Drug War Roundup


A few items drug war-related:

· Bizarre new twists in the Kathryn Johnston case.  Details and my comments here.  Also, this Bloomberg column touches on the Johnston case, my research, and the Cory Maye case.

· The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of Weldon Angelos, a Utah record producer convicted of selling pot to a paid police informant on two occasions.  Angelos had no prior criminal record.  But because he was in possession of a gun during both sales, and because he refused an offer to plea bargain for "only" a 15-year sentence, mandatory minimums pushed his sentence to 55 years in prison.  For a first offense.  His case has stirred outrage from the judge who reluctantly imposed it, and from hundreds of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and former judges who have written or signed petitions against the sentence.  Angelos' best hope now is an unlikely pardon or grant of clemency from President Bush.

·  Prosecutors in Texas have dropped charges against 33 people netted in a series of drug raids last October after discovering that the informant whose tips led to the raids had repeatedly lied to police officers.  They just don't seem to learn.  Add Marshall to Hearne, Palestine, and of course Tulia—the list of Texas towns where charges related to massive drug busts have collapsed due to over-reliance on police informants.

·  Wouldn't be a drug war roundup without some school-related madness.  A West Virginia student-athlete has been suspended after putting a piece of Smarty candy up his nose, and calling it "nose candy."  But the suspension apparently wasn't because of the act itself.  It's because the student refused to volunteer for the school principal's pet "Narc Program," in which students go undercover to find and report other students who are using drugs.  The principal has apparently threatened other students who don't perform academically with suspension unless they too volunteer for the program.

·  I'd add only a few of things to Jacob's post on Richard Paey's horrible story below.  First, Paey's 25-year sentence stems from two troubling decisions on the part of the prosecutor.  Prosecutor McCabe threw the book at Paey because,  (1) he refused to admit he's an addict (and he wasn't, any more than a diabetic is "addicted" to insulin), and (2) because he'd done nothing wrong, he insisted on his constitutional right to a jury trial.  The latter is an absurdity that often creeps up in a modern criminal justice system so rife with plea bargaining.  Charge stacking and overcharging, combined with the possibility that you could even get extra time even for the charges you're acquitted of, mean that insisting on exercising your right to a trial is usually going to cost you. 

Second, as I noted a few months ago, when police apprehended this paraplegic, frail man—along with his wife and two kids—they brought the SWAT team in full paramilitary gear. 

And third, why after Paey talked with New York Times columnist John Tierney, did prison officials moved him to a higher-security prison, several hours from his family?  Paey says it's because a guard overheard Paey's conversation with Tierney, and that the move was a punishment.  If that isn't true, it'd be interesting to hear the official explanation for suspiciously-time decision to move Paey to a higher-security facility.