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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Philly's dirty narcs escape criminal convictions, a Georgia cop is in trouble for stealing dope from the evidence room, and a San Francisco cop heads to prison for ripping off drug dealers and supplying dope to snitches. Let's get to it:

On May 14, six former Philadelphia narcotics officers were found not guilty in a major federal police drug corruption case. Although prosecutors could not win convictions, the case has prompted scores of convictions to be overturned and prosecutions dropped amid allegations that the dope squad beat suspects, perjured themselves to win convictions, and stole more than $400,000 in drug money. The jury deliberated for more than a week before returning with "not guilty" verdicts. The former cops cleared are squad leader Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, Michael Spicer, Linwood Norman and John Speiser.

In Darien, Georgia, a former Darien police officer was indicted Tuesday on charges he stole drugs from the evidence room. Nicholaus Odell Roundtree is charged with single counts of theft by conversion and violating his oath of office. He is accused of stealing more than $1,500 worth of drugs for his own use. He is now out on bail.

In San Francisco, a former San Francisco police officer was sentenced Tuesday to a year in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy to steal money and property from alleged drug dealers and provide illegal drugs to informants. Reynaldo Vargas, 46, admitted that he and two other SFPD officers repeatedly stole money and property during arrests and searches and that the officers kept the items for themselves and gave drugs to informants. Vargas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, distribution of marijuana, conspiracy to commit theft concerning a federal funded program, and theft concerning a federally funded program. His two partners have already gone to prison.

Three Marijuana Reform Bills Filed in Louisiana

(Welcome back to our one-time intern Jimi Devine, who has graciously volunteered his time to support our blog.)

Louisiana State Capitol
The smell of marijuana reform is strong in the bayou air, Louisiana is now home to a big push for both medical marijuana and major sentencing reforms around marijuana convictions.

Today the Louisiana legislature' House Health and Welfare Committee will hear a medical marijuana bill brought forward by Republican State Senator Fred Mills, a man who formerly served as head of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy. Mills spent the last year working with law enforcement to make it past a committee and organizations that had held it back in the past.

According to Northeast Louisiana media outlet The News Star, major revisions have been made with support from the Louisiana Sheriffs Association, they include:

  • Prescribed marijuana would be taken in a form other than smoking it, perhaps in a pill.
  • The state Agriculture Department would be in charge of growing marijuana to be used for medical purposes.
  • Dispensing pharmacies -- ten, at this point -- would be required to meet certain conditions.
  • The bill would "sunset," or be reviewed on Jan. 1, 2020, giving lawmakers pause to determine if the changes to state law were beneficial. If the bill proves ineffective, the law could be corrected or ended.
  • The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy would adopt rules about dispensing medical marijuana.

This session the bill made it through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that halted its progress in 2014, and then passed the full senate with two thirds in support. On when he takes it before the house Mills noted, "I'm hoping for a repeat performance from the Senate."

While the bill is very restrictive, but it would reinforce national trends on the medical use of marijuana in Louisiana. Hopefully leading to a more inclusive law in the future.

The sentencing reform bills look to reduce the penalties associated with a marijuana conviction in the state. Currently a third marijuana possession conviction could lead to a baffling 20 year sentence.

According to NOLA.com, the bill authored by New Orleans State Senator J.P. Morrell,

"reduces the maximum penalty for possession from 20 years in prison to eight, raises the threshold for a felony-level possession charge and adds a second-chance provision for first-time offenders."

Penalties would still be much more severe than their counterparts in other states, but first time offenders would have one opportunity to expunge their record after two years without a conviction. The bill would also reclassify a second offense from a felony to misdemeanor for quantities between fourteen grams and two and a half pounds.

The bill is projected to save Louisiana $17 million over the first five years. This would cover the $900,000 a year in wasteful spending on corrections highlighted by the Office of State Inspector General with $13 million to spare.

NOLA.com columnist Jarvis DaBerry noted,

"Such a bill does two important things. First, it establishes that a person with a small amount of weed isn't a real threat to the public. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the bill would keep such a conviction from haunting a person forever."

The second bill authored by Rep. Austin Badon would push major reforms, but is not as big a shift as the one presented by Morrell. Badon' bill would see those committing a third offense jailed five years, as opposed to the two year sentence in Morell' bill. It also does not include the possibility of conviction being expunged for first time offenders.

