, a Chicago-area couple sued a local drug task force on December 28, charging that members of the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group (MEG) illegally detained them without cause and ransacked their vehicle and home for drugs, but, not finding any drugs, instead stole thousands of dollars worth of items, including money orders, which have been cashed by the MEG. MEG has denied stealing the other items, including a flat screen TV.

In Baltimore, drug evidence went missing from the Baltimore Police evidence room last Thursday. The evidence room is on the upper floor of police headquarters in downtown Baltimore. Police would not say what or how much was taken. The department is investigating.

In Amite City, Louisiana, a Tangipahoa Parish jail deputy was arrested Monday on charges he was conspiring to bring drugs into the jail and sell them to inmates. Patrick Collins, 58, went down after the sheriff's office received information that he planned to smuggle drugs in on that day, and he was caught with four separate packages containing marijuana and tobacco. He is charged with one count of malfeasance in office, two counts of introduction of contraband into a penal institution and possession with intent to distribute schedule 1 narcotics. At last report, Collins was still in jail in a neighboring parish.

In Troy, Ohio, a former Troy police officer pleaded guilty December 24 to ripping off the DARE program. Kirt Wright, 41, copped to running up $15,000 in unauthorized charges for his own use on the DARE program credit card. He pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft in office. He's looking at up to three years in prison at sentencing.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A probation officer gets caught growing marijuana, a task force commander is accused of stealing $90,000, more cops get nailed for spilling the beans to drug suspects, and more. Let's get to it:

In Savannah, Georgia, a Savannah-Chatham police sergeant resigned December 18 after being the subject of renewed allegations he tipped off a drug dealer and lied to investigators. Malik Khaalis had been the subject of 2010 investigation by the DEA and the Chatham County Narcotics Team for interfering with a drug investigation, but no charges were ever filed. But early in December, a new report found that Khaalis repeatedly lied to his supervisors on the task force, had unauthorized contact with another cop whose brother was being probed, and likely warned a suspect his phone was being tapped.

In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Orange County's chief probation officer was arrested December 9 on charges she had a marijuana grow in her home. Carlisha Lakwan Davis, 38, went down after a June break-in at her home led to the discovery of the grow. Charges were delayed while investigators "were making sure we had what we needed" to file charges. Davis is charged with felony maintaining a dwelling for the sale, manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance, felony marijuana manufacturing and misdemeanor possession of marijuana. She's out on a $10,000 cash bond pending a court appearance later this month.

In Ambridge, Pennsylvania, a part-time Ambridge police officer was arrested December 18 on charges he bought drugs on duty and informed drug dealers of investigations. Officer Andrew Wanto went down after buying a single Oxycontin tablet from a snitch working for the attorney general's office. This after other snitches told investigators he had been buying drugs, including cocaine and pills, for several months while in his police cruiser. Wanto admitted the following day that he had made drug purchases and revealed information about investigations. He is charged with attempted drug possession, obstructing administration of law and hindering apprehension or prosecution. He remained free on $25,000 unsecured bond.

In Angola, Louisiana, a state prison guard was arrested last Tuesday after being caught smuggling crack cocaine, meth, Lortab, Xanax, cocaine, and fake pot into the prison inside her bra. Guard LeAngela Handy went down after being snitched out, and now faces smuggling charges.

In McAllen, Texas, a former sheriff's office commander was arrested last Tuesday on charges linking him to a local drug trafficking ring. Jose "Joe" Padilla, a 24-year veteran of the office is charged with marijuana trafficking and money laundering. He became a former commander after being fired last Wednesday. He has been freed on a $5,000 cash bond pending trial.

In Maysville, Kentucky, the former director of a now defunct drug task force pleaded not guilty December 18 to charges he stole public funds. Tim Fegan, former director of the Buffalo Trace/Gateway Narcotics Task Force, is accused of stealing $90,000 in drug money that went missing in January. His task force was shut down after a local media outlet broke the story of corruption within it. Although he was indicted on federal program fraud charges, he was never arrested, but was instead issued a summons to appear. He has been released without bail pending trial next month. He's looking at up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted.

In San Diego, a US Customs and Border Protection officer was convicted December 20 of allowing tons of marijuana and loads of undocumented immigrants to pass unhindered through his border checkpoint inspection lanes. Lorne Leslie "Hammer" Jones, 50, began waving cars and vans full of undocumented immigrants through the San Ysidro checkpoint in 2000, and then graduated to semi-trucks packed with pot. He was convicted of drug smuggling, alien smuggling, and conspiracy to engage in bribery. Jones' sentencing is set for March 24.

