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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Marianas Islands cop gets nailed for smoking meth, a Customs office cops to helping traffickers get marijuana into the US, and a Michigan cop gets in trouble for trying to use drugs to entice sexual partners. Let's get to it:

In Saipan, Northern Marianas Islands, a Marianas Islands police officer was arrested last Friday on charges he was smoking methamphetamine and engaging in misconduct in office. Department of Public Safety Patrol Officer Robert Kohler Tudela, 38, is charged with possession of a controlled substance and misconduct in public office. He's still trying to make $100,000 bail.

In Brownsville, Texas, a Customs and Border Patrol officer pleaded guilty last Tuesday to charges he allowed drugs into the country. Officer Jose Luis Zavala copped to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana. Abribery of a public official charge was dropped. Prosecutors said he used coded text messages with smugglers in Mexico to coordinate the passage of loads of pot through is border entry lane. Sentencing is set for June, and he's looking at 10-year mandatory minimum. 

In Kalamazoo, Michigan, a former Prairieville Township reserve police officer was sentenced Monday to time served and 18 months of probation for offering an undercover police officer drugs for sex at a local hotel. Michael Lee Strong pleaded guilty in September to one count of delivery of ecstasy. In return, charges of possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony and two counts of delivery of a controlled substance were dropped. He served two days in jail. Strong went down in a sting after state police became aware that he was using a dating site for gay men to offer drugs in return for sex.

Florida Cops Sell Man Drugs in Sting, Then Gun Him Down

Police conducting an undercover, street-level, reverse drug sting in Putnam County, Florida, shot and killed one of their targets Friday night as he attempted to drive away from the scene. Andrew Anthony Williams, a 48-year-old black man, becomes the 11th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to local press accounts, all relying on law enforcement sources, deputies and detectives from the Putnam County Sheriff's Office were conducting a "reverse sting" where they posed as drug dealers, sold unwary customers small amounts of drugs, and then arrested them.

Deputies had successfully sold drugs to and arrested 10 people, but when they identified themselves and tried to arrest Williams, who was number 11, he declined. "[H]e drove away quickly and hit a tree," the St. Augustine Record reported.  "The man next backed up toward the deputies, then put the vehicle into drive and turned toward some of them, the Sheriff’s Office said. Four deputies fired at the oncoming vehicle almost simultaneously, the Sheriff's Office said."

News 4 Jax had it this way: "…when they tried to arrest Williams, he took off in a blue SUV and, swerving to avoid deputies, ran into a tree. Williams then backed up and tried to take off again toward deputies causing four of them to open fire on Williams SUV, hitting him an unknown number of times."  

Williams was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. One deputy was wounded in the gunfire, but that bullet came from another deputy's gun, according to the Sheriff's Office. (In the headline for its story about the incident, News 4 Jax neglected to mention that anyone had been killed, going with "Putnam County deputy hit by bullet fired at suspect.")

The Sheriff's Office did not identify the four deputies involved in the shooting, but was quick to make available Williams' criminal history, which including charges for drugs, fleeing, eluding, resisting arrest, and battery on a law enforcement officer.

The four deputies are on paid administrative leave.

This killing should raise a few questions, both about the nature of the operation itself and about what actually occurred.

Reverse drug stings are a controversial tactic, sometimes arguably justifiable at the higher echelons of the drug trade, where selling sizeable quantities of drugs to a player to see where they go help crack a drug ring, but that logic isn’t at work here, where the only result is to round up some street drug buyers and drag them into the criminal justice system. Is having deputies pretend to be drug dealers to bust small-time users really the county's best use of its law enforcement resources?

And then there's the no-witness "he was going to run me over" defense used by the police to justify the killing. It happens not infrequently. Williams may have decided that getting busted on a minor dope charge was worth trying to murder a group of police officers with his vehicle. But could it have been that he was just trying to get away?

It'll be up to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which investigates officer-involved killings, to get to the bottom of it. 

Keystone Heights, FL
United States

Chronicle AM: NH Decrim Bill Advances, Fallout from Florida SWAT Killing, Bolivia Top Narc Busted, More (3/6/15)

Decrim is moving in New Hampshire, Georgia families rally for medical marijuana, Louisianans will rally for Bernard Noble (13 years for two joints), roommates of a Florida man killed in a SWAT pot raid cry "murder," and more. 