UPDATE: On Thursday Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said he would sign the bills if passed by the house and senate. In regards to the sentencing bill he told the Shreveport Times

"We've said all along we're fine with the idea of providing rehabilitation and treatment for nonviolent drug offenders. I think this bill does that. That's good for those offenders, that is good for taxpayers. So again, that's another one of those bills that if it got to our desk we'd sign that."

While Louisiana debates the direction of their sentencing procedures, I'll leave you with another quote from Jarvis DeBerry on the subject:

"Here's a prediction: Sooner or later, we're going to look back at what Louisiana has doing to folks caught with marijuana, and we're going to be just as shocked those sentences had our officials' blessing."


Two Mississippi Cops Killed in Traffic Stop Turned Drug Search

The two Hattiesburg, Mississippi, police officers killed last Saturday died after a traffic stop turned into an attempted search for drugs and other contraband. Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate become the 23rd and 24th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Associated Press, Officer Deen, the department's drug dog handler, stopped a car driven by Joanie Calloway for speeding. Also in Calloway's vehicle were her boyfriend, Marvin Banks, and another passenger, Cornelius Clark.

Officer Deen decided to search the vehicle and called for backup. This is the point the incident turned from a "routine traffic stop" to a drug war incident. (At a Monday eulogy for Deen, his comrades described him as an enthusiastic officer who made "many drug arrests with his dog, Tomi, at his side.")

When Officer Tate arrived, Deen told the trio to get out of the car. At that point, Banks produced a weapon and shot both officers, Deen in the face and Tate in the lower back.

Both officers were wearing bulletproof vests, but the vests did not protect them from either the head shot or the shot to the back. Both died shortly thereafter.

According to USA Today, Banks has a drug-related criminal history, an ongoing drug habit, and mental issues. He was arrested for both the sale of crack cocaine and possession of a stolen firearm in a three-month period in 2010, and possession of marijuana in 2011. In 2013, he was arrested again on crack cocaine sales charges, and last October, he was arrested for trespass at the University of Southern Mississippi. He had already done two stints on prison, and the drug charge was still pending when he was pulled over.

Banks's mother, Mary Smith, told USA Today that he smoked synthetic marijuana on a daily basis and that he had been hearing voices since being attacked and struck over the head with a pipe several years ago.

"You could tell something was wrong with him," she said. "I hate it for these families that he wasn't in his right mind."

Now, Banks is charged with capital murder, Calloway is charged with being an accessory after the fact, and Clark is charged with obstructing justice. Deen will be buried Thursday and Tate's funeral is set for Sunday.

Hattiesburg, MS
United States

Colombia Suspends Use of Aerial Herbicide to Kill Coca Crops [FEATURE]

[This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and originally appeared here.]

No more of this. (wikipedia.org)
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced today that he is halting the use of the herbicide glyphosate as part of a US-backed effort to destroy coca crops. More than four million acres of land in the country have been sprayed with the Monsanto-manufactured weed killer.

The US has paid for the program as part of its multi-billion dollar, decades-long anti-drug campaign in the country that had been (and might be again) the world's largest coca and cocaine producer. US contractors paid by the State Department do some of the spraying.

Santos acted a little more than a month after the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the herbicide is probably carcinogenic and days after the Colombian Health Ministry, citing the WHO report, recommended that the program be halted.

Critics of the spraying program had complained for years that the herbicide not only killed coca crops, but also injured people, livestock, and other plant life exposed to it. Those claims got some backing last year when Daniel Mejia, chairman of an expert panel advising the Colombian government on its drug strategy, published research showing high rates of skin problems and miscarriages in areas sprayed with glyphosate.

The move comes in the midst of peace talks between the Santos government and the rebels of the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces), who have been in rebellion against the government in Bogota for more than 50 years. The two sides had already agreed that aerial eradication should be used only as a last resort.

It was the strength of the rebels around the turn of the century that was a principal reason for the resort to aerial spraying. Their presence in coca-growing areas, where guerrilla fighters protected the crops, made manual eradication risky. At least 62 manual eradicators -- 48 of them soldiers -- have been killed since 2009 and nearly 400 injured, most of them the victims of guerrilla groups.