Ohio Woman Killed By Errant Shot in Drug Raid

A Ross County, Ohio, woman was shot and killed in an apparent accidental discharge of a deputy's weapon during a December 11 drug raid. Krystal Barrows, 35, becomes the 39th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Krystal Barrows (facebook.com)
According to the Chillicothe Gazette, citing law enforcement sources, the US 23 Task Force was preparing to raid the home, where they expected to encounter a large amount of heroin, as well as weapons, when the weapon of a deputy standing outside the mobile home discharged, traveling through the wall and striking Barrows.

When police entered the mobile home, Barrows was sitting on the living room couch "in critical condition" from a bullet wound to the head. She was taken from the scene in a medical helicopter, but was pronounced dead upon arrival at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center.

Six people were charged during the raid; two others were detained and questioned before being released. A total of 11 people, including a juvenile female, were inside the mobile home when the US 23 Task Force arrived to serve the warrant. The raiders found what they were looking for: "large amounts of heroin," multiple weapons, a large amount of cash, and likely stolen goods.

Barrows, a mother of three, had no criminal record except for one arrest for public intoxication.

The police shooter has been identified as Ross County Sheriff's Sgt. Brett McKnight, an 11-year veteran of the force. The Ohio Bureau of Investigation is looking into the case.

Local media complained that the sheriff's office refused to release incident reports on the raid and shooting, even though the state Supreme Court has ruled that they must be released immediately.

Chillicothe, OH
United States

Two More Drug War Deaths

A Minnesota man died late last month after being arrested on drug charges, and a Washington state man was shot and killed late last week in a drug bust gone bad. Philip Derks of St. Paul and as yet unnamed Wenatchee, Washington, man become the 37th and 38th persons to die in US domestic drug law operations so far this year.

In the Washington case, according to the Wenatchee World News, citing police sources, members of the Columbia River Drug Task Force had made repeated undercover drug buys from the man, then used uniformed police to pull him over in a traffic stop. The man pulled into a Taco Bell drive-in lane, and a police car pulled in behind him.

"The officer exited the vehicle and contacted the suspect," said Trooper Darren Wright of the State Patrol, which is conducting the investigation into the killing. "A struggle ensued and resulted in the shooting."

Wright said it was not clear if the man had a gun, or if he had fired any shots. He said the unnamed police officer shot more than one shot.

The mid-afternoon shooting at the popular fast-food restaurant resulted in the victim's vehicle rolling forward and striking an occupied pick-up truck in the parking lot. No injuries were reported there.

No word on what drugs the task force was chasing.

{Update: The man has been identified as Robert Harris, 43, of Wenatchee. The coroner reported he died of multiple gunshot wounds. Still no word on whether he had a gun.]

In the Minnesota case, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Philip Derks, 32, had been arrested on November 28 along with the driver of the vehicle in which he was riding after police who stopped them for a traffic violation saw a plastic baggie containing an unknown substance being thrown from the vehicle.

A preliminary field test identified the substance as methamphetamine, and Derks and his companion were taken to the Ramsey County Jail. Within a half hour of their arrival at the jail, Derks' friend alerted jail staff that he needed medical attention. Jail staff wrote that he didn't appear to be under duress, but was fidgety and starting to sweat.

Jail staff moved him to a segregation cell for closer observation after he mentioned Adderall but "refused to answer other questions." Derks grew "even more restless, became very pale, and was sweaty," staff noted before transporting him to a local hospital.

Derks died in the hospital about 18 hours after arriving there. His friend told sheriff's deputies that Derks had swallowed an unknown amount of drugs to hide them from police when they had been pulled over the previous day.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Busy, busy. Cops on pain pills, crooked drug task force commanders, and more. Let's get to it:

In Sunrise, Florida, the Sunrise Police Department has opened an investigation into whether its highly lucrative drug stings broke the law. The investigation comes after the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that the department used the addresses of unwitting homeowners and a business when it created a fake company as part of its drug sting scheme. The newspaper earlier reported extensively on how the small-town department has made millions luring would-be cocaine buyers there and then seizing their cash and other goods.

In Maysville, Kentucky, a former Maysville police officer was indicted last Thursday on charges he stole money from a federal drug task force. Timothy Fegan, 52, is the former director of the Buffalo Trace-Gateway Narcotics Task Force. He is accused of stealing money seized in drug raids as well as cash kept on hand for drug buys. He's looking at up to 10 years in federal prison.

