Drug Policy

Drug War Roundup

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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.

NEXT: Christians Urge Mary Cheney to Abort Her Baby

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  1. When the feds finally arrest those cops in Atlanta, and I think they will eventually, I hope they do it in a 5 am no knock swat team home invasion, where they handcuffe their kids, drag their wives out in the street handcuffed in their underwear and put each cop in some kind of a Hanibal Lector gurney restraint as a “safety precaution” for the officers involved doing the takedown I mean arrest. That of course will no happen. They no doubt will be allowed to turn themselves in under terms negotiated by their lawyers and the police union.

  2. That principal seems like a real a-hole.

  3. “That principal seems like a real a-hole.”

    Isn’t that the default position regarding anyone involved with public education?

  4. Sometimes it’s hard to say which is broken more, the war on drugs or the education system. (See the 12/7 Brickbat.)

  5. God damn. The cumulative effect of today’s posts make me thoroughly depressed. Is nothing good happening these days?

  6. DAMN DUDE. Radley, my respect for you grows every day. If you start a ‘Balko’s Vegas Weekend Fund’ let me know. I’d be proud to kick in.

  7. Nope. If all this weren’t bad enough, for those of you playing the game, you lose.

  8. It is not a “War on Drugs but a War on Liberty.

    Evil, Evil, Evil. Any Questions?

  9. After actually reading Mr. Balko’s link on the Johnston fiasco, all I could think to myself was “like anyone thinks this is only happening in Atlanta…”

  10. My letter to Gov. Bush, in regards to the Paey case. Feel free to steal it. Please steal it.

    Dear Governor Bush:

    I am writing to you about the recent developments in the case of Richard Paey. Paey is the parapalegic married father of two whose house was entered by SWAT team officials. He was then arrested, tried, and convicted of “engaging in drug trafficking” even though he never sold drugs but rather gained prescription drugs in excess of what the law allowed. (Richard Paey had suffered from excruciating pain caused by multiple sclerosis and failed spine surgery.)

    Paey, the parapalegic married father of two, is now serving a 25 year sentence which may effectively last the rest of his life. Given the circumstances, is this just?

    Paey represents no threat to other Floridians and is now serving as a drain on the state’s limited resources. Why must Paey’s children grow up with out a father, his wife be deprived of her husband, and his friend and neighbors lose their right to associate with Paey?

    Governor Bush–you are a good man, a Christian. Please use your power to pardon Paey, a fellow Floridian with bad luck but no prior criminal record. Thank you for your attention to this matter of life-or-death importance.

    Best,

    XXXX

  11. By the way, Digg is more full of jackboot-licking wannabes than any other aggregator site I visit. Makes Slashdot look like a hotbed of libertarianism. The comments regarding Richard Paey were physically disgusting and morally vile and repugnant. If there are any adults there, they act just like the teenagers, in that there is no crime committed by agents of the state that they will not excuse. I wouldn’t piss down their throats if they were dying of thirst.

  12. Does anyone now what really would happen if a judge just refuse to impose the mandatory minimum, and defied the appellate courts?

  13. I hope they do it in a 5 am no knock swat team home invasion, where they handcuffe their kids, drag their wives out in the street handcuffed in their underwear and put each cop in some kind of a Hanibal Lector gurney restraint as a “safety precaution” for the officers involved doing the takedown I mean arrest.

    Not only NO. but FUCK NO! Leave the innocent wives and children out of this. Evil done does not condone more evil.

  14. I highly recommend avoiding digg for political topics unless you want to read some of the most worthless partisan discussions on the ‘net. Absolutely worthless. I removed the political topics from my digg profile.

  15. c:

    Well written! Effective writing is always admired by me.

  16. c: how about this?

    Dear Governor Bush,

    I am a longtime opponent of the Drug War. For decades people have be tricked into supporting a self-aggrandizing campaign of social engineering by corrupt politicians and brutal, dishonest police. I was, for many years, in despair that my fellow citizens would ever clear away the fog of false morality and shrill self-righteousness and end this affront to liberty.

    Recent events have given me hope. The arrogance and brutality of police who consider themselves above the law and the scorecard justice of sly, self-promoting prosecutors have created a raft of gross and obvious miscarriages of justice. Richard Paey is one such case. A paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, in terrible pain, he was “taken down” by a militarized police raiding party, an abject display of cowardice that would get a common criminal lynched. Now he is sentenced to a long term in prison during which the prison doctors have already confirmed his need for the pain medication he was arrested for.

    From my point of view, nothing could be better. This case exposes to everyone how the government operates in an atmosphere of indifference to justice, using innocent lives as grist for their public relations mill. We are all potential criminals in the eyes of the State, all of dangerous enough to warrant extreme violence on the part of the police, even the wheelchair-bound.

    Please leave Richard Paey in prison. I am hopeful the injustice meted out to Richard Paey and thousands of other like him will help to turn the tide against the Drug War. An act of mercy at this point carries the risk of reaffirming people’s faith in just government, which you and I both know is an outrageous lie.