Roommates of unarmed Florida man shot in a SWAT pot raid call it "murder." (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Northern California Counties Seek Unified Position on Pot Policy. As the state legislature again grapples with regulating medical marijuana, and with an almost certain legalization initiative in 2016 looming on the horizon, policymakers from Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Sonoma, and Trinity counties gathered in Santa Rosa (Sonoma County) Thursday to begin trying to reach a unified position on possible reforms. Click on the link for more detail.

New Hampshire Decriminalization Bill Moves. The legislature's Committee on Criminal Justice voted overwhelmingly yesterday to approve a bill that would decriminalize the possession of a half-ounce of pot or less. The measure is House Bill 0618. Although recent polling shows 71% of Granite Staters want either decriminalization or full legalization, the bill still faces opposition as it heads for House and Senate floor votes.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Families Swarm State Capitol in Support of Strong Medical Marijuana Bill. Dozens of Georgia families streamed into the state capitol in Atlanta yesterday to crank up the pressure on the Senate to pass a medical marijuana bill. House Bill 1has already passed the House, but the Senate is now considering an alternate bill, Senate Bill 185, which would only set up a limited trial program for children with epilepsy. The families want House Bill 1.

Sentencing

Rally Saturday in New Orleans for Bernard Noble, Doing 13 Years for Two Joints. Supporters of Bernard Noble, who is serving 13 years without parole in state prison, are holding a rally in New Orleans Saturday to call for clemency for the non-violent offender and family man. Click on the link for event details and more information.

Law Enforcement

Roommates of Unarmed Florida Man Killed By SWAT Team in Pot Raid Call it Murder. Roommates of Derek Cruice, the 26-year-old Deltona man shot in the face and killed by a Volusia County deputy during a drug raid, described his killing as "murder" and strongly challenged the police version of events. See them describe what happened here. Supporters of Cruice held a rally this morning to decry his killing. A memorial event for Cruice is set for tomorrow morning at a local park. Click the title link for event details.  

International

Bolivia's Former Top Narc Arrested for Drug Links. General Oscar Nina, head of the national police in 2010 and 2011, has been arrested by Bolivian authorities on suspicion of illegal enrichment and links to drug trafficking. His wife, daughter, and son were also arrested on similar charges. Another former Bolivian top narc, General Rene Sanabria, is doing a 15-year sentence in the US for drug trafficking. President Evo Morales has vowed to wipe out "the cancer of corruption," but it seems to be a perpetual problem. 

Florida SWAT Cop Guns Down Unarmed Man in Marijuana Raid

A Volusia County sheriff's deputy on a dawn SWAT team pot raid shot and killed an unarmed resident of the home Tuesday. Derek Cruice, 26, becomes the 10th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Cruice was unarmed and no weapons were found in the house. Police did find about nine ounces of marijuana, as well as a scale, a drug ledger, marijuana smoking pipes, plastic bags and about $3,000 in cash.

Sheriff Ben Johnson said that Deputy Todd Raible, a member of the Sheriff's Office SWAT Team, shot Cruice in the face as the SWAT team came through the door of the residence at 6:30am.

"They (deputies) were met with resistance and a shooting occurred," Johnson said without offering further detail. He said he could not elaborate because his office had not yet interviewed Deputy Raible.

But sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson added that Raible fired his weapon after perceiving Cruice's actions as a threat.

Cruice was pronounced dead at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial in Orange City.

"The deputy, he's all right, actually he is very shaken," Johnson offered.

Sheriff Johnson said Cruice was listed in the search warrant as the subject of an ongoing "narcotics" investigation. He was one of six adults -- four men and two women -- in the house when deputies arrived.

Matt Grady, 24, was another one of them. He said he was awakened by banging on the door and opened it.

"A bunch of guys came around the corner and they are pushing me down," Grady said. "And as I was going down on my knee I heard gunfire," he told The News-Journal.

Steven Cochran, 24, was another resident. He said Cruice was not resisting anything.

"He had no weapons on him or in the house," Cochran said. "Nobody was making any kind of resistance or keeping them from doing their job." Cruice had been working as a delivery driver at Monster Pizza in Deltona. His coworker, Thomas Figueroa, who had known him for nine years, stopped by the scene and broke down crying behind the yellow crime scene tape.