In Wilmington, North Carolina, a former Hanover County sheriff's lieutenant was indicted Monday on more than 120 criminal counts related to mishandling drug evidence and violating the department's policy on truthfulness after he got strung out on pain pills. Joey LeBlanc, who was second in command of the department's vice and narcotics unit, faces 28 counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud; four counts of obtaining property by false pretenses; four counts of embezzlement; four counts of altering, destroying, stealing evidence; four counts of obstruction of justice; 21 counts of misdemeanor possession of schedule II controlled substance; 28 counts of trafficking, 4 to 13 grams; 14 counts of trafficking, 14 to 27 grams; and one count of trafficking, 28 grams or more. His bond was set at $500,000.

In Atlanta, a former Newton County sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty last Friday to carrying a weapon while selling drugs. Darrell Mathis copped to one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime after being busted for selling 2 ½ pounds of marijuana over a four-month period to a snitch and an undercover FBI agent. He made the sales while in uniform and armed, often showing up in his patrol car. The weapons charge in this case carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years' incarceration, as well as a maximum fine of $250,000.

In Sparta, Wisconsin, a former La Crosse police officer pleaded guilty Monday on charges related to his theft of drugs from the evidence room. Brian Thompson copped to one count of felony attempted possession of a narcotic after being arrested in an August sting. After Thompson aroused suspicions, a police captain packed a duffel bag with clothes and a fake bottle of Oxycontin pills, which Thompson then stole.

In Birmingham, Alabama, the former head of the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force was sentenced last Thursday to a year and a day in federal prison for stealing money seized by the task force. Jeffrey Snyder, 55, pleaded guilty in June to stealing at least $125,000 over a two-year period ending in June 2012. Snyder had spent 29 years with the Tuscaloosa Police Department before retiring a year ago and commanded the task force since 2002.

In Houston, an ex-Harris County jailer was sentenced Monday to six months in jail at his former place of employment for smuggling drugs and cell phones into the jail. Patrick Perkins, 27, copped to one count of bringing prohibited items into a correctional facility and one count of drug possession after he agreed to take prescription pain pills to an inmate who was a snitch.

In San Luis Obispo, California, a former San Luis Obispo narcotics detective was sentenced Monday to 18 months in federal prison after he stole cash and drugs from people, used drugs on the job, and got himself addicted to pain pills. Cory Pierce was arrested in February. Now, all the narcs on the squad face random drug testing.

Indianapolis Man Killed in Drug Task Force Raid

Members of the Indianapolis Metro Drug Task force shot and killed a man early Thursday morning while serving a warrant. Jose Guerrero, 36, becomes the 34th person to die in UN domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to WISH TV, citing police sources, officers with the Carmel Police Department serving on the drug task force had entered an apartment in a Westside complex around dawn Thursday when Guerrero pulled out a gun and refused to put it down. They then shot and killed him.

"We had two veteran narcotics officers in this residence who did what they needed to do when they were confronted with an armed individual," said Carmel Police Chief Tim Green.

There is no word on whether the raid was a no-knock raid or not.

The raid was part of a two-year undercover operation known as "Operation Five Dollar Foot-Long," with the DEA, as well as state and local law enforcement, participating. On the day of the killing alone, police seized 100 pounds of marijuana, 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine, seven guns, 26 vehicles, and more than $80,000 in cash.

The two Carmel police officers involved in the Thursday morning shooting have been placed on administrative duty pending the result of IMPD's investigation into the shooting. That is standard procedure.

Indianapolis, IN
United States

Tennessee Cops Kill Man in Meth Lab Raid

Sullivan County sheriff's deputies shot and killed a man attempting to flee in a vehicle Friday night as they conducted a raid on a residence where a meth lab was suspected to be operating. Kenneth Ray Clark, 47, becomes the 33rd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Bristol Times-News, citing police sources, officers with the Sheriff's Office Vice Unit, the 1st Judicial Drug Task Force, and the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force were dispatched to a Bristol residence after receiving information that a meth lab was operating there and that a person with outstanding warrants was there.

Upon arriving at the property, officers found Clark in a vehicle. Police said he refused to get out of the vehicle and, in an attempt to flee the scene, "tried to run over at least two officers." Officers then opened fire on the vehicle, striking Clark. Clark managed to drive approximately a mile, where police found him dead in his vehicle.

Clark was wanted on a probation violation warrant in Sullivan County. He also reportedly had an unspecified outstanding warrant from nearby Bristol, Virginia.

Although Clark allegedly "tried to run over at least two officers," there was no mention of any injury to any of the officers involved.

The shooting will be investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Bristol, TN
United States

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