Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories 2/11/05

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This week we revisit a pair of stories on which we previously reported, examine a pair of marginally corrupt cases, one involving a police narc and one involving a prosecutor, and look at one absolutely hideous example of corrupt and thuggish policing of the foulest sort.

First, the updates:

Three weeks ago, we reported on West Texas District Attorney Rick Roach, who was arrested at the Gray County courthouse in Pampa on January 11 and charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, and possession of weapon by a drug addict. Roach had two guns in his briefcase and more than 30 other weapons -- semiautomatic handguns, rifles, and shotguns -- at home. Now the prosecutor has copped a plea. Roach agreed Tuesday to plead guilty on the illegal weapons charge in return for the dropping of the drug charges. He has also resigned his post as prosecutor. He faces up to 10 years in prison; many years less than the 40 he was looking at if convicted on all charges.

Although federal prosecutors had Roach dead to rights on the drug charges, "I felt this was the best count for him to plead to federally," prosecutor Christy Drake told the Associated Press. Ah, those soft-hearted federal prosecutors.

Back in September, we noted the arrest of US Customs and Border Protection Officer Corey Whitfield as he tried crossing the US-Canada border with 535 pounds of "BC Bud" headed for the US. The eight-year Customs veteran attempted to use a diplomatic passport when challenged at the border, saying "I'm one of us," but when the weed was found, he at first denied knowing it was there, then changed his story, saying he had been blackmailed by a man he met at a party on the Canadian side of the border while moonlighting as a security guard. Whitfield told agents he was forced into the smuggling scheme when the man showed him photos of himself in "compromising situations involving illegal drugs and a sexual encounter with a female at the party" and threatened to send them to his wife.

Whitfield pled guilty in November to one count marijuana smuggling. On February 4, a federal judge sentenced the wayward border guard to five years in prison followed by five years of probation. Whitfield had an otherwise clean criminal record.

In new cases, a former Putnam County, NY, drug investigator got off easy after pleading guilty to falsifying records in the Putnam County Sheriff's Department's narcotics unit, according to the Empire Report. The newspaper asked in its subhead: "Are police officers charged with breaking the law treated differently than citizens in court?"

The falsifying records charge came after former Senior Investigator Alfred Villani, 52, came to Sheriff Donald Smith's attention for "questionable actions occurring within the unit." Those actions would be altering the records to cover up the disappearance of a $2,000 night vision scope. Instead of jail time, Villani got 150 hours of community service. Villani, who retired while on suspension during the investigation, also gets to keep his sheriff's department pension.

And in a case that demonstrates the inherent corruption of a system built upon informants, as well as the hypocrisy of at least one prosecutor, former Charleston County, South Carolina, Assistant Solicitor Damon Cook is facing charges of cocaine possession and conspiracy to distribute. The story unfolded as two of his co-defendants pled guilty February 4th on similar charges. Charles Edward Deese and Rebecca McCollum were portrayed by prosecutors as drug buyers and suppliers who helped build the case against Cook and two local defense attorneys, the Charleston Post & Courier reported.

After State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) agents received information against McCollum in March 2003, she agreed to cooperate and led agents to Deese. Deese in turn agreed to cooperate, arranging the sale of a half-pound of cocaine to popular local trumpeter Joseph Ambrosia, but Ambrosia fled the state and is now suspected to be in Europe. Meanwhile, the highly cooperative McCollum also led police to a defense attorney who shared office space with Solicitor Cook. She bought 17 grams of cocaine from the defense attorney, Rodney Strich. When confronted, Strich in turn turned state's evidence, telling agents that he, Cook, and another local lawyer frequently pooled their money to buy cocaine for personal use and to sell to others. Cook in turn agreed to turn state's evidence. Now he is before the dock.