"He is not the kind of person that would do that (attack a deputy)," he said, adding that the pizza shop had closed for the day to mark Cruice's death.

Deputy Raible, 36, is now on administrative leave, as is standard for deputy-involved shootings. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the death because a police officer was involved.

Deltona, FL
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

This week, the focus is on bad departments. We have two cases where cities and the departments that police them are running into trouble. Let's get to it:

In Detroit, the US Attorney's Office is now investigating the police department's drug unit. Police Chief James Craig said that part of an FBI investigation into the disbanded unit was now under review by federal prosecutors. An related investigation into theft by narcotics officers is being reviewed by the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. The unit has since been reconstituted and restructured. "There had been some cultural norms that probably could facilitate or breed criminal misconduct," Craig said. "This is not suggesting that everybody in narcotics was involved because they were not. There were some practices that were allowed that had been historic, that really didn't amount to criminal misconduct, but just poor management practices."

In Schaumberg, Illinois, a 16th lawsuit has been filed against the city and former members of the police department's dope squad. The lawsuit names two former and one current officer who have been linked to a scheme to rip off drug dealers during arrests and sell their goods. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that the officers falsely arrested him and charged him with drug offenses. Facing a lengthy prison sentence, he copped a plea to 11 years in prison, but that conviction was vacated when the Schaumberg officers were charged in connection with the drug scheme. The city has already settled seven of the wrongful arrest lawsuits for an average of $19,000 each. The police officers are now in prison.

Chronicle AM: Nationwide Majority for Pot Legalization, WV Welfare Drug Test Bill Dies, More (3/4/14)

The General Social Survey for the first time has a majority for marijuana legalization, DC cops start returning arrestees' marijuana, a Utah medical marijuana bill is still alive, Canada's Tories ponder decriminalization, Britain's Lib Dems talk drug policy reform, and more.

The "gold standard" of public opinion polls has a majority for marijuana legalization nationwide. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

"Gold Standard" of Polls Finds Majority Support for Legalization Nationwide. For the first time, the General Social Survey, considered to be the gold standard for public opinion polls, has a majority of Americans favoring legalization. The survey, conducted between March and October of last year, has 52% saying pot should be legalized, with 42% opposed, and 7% undecided. Support for legalization is up nine points over the last General Social Survey, conducted two years ago. As recently as 1996, only 32% supported legalization.

DC Police Return Arrestee's Marijuana. This is what happens when pot is legal. A man who had been arrested and released at the 6th District police station in Northeast DC demanded that police return his marijuana. "You have my marijuana, you have my weed," witnesses reported the man saying. The cops gave it back. "This property was less than two ounces of marijuana, and was returned to the arrestee with the other property held at the time of his arrest," explained Gwendolyn Crump, the DC police department's chief spokeswoman.

Georgia Legalization Bill Filed. State Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Tucker) has filed a bill that would legalize marijuana and allow retailers to sell up to two ounces at a time to people 21 and over. The bill is not yet available on the legislative website.

Responsible Ohio Files Revised Legalization Proposal. The group, which wants to create 10 designated commercial grows in the state for its financial backers, handed in 3,164 signatures along with its revised constitutional amendment initiative language. State Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) had earlier rejected the group's initial ballot summary language. If the new language is approved, Responsible Ohio must gather 305,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Kettle Falls Four Win Acquittal on Most Counts. A federal jury in Spokane acquitted the medical marijuana-growing family of four out of five counts, including the most serious ones, but found them guilty of growing between 50 and 100 plants. Federal prosecutors brought the case despite marijuana being legal in Washington state and despite federal guidance that suggests they shouldn't have. They continued the prosecution after Congress passed language barring the Dept. of Justice from spending funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. After the verdicts were read, prosecutors sought to jail the four pending sentencing, much to the disbelief of the courtroom crowd, but the judge didn't go for that.

Utah Medical Marijuana Bill Moves. A bill that appeared delayed only a day earlier was approved for a third Senate reading Tuesday night. Senate Bill 259 would allow people with qualifying illnesses to use marijuana in edible or liquid form and would establish dispensaries to distribute it. If the Senate approves it one more time, it then goes to the House.

Drug Testing

West Virginia Welfare Drug Testing Bill Killed. Sponsor of the bill, Del. Patrick Lane (R) conceded today that the bill was dead for the session after the House voted yesterday to table it. The bill would have mandated drug testing based on reasonable suspicion.