Colombian coca cultivation had declined for the previous six years, but jumped 39% last year, according to a US government report that came out last week. The conveniently timed report, which blamed the increase on new cultivation outside areas where aerial eradication was allowed, failed, however, to stop the Colombian government from suspending the program.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A ring of crooked North Carolina deputies gets popped, so do some Connecticut cops involved in a steroids rings, and so do more jail and prison guards. And more. So it goes. Let's get to it:

In Raleigh, North Carolina, seven former or current Northampton County deputies and three state prison guards were arrested last Thursday on drugs and weapons charges as part of a federal bust that also wrapped up five other people. The group is accused of conspiring to ship large consignments of heroin and cocaine to South Carolina and Maryland. They went down after Halifax County deputies passed on a tip they received about the ring, and the feds then created a sting they called "Operation Rockfish" to ensnare the crooked cops. Click on the link to read the names of those arrested.

In Dallas, a former Grapevine K-9 officer was indicted last Thursday on charges he stole and consumed drugs that were to be used to train his drug dog. Danny Macchio, 49, reported last October that his patrol car had been burglarized and that a gun and training drugs inside the vehicle were missing, but he later confessed to taking and using the drugs. He is now charged with tampering with physical evidence, abuse of official capacity, and misuse of government property.

In New Boston, Texas, three Bowie County jail guards were arrested last Thursday on charges they smuggled drugs, frozen coffee, and even milkshakes to prisoners in the jail. Keyandre Thirdgill, Billy Whitley, and Matthew Newman are all charged with introducing prohibited substances in a correctional facility.

In Huntsville, Alabama, a Madison County jail guard was arrested last Saturday on charges she was sneaking marijuana and other contraband to an inmate. Guard Jacquenette Allen went down after being seen on surveillance video delivering packages of marijuana for sale and cigarettes to an inmate "with whom she was in a relationship." She is charged with second-degree promoting prison contraband and suspended from her job without pay, pending an administrative hearing. She was being held in the jail where she worked on $10,000 bond.

In Newtown, Connecticut, a Newtown Police sergeant and a dispatcher were arrested Monday in "Operation Juice Box," a federal bust of a steroid and oxycodone distribution ring. Sgt. Steven Santucci, 38, and police dispatcher Jason Chikos, 46, were both charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids. They were among eight people arrested in the bust, and are described as buying large quantities of steroids from one of the other arrestees and them reselling them in smaller quantities.

In Wilmington, Delaware, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Thursday to 4 ½ years in state prison for smuggling drugs behind the bars. Darryl West, 28, was caught smuggling cell phones and marijuana into the prison. He was convicted of drug dealing, conspiracy, and promoting prison contraband in December.

Chronicle AM: Mexico Drug War Flares Up, Colombia Coca Crops Up, Global Call to UN, More (5/5/15)

Mexico drug war flares, Colombia coca production jumps, a Texas decrim bill is moving, so is a Hawaii dispensary bill and a Louisiana medical marijuana bill. And more.

Coca production is up in Colombia. It could end up as cocaine, like this haul seized by Spanish police.
Marijuana Policy

Texas Decriminalization Bill Wins Committee Vote. After failing in a close vote last week, a bill to decriminalize marijuana advanced Monday night. House Bill 507, sponsored by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) passed the House Jurisprudence Committee on a 4-2 vote. It would make possession of up to an ounce a civil infraction with a maximum $250 fine.

Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Dispensary Bill Wins Final Committee Vote. A bill to finally bring dispensaries to the Aloha State has passed its final committee vote and now heads for a final legislative vote. House Bill 321 would allow for eight dispensaries statewide, with each allowed two retail locations and two grow sites.

Illinois Advisory Board Expands List of Qualifying Illnesses. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board Monday recommended adding PTSD and seven other illnesses and conditions to the list of those for which medical marijuana can be used. The decision isn't final; the Department of Public Health must approve.

Louisiana Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill. The Senate Monday approved Senate Bill 143, which would allow people suffering from cancer, glaucoma, and cerebral palsy to use the herb. It would create a single grow site and medical marijuana would be distributed through 10 pharmacies. The bill now heads to the House.