  17. By the way, Digg is more full of jackboot-licking wannabes than any other aggregator site I visit. Makes Slashdot look like a hotbed of libertarianism. The comments regarding Richard Paey were physically disgusting and morally vile and repugnant. If there are any adults there, they act just like the teenagers, in that there is no crime committed by agents of the state that they will not excuse. I wouldn’t piss down their throats if they were dying of thirst.

    Do you have a link?

  18. James,
    No good. The sarcasm’s fine, but will never be read. This is what the Governor’s office will read;

    I am a longtime opponent of the Drug War. Blah blah blah, limp-wristed hippie gibberish.

  19. This is also an interesting story — schools selling drug tests to parents.

  20. Juanita man say STAY THE COURSE. For the childrins best safety. WuzzUp man it Juanita.

    STAY THE COURSE
    STAY THE COURSE
    STAY THE COURSE
    STAY THE COURSE
    STAY THE COURSE
    STAY THE COURSE

  21. I know that this is preaching to the choir, but here goes, The War on Drugs is insane. Tell your parents, tell your children, tell your co-workers, tell the man behind the tree, if the War on Drugs isn’t evil, than there is no evil.

  22. The only letter which will make a difference will begin:

    “Dear Governor Bush

    You may recall my $1 million contribution to your PAC…”

  23. Damn, Aresen, I thought I was cynical. Many kudos to you.

  24. “There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”

  25. Harry Potter?

  26. I confess. “Professor Quirrell” is me. It just seemed appropriate after J sub D’s last comment.

    BTW: In the last book, Voldemort is going to grow a beard and take up ceramics. The title will be “Harry Potter and the Hairy Potter.”

  27. This case is illustrative as to the mindsetof many prosecutors. I suspect that many prosecutors got into or have remained in their positions because they lack the moxie and/or savvy to make a living representing paying clients.

    Shucks, just because the accused are fish, and just because they’re in a barrel, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shoot them.

  28. “That principal seems like a real a-hole.”

    Isn’t that the default position regarding anyone involved with public education?

    I know you’re joking, but if someone said the same thing about people in the military, I wonder how you’d take it.

  29. On letters to Gov. Bush. Can the sarcasm. I would suggest totally focusing on Richard Peay’s health. Let Radley know what the replies are.

  30. Isn’t that the default position regarding anyone involved with public education?

    I know you’re joking, but if someone said the same thing about people in the military, I wonder how you’d take it.

    Both the public education establishment and the military establishment are awash with good, well meaning, people. That said, both institutions need a serious look.

    I’m retired US Navy, I know there is waste and incompetencein the military. Any honest schoolteacher would probably echo those sentiments.

  31. Re Angelos:

    I’m a crim defense attorney and I defend people in federal court regularly. How did a 55 year sentence come down? Anybody got the details? I’m guessing theres some firearms statute that triggers an increased mandatory minimum, but 55 years seems like a stretch even for the feds. The guidelines only go up to 30yrs and then on to life sentences. Theres also the “safety valve” in the guidelines that permits sentences below the mandatory minimum if they have no real prior criminal record, although it might not be applicable under whatever statute he got charged with (it does come in on drug cases though). I’m just trying to think this through and can’t see how it got done like that to where the judge was forced to sentence him like that. Any link to any court docs on this one?

    And how come theres no mention of the prosecutor who decided to push this through? Yeah we can get on the judges case some but its the USDA that caused it to go down like that. Who is this prosecutor who is such a pompous jackass that he’d ruin a man’s life for making him take a case to trial (an apparently easy case at that)?

    Also, about the kid in WV. The judges in that county are very common sense folks. They won’t let that slide down there.

    Great work as always RB.

    Montani Semper Liberi!

  32. It is important to point out these types of particularly egregious injustices in connection with the war on drugs. They kinds of cases make it glaringly obvious that government action in pursuit of pharmacological purity can be worse than people ingesting unconventional chemicals to alter their mood, sensations, or experiences. Hearing about incidents like this could induce some people who would not have otherwise thought about the issue to consider drug policy reform.

    But it is also necessary to make the case for freedom of ingestion for competent adults on principle. The underlying premise of the drug war, that all ingesting of certain chemicals just for fun (or other non-health reason) is evil and stopping it is always a good cause, should be challenged.

  33. I know you’re joking, but if someone said the same thing about people in the military, I wonder how you’d take it.

    Ooooh, Ooooh, I know this one.

  34. Let me get this straight. Richard Paey is at a higher security prison then when he just sentenced. Have there been many escapes by prisoners in wheel chairs in Florida? I have heard the Paey is kept in chains. Madness! Madness!

  35. J Sub D

    anyone who has spent five minutes in the military knows that it is full of incompetance and insanity. I love the military even still, but I have no illusions about it. It is just a huge bureacracy with all that entails.

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