Law Enforcement

Detroit Cops Launch 17th Mass Drug Raid. Police Chief James Craig's Operation Restore Order resulted in the city's 17th mass drug raid yesterday. Nearly 180 officers were involved, but at the flagship bust of the day, a "drug house," police found no one, only a small amount of drugs, but managed to shoot and kill a pit bull. Craig said the raids have resulted in 1,172 arrests, the vast majority on drug charges, and the seizure of $4.5 million worth of drugs. He didn't say whether they had had any demonstrable impact on drug availability in the city.

International

Canada Tories Ponder Decriminalization Bill. The Conservatives are considering whether to introduce a bill to let police issue tickets to people caught with small amounts of marijuana. The decision on whether to move forward in the current parliament, which only lasts another 12 weeks, is in the hands of Justice Minister Peter McKay. Even if no bill is filed this session, Tories could use the notion as a means of countering the Liberals in forthcoming elections. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has called for outright legalization.

British Lib Dems Promise Drug Policy Reforms. Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg said today his party would hand control over drug policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health, review marijuana legalization in the US, and consider decriminalization. The party, which is an uneasy junior partner with the Conservatives, says their proposals are "the most far-reaching drug reform policies ever put forward by a major political party ahead of an election."

Mexico Nabs Zetas Cartel Leader Omar Trevino Morales. The Zetas leader is only the latest of an ever-growing list of top drug gang leaders captured or killed by Mexican authorities. Trevino Morales, known as "Z-42," was arrested in a predawn raid in Monterrey. He is the brother of Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, who was arrested in 2013. The Zetas' other original leader, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed by Mexican marines in 2012.

Mexico Cartel Violence Spiking in Tamaulipas. The northeastern state, which borders Texas's Rio Grande Valley region is seeing road blockades, assaults on media, and deadly shootouts. At least 12 people were killed in Reynosa and Matamoros shoot-outs last month, and two more were killed in Nuevo Progreso last Saturday. The violence is being blamed on rival factions of the Gulf Cartel.

Maraschino Cherry Mogul Kills Self As Cops Discover Huge Marijuana Grow

The owner of a historic maraschino cherry company in Brooklyn, New York, committed suicide at his plant Thursday morning moments after officers discovered a massive marijuana grow-up behind a false wall in the factory basement. Arthur Mondella, 48, becomes the 9th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Dell's Maraschino Cherries factory in Red Hook has been around since 1948 and was founded by Mondella's grandfather. It is a major player in the industry, supplying cocktail cherries to clients including TGIF Fridays, Chick Filet, and Caesars. The plant has the capacity to process 400,000 pounds of cherries a week.

It also had the capacity to crank out large quantities of indoor marijuana. Once investigators discovered a hidden room behind a flimsy wall in a basement storage room, they uncovered a grow-op that could hold 1,200 plants.

According to the New York Post, police had received a tip that the factory was a front for a marijuana grow, but, unable to develop evidence to obtain a search warrant, they resorted to sending in the Department of Environmental Protection to do a "routine Inspection" -- and see if they could find any signs of pot operation.

When investigators unearthed a basement full of luxury cars, suspicions were aroused, and they then found some "suspicious shelving," which turned out to be a fake wall held fast by magnets. They opened the door and the rich, rank odor of marijuana burst from it.

That's when Mondella, who had been cooperating in the hours-long "inspection," ran into a nearby bathroom, locked the door, told his sister "Take care of my kids," and shot himself in the head.

Cops said they thought they had just missed a harvest in the operation that used 125 grow lights in a 2,500-foot hidden space divided into several rooms. They found 100 pounds of pot, $125,000 in cash, and 60 different varieties of marijuana seeds.

Brooklyn
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Georgia head narc gets popped for drunk driving, a Detroit cop is in trouble for ripping off "Scarface" memorabilia during a drug raid, a San Francisco sergeant heads to prison for ripping off drug dealers, and a couple of California prison guards go down. Let's get to it:

In Detroit, a Detroit Police Special Operations officer was arrested last Friday on charges he stole a shadow box with a photograph of Al Pacino and memorabilia from the movie "Scarface" during a drug raid. The unnamed officer was part of a Special Operations team assigned to provide security for a team that raided the residence. He has been suspended.