Missouri CBD Cannabis Oil Expansion Bill Wins Committee Vote. The bill, SB 386, passed unanimously out of the House Emerging Issues Committee Monday. It now goes to the Select Committee on General Laws.

Tennessee Governor Signs CBD Cannabis Oil Bill. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) Monday signed into law House Bill 1097, which will expand access to CBD cannabis oil.


Missouri Hemp Bill Wins Committee Vote. The bill, HB 830, which would legalize hemp production in the state, passed the Senate Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources Committee on a 6-1 vote. It now heads to the Senate floor.

Drug Policy

Carly Fiorina: "Drug Addiction Shouldn't Be Criminalized." Newly-announced GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina said Monday that the country needs to find a new way to deal with drug addiction. "Drug addiction shouldn't be criminalized," Fiorina said during a conference call with reporters on Monday. "We need to treat it appropriately." She added that "decriminalizing drug addiction and drug use" is good public policy.

Law Enforcement

Gloucester, Massachusetts, Police To Stop Arresting Addicts If They Seek Help. Police in Gloucester say that if drug users come to them and turn in their drugs and/or paraphernalia, they will not be charged with criminal offenses, but will instead be offered treatment in partnership with two local medical centers. "We are poised to make revolutionary changes in the way we treat this disease," Chief Leonard Campanello said. The new policy goes into effect in June.


Reform Groups Release Letter Calling on UN to Respect Drug Policy Reforms. More than a hundred human rights, public health and drug and justice reform groups have released an open letter calling on the UN to respect countries' moves to end drug prohibition and to emphasize human rights over harsh law enforcement responses. The move is part of the run-up to the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs next year. And check out that website where the letter is. [Disclosure: We organized the letter.]

Coca Production Up Dramatically in Colombia. Coca production jumped 39% last year, according to a new White House report. The report comes as pressure mounts on Colombia to end its US-backed program of aerial herbicide spraying on coca crops after the WHO called glyphosate a carcinogen. The reported increase came after six years of declining or steady production.

Mexican Government Declares War on Jalisco New Generation Cartel. In the wake of a violent week that saw presumed cartel gunmen shoot down a military helicopter, killing six soldiers, along with shootouts, blockades, and vehicle-burnings, the Mexican government says it is going to war against the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which it blames for the violence. "The full force of the Mexican state will be felt in the state of Jalisco," an official vowed Monday. "Satisfactory results will start to be seen very soon."

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

California Game Warden Kills Armed Marijuana Grower

A California game warden shot and killed a suspected marijuana grower during a raid early this morning at a federal wildlife refuge near Elk Grove. The as-yet-unidentified man becomes the 22nd person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Sacramento Bee, citing law enforcement sources, a team composed of agents from the state Department of Justice Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation team, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife game warden hit a suspected marijuana grow just after sunrise.

Raiders approached the patch from several different angles, and one of the teams confronted the grower, who police said was armed.

"The man was armed and pointed his weapon at the officers," said state Department of Justice spokeswoman Michelle Gregory. "He was told to lower that weapon but did not comply."

"There was a mortal threat to one of the officers by the armed suspect," said Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

There's no word on whether any of the law enforcement personnel were wearing body cameras that could verify their accounts. There were apparently no other witnesses.

United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More jail guards get greedy, an Oklahoma deputy self-medicates with meth from the evidence room, and a San Jose cop gets popped with a storage locker of pot. Let's get to it.

In Texarkana, Texas, a Bowie county jail guard was arrested last Wednesday after getting caught trying to smuggle marijuana into the jail inside a bag of Cheetos Puffs. The unnamed 19-year-old guard went for a break and was searched upon returning to the jail. He has been charged with possession of prohibited substances inside a correctional facility.

In Wilburton, Oklahoma, a former Latimer County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Wednesday for stealing drugs from the evidence room. Bobby Joe Eubanks went down after the sheriff asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to look into missing drug evidence. Eubanks had been in charge of the evidence room before he was fired earlier this year, and the sheriff said he had found drugs in Eubanks' official vehicle while cleaning it. Eubanks admitted to twice stealing meth evidence and said he used it to cope with PTSD from his service in Afghanistan.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, a Pulaski County jail deputy was arrested last Thursday after jailers intercepted a call saying contraband would be left in his vehicle in the jail parking lot, then caught him trying to bring it into the jail. Deputy Kyle Guyer, 24, got caught with one package in hand containing money, candy, and tobacco. A second package containing meth and marijuana was recovered from his car. He is charged with using a communication device to facilitate crimes, criminal attempt to furnish prohibited articles that include marijuana and methamphetamines, furnishing prohibited articles, and unauthorized use of another's property.

