Drug Policy

More Kathryn Johnston Fallout in Atlanta

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Another nacotics cop pleads guilty to covering up botched drug raids:

A 23-year Atlanta Police Department veteran pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to violate civil rights by searching a private residence without a warrant, federal prosecutors said.

Wilbert Stallings, 44, of Conyers, a sergeant in the department's narcotics unit, faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

[…] Prosecutors said that in October 2005, Stallings led a narcotics team executing a search warrant at an apartment on Dill Road in Atlanta.

Also on the team was Gregg Junnier, one of two narcotics officers who have pleaded guilty to charges in Johnston's death. Junnier had obtained the warrant for one apartment in the 2005 incident, prosecutors said. The team found some marijuana behind the apartment but not inside, they said. Stallings and Junnier then decided to search an adjoining apartment but no one was home and they found nothing inside.

Stallings told the team to leave the apartment and shut the door so it would appear there had been a break-in, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors argued the the incident was part of a pattern of conduct by Stallings and his team, which included misrepresenting unregistered drug informants as registered ones in order to secure warrants.

Seems Atlanta PD's narcotics division went about breaking down doors whenever its officers damned-well pleased.

It's good that all of this is coming out. But other cities should take a lesson, and not wait for someone to be killed before looking at their own narcotics divisions, and the way warrants are served. For example, it's troubling that the city of Houston doesn't even track the number of times its narcotics officers mistakenly raid the wrong house. Had Atlanta's department required its officers to track the number of times they raided a house in which no drugs turned up (one of the recommendations I make in my Overkill paper), they may have been clued in that something was wrong well before the raid on Kathyrn Johnston's home.

There's no reason why large cities shouldn't keep a database that tracks every search warrant from the time it's requested through its execution. That database should be available not only to the police, but also to judges, who could consult it to see if a particular officer or unit has a history of taking shortcuts or of executing fruitless raids. It should also be subject to open records requests. I don't mind keeping the names of informants secret, but they should at least be assigned identifying numbers, so we can see if the same informant has a history of giving bad information, and if police are continuing to use that informant, anyway.

It was something of a fluke that all of this has come out about Atlanta. As we've seen in other cities where a botched raid has inspired further investigation, these sorts of shortcuts in the investigations leading up to home-breaching drug raids are disturbingly common. 

NEXT: 'Police Are Like Vampires'

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  1. I thought the ATL PD had said that the officers in the Johnston case were the bad cops and that they had weeded them out. So there are more? How many more? At least looks like they might care enough to find out based on this.

  2. There’s no reason why large cities shouldn’t keep a database that tracks every search warrant from the time it’s requested through its execution.

    Actually, there IS a reason. It’s called “plausible deniability,” which sounds much better than “We don’t want to know.”

  3. “There’s no reason why large cities shouldn’t keep a database that tracks every search warrant from the time it’s requested through its execution. That database should be available not only to the police, but also to judges, who could consult it to see if a particular officer or unit has a history of taking shortcuts or of executing fruitless raids. It should also be subject to open records requests. I don’t mind keeping the names of informants secret, but they should at least be assigned identifying numbers, so we can see if the same informant has a history of giving bad information, and if police are continuing to use that informant, anyway.”

    Holy crap. You mean this isn’t being done already? WTF!?

  4. Radley, you are a hero of mine. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the work you do. However, I’m not sure you thought this one through:
    I don’t mind keeping the names of informants secret, but they should at least be assigned identifying numbers, so we can see if the same informant has a history of giving bad information, and if police are continuing to use that informant, anyway.

    My thinking is that it would be relatively easy to match a number to a face, by people with enough money and the motivation to do so.

  5. Stop right where you are! You know the score, pal. If you’re not cop, you’re little people.

  6. It’s called “plausible deniability,” which sounds much better than “We don’t want to know.”

    You’re such a downer sometimes, Jennifer.

  7. So, if I were to break into someone else’s house because I suspected that they had drugs, and I seized the drugs and turned most of them over to the police, would I be rewarded?