In Thomasville, Georgia, the Thomas County narcotics division director was arrested Sunday night for drunk driving. Commander Kevin Lee, a 20-year law enforcement veteran, is charged with DUI and failure to maintain lanes. He has been suspended without pay while the sheriff figures out what to do.

In San Francisco, a former San Francisco police sergeant was sentenced Monday to 41 months in federal prison for his part in a scheme to rip-off property and thousands of dollars from suspected drug dealers. Ian Furminger had been convicted of four charges in the case, which involved a conspiracy with other officers to steal the items.

In Fresno, California, a former state prison guard was sentenced Tuesday to 2 ½ years in prison for smuggling cash, alcohol, cell phones, and drugs into the Taft Correctional Institution. Ramon Cano, 28, was paid for his smuggling efforts, authorities said.

In Lancaster, California, a former state prison guard was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison on charges he smuggled drugs and other contraband in to prisoners. Andre Pierre Scott had pleaded no contest to the charges. Authorities say he was a member of a Pasadena street gang and smuggled heroin, marijuana, cell phones, and other contraband. He had worked for the corrections department for a decade.

Alabama Man Killed in Pre-Dawn SWAT Drug Raid

A Birmingham, Alabama, man was shot and killed by a member of the Homewood, Alabama, tactical squad (SWAT team) as the team executed a pre-dawn search warrant on his residence Friday morning. The as yet unidentified man becomes the 8th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to The Birmingham News, citing police sources, although the apartment building raided is in Birmingham, it was the Homewood SWAT team that carried out the raid. It is not clear why.

A police spokesman said the shooting happened at 6:15 a.m. Officers entered the apartment and a man immediately fired at them with a handgun. Officers returned fire, hitting him. He was pronounced dead at UAB Hospital at 6:54 a.m.

Police did not say whether they had knocked on the door or announced their presence or whether it was a "no knock" raid with immediate forced entry.

A second man in the apartment was detained. There was no mention of any drugs being found.

A commenter responding to harsh remarks on the newspaper's web site claimed to be a child of the man killed by police and also claimed that his father did not shoot at them, but that his brother (presumably the second man in the apartment) did. Here is the entire comment from "Luh Brian":

"My Daddy Is Not In Hell I Know He Is With The Lord Because Even Though He Dealt Drugs He Was Kindhearted He May Not Have Been The Best Father In The World But He Was Made Sure all of his children where always taken care of.... So You Should Not Talk About Him In That Manner. It's Already Hard To Deal With His Death But On Top Of That All You People Act As Though He Was Some Type Of God Damn Super Villain , Saying Such Hurtful Things.....It Just Breaks My Heart To See Y'all Say Such Awful Things About Daddy A Man Which NoNE of you knew . This Story Is Not Accurate My Father Did Not Shoot At Police Although My Older Brother Did.....But That's Something He Taught Us Long Ago 'Protect This House,' And That's All They Did . But I Will File A Lawsuit On Homewood P.D Best Believe That.

"R.I.P Daddy

"6/9/76- 2/20/15"

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Arizona narc gets caught sleeping with the enemy, a Hawaii prison guard goes away for smuggling contraband to gang members, and an Illinois police dispatcher is in trouble for snatching pain pills. Just another week in the drug war. Let's get to it:

In White Hall, Illinois, a White Hall police dispatcher pleaded guilty last Wednesday to stealing prescription opiates from the White Hall Police Department evidence room. Amanda Morrow, 29, had been arrested in June along with another dispatcher and a Roodhouse police officer, who was charged with distributing a controlled substance. She was sentenced to two years' probation and a $1350 fine.

In Phoenix, a former Tempe undercover narcotics officer was sentenced last Wednesday to probation after being caught having sex with a man who was the target of an undercover drug investigation and telling him he was being investigated. Jessica Dever-Jakusz was sentenced to 18 months' probation. Dever-Jakusz was working undercover with other Tempe narcotics detectives targeting downtown restaurants and bars. Police said her revelations to the suspect scuttled a five-month investigation.

In Honolulu, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Friday to nearly nine years in federal prison for delivering drugs to gang members inside the prison. Feso Malufau, 55, was found guilty of racketeering and conspiring to obtain and distribute meth into the Halawa Correctional Facility. Prosecutors said Malufau was paid thousands of dollars to smuggle meth, cigarettes, and other contraband to USO gang members.

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