In San Jose, California, a San Jose police officer was arrested last Friday on felony marijuana charges nearly a year after fellow officers found more than a dozen pounds of weed in a storage locker rented in his name. Son Vu, 44, is now charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and "maintaining an illegal stash location."

In West Chester, Pennsylvania, a Chester County Prison guard was arrested Tuesday on charges he smuggled drugs to inmates. Guard Douglas Keck, 45, now faces three to six years in prison on introducing contraband charges. Oh, he has been fired, too.

Oregon Drug Fugitive Killed After SWAT Standoff

A Eugene man wanted for failure to appear on drug charges was shot and killed by Salem Police SWAT officers last Friday after repeatedly refusing to surrender. Mark Cecil Hawkins, 49, becomes the 21st person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the Salem Statesman-Journal, citing law enforcement sources, Salem police officers approached Hawkins, whom they correctly believed had an outstanding warrant, in the parking lot of a Walmart store, where his bus turned recreational vehicle was parked. Hawkins fled into the bus and refused commands to come out.

When more officers and a police dog arrived, Hawkins came out of the vehicle, and he and the officers exchanged fire. No one was hit, but the police dog was slightly wounded. Hawkins then retreated back into the bus.

At this point, the Salem SWAT team was called in and spent several hours attempting to negotiate a surrender with Hawkins. During this time, Hawkins again opened fire.

More than six hours into the negotiations, SWAT officers used armored vehicles equipped with battering rams to rip open the walls of the vehicle. That exposed Hawkins, who was holding a handgun and who refused to comply with demands he surrender.

Officers then opened fire on Hawkins, striking him nine times. He fell out of the bus and was transferred to Salem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Hawkins had originally been charged with meth distribution in Lane County and had been sought on a failure to appear warrant since he didn't show up in court last December.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Cops, cocaine, and corruption, from Florida to Texas to California to Michigan. And some crooked jail guards, too. Let's get to it:

In Punta Gorda, Florida, a Charlotte County sheriff's deputy was fired last Friday after an internal affairs investigation revealed he bought drugs and traded them for sexual favors. Deputy Elio Santana would buy cocaine while in uniform and driving his squad car, and the investigation found at least some of it was used to pay for sex.

In Pendleton, Indiana, a local jail guard was arrested last Wednesday on charges he smuggled marijuana into the Pendleton Correctional Center. Laura Whitinger, who has been on the job less than a year, faces charges of trafficking with an inmate, possession of marijuana and dealing a controlled substance.

In Yuba City, California, a Yuba City police officer was arrested last Wednesday on federal charges he was involved in cocaine trafficking. Officer Harminder Phagura, 35, and his brother, Gursharan, 39, were both arrested in an investigation that targeted the brother, but that also implicated Harminder, who is accused of passing on sensitive law enforcement information to his brother. They are both charged with conspiring to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute and use of a communications facility in drug trafficking activity.

In Detroit, three Detroit narcs were indicted last Wednesday for allegedly setting up drug deals while in uniform and making fake traffic stops to rip off suspected drug dealers. Lt. David "Hater" Hansberry and Officer Bryan Watson face charges of possession with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, while Officer Arthur Levells faces one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

In Rio Grande City, Texas, a Rio Grande City narc was arrested last Saturday on charges he was involved in a cocaine deal. Noel Pena, a narcotics investigator and member of the Starr County HIDTA Task Force, is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 10 pounds of cocaine. He was busted by the Homeland Investigations division of US Customs and Immigration Enforcement.

In Dover, Delaware, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Friday to 4 ½ years in state prison for plotting to smuggle marijuana and cellphones into the Vaughan Correctional Center. Darryl West, Jr. had earlier pleaded guilty to manufacturing, delivering or possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance with an aggravating factor, promoting prison contraband and second-degree conspiracy. He went down after authorities found a quarter pound of pot, $700, and two new cellphones in his vehicle in the prison parking lot.

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