    What’s that you say? I need a badge first?

    *humph* *kicks pebble*

  8. If you’re not cop, you’re little people.

    I believe the term you’re looking for, PL, is “civilian” 😉

  9. At least the prosecutors down there seem to have decided that it’s finally in their best interests to go after dirty cops instead of using them to frame people. A situation like this is enough to change an ambitious scumbag prosecutor from the cops’ buddy to the cops’ scourge, solely to advance their career.

    Which is fine as I’d rather have the shitheads working for justice rather than against it.

  10. Reinmoose,

    What are you, some kind of replicant? Like highnumber? I meant “little people”, and I didn’t mean Munchkins, either.

    This would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Perhaps I should get a government job, so I can have special rights, too.

  11. Radley,

    If they did keep a database and “fruitless raids” were kept track of, would that not lend added incentive to plant evidence?

    Maybe it wouldn’t happen like that… maybe I am jaded…

  12. Based on what Wibert Stallings admitted to, I have to wonder what he really did.

  13. They could also be required to keep a database of planted evidence.

  14. “A 23-year Atlanta Police Department veteran pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to violate civil rights by searching a private residence without a warrant, federal prosecutors said.”

    So a 23 year streak of civil rights violations comes to an end? This career length makes me believe that he was doing whatever he could get away with, which was a lot, for over 20 years.

    The only true justice would be to lock this thug up with the rest of the thugs and let them teach him a little about violating peoples’ rights.

  15. At least the prosecutors down there seem to have decided that it’s finally in their best interests to go after dirty cops instead of using them to frame people. A situation like this is enough to change an ambitious scumbag prosecutor from the cops’ buddy to the cops’ scourge, solely to advance their career.

    I seriously doubt it. I suspect that the situation now demands that a few scape goats be racked over the coals to satisfy the [insert acceptable synonym for ‘sheeple’ here]. Then they can get back to their more mutualy beneficial routine of railroading and coverups.

  16. Warren, rooting out corruption (when the public is enraged over it, unlike normally) is a great career advancer. These prosecutors can ream local cops, because soon they’ll get their US Attorney job. I don’t see them hesitating to really go after the department if they think it will make their career.

  17. So, if I were to break into someone else’s house because I suspected that they had drugs, and I seized the drugs and turned most of them over to the police, would I be rewarded?

    Actually, you probably would be. Would be an easy end-around the 4th Amendment for them, since the search wouldn’t be a 4th Amendment violation (assuming you didn’t do the search at the direction of the police)

  18. They could also be required to keep a database of planted evidence. – bigbigslacker

    They could put a little check box field in the database (Planted/Not Planted)? Keep it all to one database that way? No, that would require too much manpower that could be used raiding little old ladies.

  19. Radley,

    Thanks, again, for keeping up with this. So, when are you going to publish a book or make a documentary about this “series of isolated incidents?”

    Who’s the hero of our club,
    For rights for you and me?
    Are-Eh-Dee Ell-Eee-Why Bee-Eh-El-Kayo!

  20. Just remember not all cops are bad. It’s only the ones we find out about. All the rest are just fine and dandy. Except for the little issue where they don’t call out the bad ones. But hey who knew right?

    The logic is totally plausible that several cops could work together day after day for 20 years and one not know the other is a crooked/bad cop. Just like the logic that someone who doesn’t believe what a preacher is spewing would continue to go listen every week for 20 years. Perfect sense the whole lot of it.

  21. Episiarch,

    Rooting out corruption? Like Eliot Spitzer did?

  22. Hey,
    Eliot Spitzer was so good at rooting out corruption, he even resigned. Didn’t you hear that part in his resignation speech?

  23. Remember that even suggesting problems like those that have plagued Atlanta’s police are systemic means you revile all police officers. It’s impolitic, you see, to wonder if there’s more bad cops than the ones who get caught.

    Once again I’m amazed that cops don’t post here on H&R.

