Austin Police Infiltrate Occupy Austin, Help Transform Misdemeanors Into Felonies

The Austin American-Statesman reports that city police infiltrated Occupy Austin last year, where they camped, marched, strategized, and

may have crossed a fine line in undercover police work: They helped plan and manufacture devices - often called "lockboxes" - that allowed Occupy members to tie themselves together during a protest in Houston, according to interviews and court records. The use of the devices, which makes it harder for police to break up human chains, resulted in Houston police filing felony charges against seven protesters who had attempted to block a port entrance in Houston on Dec. 12....

It's not clear who first proposed making the lockboxes. But during the hearing, attorneys and Austin Police Detective Shannon Dowell - who wore a long black beard and was known to Occupy members as "Butch" - disclosed that Dowell had purchased PVC pipe and other materials with Occupy Austin money and delivered the finished lockboxes to group members.

According to the newspaper, the felony charge relies on "an obscure statute that prohibits using a device that is manufactured or adapted for the purpose of participating in a crime." In other words, an undercover cop manufactured (and possibly proposed) the instruments that allowed prosecutors to charge protestors with a felony rather than merely a misdemeanor.

Another high point from the story:

During a hearing Monday, [the judge] expressed frustration at Dowell, who failed to bring records to court that [the defense attorney] had subpoenaed. Dowell said he lost a small computer drive containing photos when it apparently fell out of his pocket and into the gutter of a Houston hotel where he had stayed. He added that while he had sent and received emails related to the undercover operation from his work computer, they had been deleted.

Higher-ups at the Austin PD approved the infiltration effort but claim they weren't aware of the lockbox plan.

[Hat tip: Paul Krassner.]

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  • sarcasmic||

    Dowell said he lost a small computer drive containing photos when it apparently fell out of his pocket and into the gutter of a Houston hotel where he had stayed. He added that while he had sent and received emails related to the undercover operation from his work computer, they had been deleted.

    The smell of bullshit is overpowering.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I certainly hope his pocket and the gutter both signed for that evidence.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    I just hope it was properly bagged. Actually I don't care, since I won't have to touch it.

  • Doctor Whom||

    We get endless lectures on document retention in case of e-discovery, but, of course, the mandarinate considers itself exempt.

  • Brett L||

    So he's a felon, right? I mean, he lacks exculpatory evidence as to why he manufactured them, but he definitely manufactured them.

  • sarcasmic||

    Laws do not apply to those who enforce them.

  • Christina||

    Silly me, I thought that when you lose something you don't know where it is. How does he know exactly where he lost it unless he left it there on purpose?

  • GILMORE||

    Occupy *Austin*?

    I thought the place had been 'occupied' by texans trying to escape texas from day 1.

    It sounds like hippies are getting lazier. Next will be, "Occupy mom's basement and do bong hits and watch ren and stimpy"

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Haha, that's a good point.

    This is virtually a pro-life march in Branson Mizzour-uh.

  • o3||

    u mean bong hits while watching ren n stimpy watching itchy n scratchy

  • mnarayan||

    doing bong hits

  • Brett L||

    Well, if they hung out on the Drag, passing out incomprehensible fliers, bumming cash and smelling bad, then Austin has been occupied since I first moved there in '97.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    You bastard.

  • Brett L||

    Ah, I misspoke. If all of those things are Occupy, then Austin was Occupied before I moved there in '97. I just witnessed it from day one.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This is all covered under the Ends Justify The Means Clause of the United States Constitution.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    General Welfare, Interstate Commerce, Execute Privilege, Because Fuck You.

    The End

  • WTF||

    Execute Privilege

    i c wut u did ther

  • Whiterun Guard||

    I think a lot of it falls under the I'm too Dumb to Study and too Lazy to Work amendment.

  • Chris Yoder||

    WOW. Austin PD is and should have a lot of explaining to do. Besides would it not be entrapment?

  • Appalachian Australian||

    Watching the Occupy people and the police state duking it out is sort of like watching the Wehrmacht invade Russia. They're both completely wrong, and you can't help but think we're better off regardless of who "wins".

  • Brett L||

    As a Texas Ex and FSU grad, its a great warmup for the UF-TAMU game this weekend. No matter who loses, I win.

  • fried wylie||

    Can someone do the research, then explain to me how these lockboxes are supposed to work? As in, how is a boltcutter unable to still solve the problem?

  • o3||

    from what ive seen, each reachs thru the pvc pipe (which stretches shoulder to shoulder) then handcuff themselves together inside.

  • fried wylie||

    ahhhhh. clever.

    well, I say it's their own fault if the reciprocating saw takes their hand instead of just cutting the cuffs.

  • Scooby||

    Or, they can just use one of those little circular saws that they use to cut off casts- with a guard to only cut 1/4" or so to cut through just the pipe. No muss no fuss, no ending up on video maiming stinky hippies peaceful protesters.

  • Zeb||

    "an obscure statute that prohibits using a device that is manufactured or adapted for the purpose of participating in a crime."

    Couldn't that law be applied to pretty much any crime?

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Ya, Say you are wearing a belt while jay walking? A belt is a device. You couldn't couldn't jay walk if your pants were down at your ankles, because you'd trip. So you've adapated the device for purposes of participating in a crime. Bam! Felony.

    Judge should dismiss the case on the basis that the law is complete and utter horseshit.

  • Shmurphy||

    The Austin Police Department is a complete and total disgrace. Read up on Antonio Buehler and the Peaceful Streets Project. Buehler was arrested and charged with a felony for harassing Officer Patrick Oborski and spitting on him while he was being cuffed. Surprise surprise, the video from Buehler's phone, as well as that from another witness recording from across the street, shows that Officer Oborski is a liar.

    So yeah, this is hardly a surprise for those of us already aware of how corrupt the Austin PD is.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Losing official documentation or neglecting to produce it is half the job of a good detective.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    First, what the hell is "Occupy Austin" doing in Houston? Second, Paul Krassner is still alive?

  • AustinMom||

    Shannon (Detective Dowell) has been a good friend of mine for over 15 years. He is a good cop and an honorable man. I'm not saying that I agree with either side of this story (APD or OA), but I feel it is easy to blame the badge and forget that behind that badge is a person, just like you and I, who risks his life every day to protect our citizens. These men and women do not make enough money to justify the risk they take every day they put on their uniforms (or undercover clothes). I do not know all the facts (as I was not present during the events that took place) but I fully support my friend!

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