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Drug Gangsters Immortalized in Song

The Associated Press reported Saturday on Colombia's "narco-ballads," songs that "pay lyrical homage to the lifestyles of the rich and dangerous: drug-lords, assassins, leftist rebels and far-right warlords," according to the story. Among the thugs being rhapsodized in song are two of the most murderous, Carlos Castano, who founded the infamous right-wing paramilitary movement that has massacred tens of thousands, and Pablo Escobar, who murdered hundreds of Colombia government officials and once had an airplane blown up in order to take out two people who were on it.
"These songs are about what's happening in our country, we sing about the paramilitaries, the rebels and the drug-traffickers and they all love it," said Uriel Hennao, the king of the genre, responsible for such anthems as "Child of the Coca," "I Prefer a Tomb in Colombia (to a jail cell in the US)" and "The Mafia Keeps Going."
One of the more pernicious consequences of drug prohibition is the glorification that ends up accruing to violent criminals. I don't know enough about the culture in Colombia and among the people who like this music to know whether they are listening in admiration of drug lords like Escobar and terrorists like Castano or simply because, as Hennao said, it's about what's going on in their country, so I'm not going to pass judgment on either artist or audience. But I don't think it's good for any country to be in that kind of a place. I wrote about this phenomenon here in the US (a situation not involving music, but the same cultural corruption idea) in February 2005 in Boston, before moving to Washington, the case of a gangster named Darryl Whiting who by the account of the prosecutor who put him away was someone who lured young people into lives of crime. The prosecutor, Wayne Budd, was the same guy who had brought federal civil rights charges against the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating. But getting Whiting off the streets, he said, was one of the things he was most proud of. I saw Budd speak on a panel at Harvard -- he predictably did not express agreement with my contention that legalization would have been the way to keep Darryl Whiting and people like him from ever getting into that position. But legalization is what is needed for that purpose. Alcohol prohibition turned Al Capone into a pop hero, and drug prohibition is doing the same thing to top-level gangsters now, even if they don't become as well known to mainstream, majority society as Capone did.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A former Massachusetts State Police sergeant goes to prison, a former Milwaukee detective cops a plea, a Virginia sheriff's deputy gets busted, and so do a pair of would-be drug-dealing prison guards. Just another week in the drug war. Let's get to it:

In Norfolk, Massachusetts, a former Massachusetts State Police sergeant was sentenced to 15 years in prison July 12 after pleading guilty to one count of trafficking more than 200 grams of cocaine and one count of larceny of more than $250. Sergeant Timothy White, who had worked at the Framingham State Police barracks Narcotics Inspection Unit, had been stealing cocaine from the unit to sell and use. White went down in flames in 2002, when he assaulted his now former wife in the middle of cocaine binge, and his troubles only deepened when police raiding his home in 2003 found a pound of missing cocaine there. He has already been sentenced to 2 ½ years for the assault.

In Greensville County, Virginia, a Greensville County Sheriff's deputy was indicted July 12 on federal drug dealing charges. Deputy Timothy Williams, 35, is charged with conspiring to distribute crack cocaine, powder cocaine and marijuana. According to the indictment, Williams used his position to seize drugs from dealers and then handed them over to his co-conspirators to be resold on the street. He is also accused of extorting money from drug dealers by threatening to arrest them if they didn't pay up.

In Milwaukee, a former Milwaukee Police detective agreed to plead guilty July 12 to federal cocaine distribution charges, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Former Detective Larry White, 35, was charged with ferrying drugs from Illinois to Wisconsin for his brother-in-law on several occasions. According to an FBI affidavit in the case, White made $1,000 a trip. He now faces a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

In Kershaw, South Carolina, a Lancaster County prison guard was charged with taking what he thought was Ecstasy from undercover agents to sneak into the prison, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division announced in a July 12 press release. Joseph Sanders, 29, was arrested the night before and charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances and attempting to furnish contraband to a prisoner. According to the arrest warrant, Sanders took the fake drug from the SLED narc with the intention of smuggling it into the prison.

In Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, a Franklin County Prison guard was arrested July 7 in a state police sting aimed at preventing the illegal delivery of Oxycontin to inmates, according to the Cumberland Sentinel. The unnamed guard faces charges of attempting to obtain the medication for sale at the prison, but those charges had yet to be filed.

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