Last but certainly not least, the quick action of a drug suspect's wife has lifted the lid on some truly nasty and brutal police work in Campbell County, Tennessee, just outside of Knoxville. While the cops in this case were apparently not after filthy lucre -- it is unclear at this point whether their little adventure was official or unofficial -- their behavior displays a level of corruption and viciousness that should make good cops blanch. Five former Campbell County Sheriff's Department officers are currently on trial in federal court on charges they violated the civil rights of Eugene Siler by torturing him for hours -- all because Siler's wife turned on a tape recorder when they burst in looking for her husband. Otherwise, it would have been a case of an accused doper's word against that of five law enforcers, and we all know the cops don't lie, right?

While Siler's ordeal lasted for more than two hours, the tape ran out after 45 minutes, but that was more than enough to make clear what was going on as the deputies brutalized Siler. The five deputies, including the lead narc for the department, David Webber, and the department's DARE officer (!), Samuel Franklin, handcuffed Siler to a chair, announced "It's all fucking over, son," and proceeded to beat him bloody, threaten to kill him, and otherwise torment him unless he agreed to sign a statement saying he had given them permission to search his home for drugs. In documents presented in court last week, prosecutors allege the rampaging narcs not only physically assaulted Siler, but threatened to electrocute him, drown him, and break his fingers if he didn't cooperate.

But it was the 59-page FBI transcript of Siler's wife's tape recording that really told the story. "We're going to take every dime you have today and if we don't walk out of here with every piece of dope you got and every dime you got, you're fucking ass is not going to make it to the jail," Webber warned in the transcript. Webber is on the tape threatening to beat Siler and concocting a resisting arrest scenario. "Eugene, let me tell you how this is gonna work, OK?" Webber said. "We got here and guess what you did? You ran out the back door. We chased you, OK? You fought with us, OK? We end up fighting with you. You 'bout whupped all our asses, so we had to fight back, OK?"

The transcripts go on to portray a time of horror for the accused drug dealer, as Webber and his companions repeatedly beat Siler, threaten him, and beat him some more. "You're not fucking listening," Webber said at one point. "You hear what I told you? I told you not to be talking. This asshole right here, he loves seeing blood. He loves it. He loves seeing blood. You're talking too much. He loves fucking seeing blood. He'll beat your ass and lick it off of you."

There is more, much more of the transcript available, courtesy of the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Interested readers can check it out, but your reporter here is already seeing red and will feed you no more. As a final word, however, it is worth noting that Campbell County Sheriff Ron McLellan is an ardent drug warrior, sending out almost weekly news releases bragging about the latest exploits of his troops in their war on drugs. By any means necessary, eh, Sheriff? You might want to rein in your mad dogs.

-- END --
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Issue #374 -- 2/11/05

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items

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Editorial: A Cautious First Step | First North American Heroin Maintenance Study Now Underway in Vancouver | DRCNet Interview: Marijuana Policy Project Director Rob Kampia | DRCNet Book Review: "It's Just a Plant," by Ricardo Cortes (2005, Magic Propaganda Mill, $17.95 HB) | Drug War Chronicle's Phil Smith Featured in New Book -- "Under The Influence" Available as DRCNet Premium | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Newsbrief: Memphis Taxpayers to Pay Big Time for Police Drug Raid Killing | Newsbrief: Bush Budget Slashes Funds for Local Police, Increases DEA Funding | Newsbrief: What Meth Epidemic? National Survey Shows Amphetamine Use Unchanged from Year Earlier | Newsbrief: Death Squad Killings Spike Upward in Davao | Newsbrief: Indian Government Blinks in Face of Threatened Drug Shortage | Newsbrief: Marijuana Reform Under Attack in Western Australia | Newsbrief: Bob Marley Birthday Bash in Addis Ababa Comes Off Without a Hitch | Newsbrief: London Police Chief Ramps Up Rhetorical War on Middle-Class Cocaine Use | Web Scan: Debra Saunders, Drug War Carol, DPA Web Chat, Drug Truth Radio | This Week in History | Errata: Meth Bill Sponsor | The Reformer's Calendar

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