  24. Pro, Eliot was rooting around for corruption in Dupre. He’s just been misunderstood.

  25. These prosecutors can ream local cops, because soon they’ll get their US Attorney job.

    Sure, they can throw a few of the worst offenders to the wolves, and get their US Attorney job. And what will they leave behind? A cleaned up police force with a priority on anti-corruption with all the top tiered officers on board and enforced at all levels? Or a new batch of hungry cops and DAs eager to get ahead the same way their predecessors did? (Not like those sloppy and stupid cops that got prosecuted. They just got greedy.)

  26. Wilbert Stallings, 44, of Conyers, a sergeant in the department’s narcotics unit, faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

    This scumbag is getting off lightly. We should send him to Syrian torturers for two years, then bring him home and give him the chair.

  27. Wow you guys are cynics. The fact that the DA can advance their careers by going after a few corrupt cops is not a bad thing. No it won’t necessarily bring the departmental changes required to address the underlying issues, but the DA will never be able to do that. It’s not their fucking job. That would take action by either the highest levels of the police force, or the elected officials that they report to.

    The problem is finding an politician who understands that using violence to enforce laws against non-violent offenses is fucking asinine. And then getting that politician elected to office with those views. The public has been so conditioned to believe that illicit drugs are root of all evil in our society, that they seem to believe any means used to enforce the drug laws are justified.

  28. I wondr if you are the first person to use the word “home-breaching” in this way.

    I thought it was interesting that they called Shivers a “breacher.” Hopefully, that appellation shows up on some of the discoverable documents.

    “Our breacher was standing in the middle of the front yard.”

    *sure he was*

  29. “Once again I’m amazed that cops don’t post here on H&R.”

    It proves to me that we are regarded as the proles by LEO’s and they would rather participate in their own little fan club which excludes constructive critism from citizens potential perpetrators.

  30. Wilbert Stallings, 44, of Conyers, a sergeant in the department’s narcotics unit, faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

    Just what will Stallings actually get?

    I’ll be very surprised if he gets over 6 months and a $5,000 fine.

  31. Kathryn Johnston, 92-year-old Atlant reside, was killed in a home invasion by police officers. Everyone knows by now that Ms. Johnston was not into drugs and she lived alone. The police have admitted there was NO DRUG TIP from any informant (this lie was concocted after she was killed to cover their murder), so why do journalists keep calling this a “botched drug raid”? What no one seems to be asking is WHY did Atlanta police REALLY want to raid this elderly woman’s home and kill her? Since the home invasion WAS NOT precipitated by suspision of illegal drugs (which has been thoroughly refuted by the informant who would not go along with this false cover-up and the guilty officers), then what exactly were they doing there? Were they really there to rob her? Were they really there because Ms. Johnston knew something or saw something at some point that was damaging to police? Forget the false drug allegations (concocted after her death to protect police), and we are left with questions about these officers’ real motivation to invade the home of a private citizen and shoot her dead. Has anyone ever given the real reason, or even asked the question?

    Mary Neal
    Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill
    Website: http://wrongfuldeathoflarryneal.com
    P.O. Box 7222
    Atlanta, GA 30357

  32. Has anyone warned Ms. Dozier, the niece of Ms. Kathryn Johnston, that her family’s wrongful death lawyers, The Cochran Firm, operating out of 127 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, Georgia, has been declared NONEXISTENT under that identity by Judge Wendy Shoob in Georgia Superior Court, Fulton County? (Neals v. The Cochran Firm, Civil Action No. 2005CV104215. See http://wrongfuldeathoflarryneal.com. When my mother and I sued The Cochran Firm for fraud and malpractice in that court on 8/1/2004, we served suit to that location which was presented to my family as being the Atlanta office of The Cochran Firm, as it is also advertised to the whole world on The Cochran Firm’s website and many Internet legal search engines. However, in order to have our lawsuit dismissed by Judge Shoob, this Atlanta law office where we served suit against The Cochran Firm went to court and had our suit dismissed by disclaiming that widely advertised identity! So exactly who is that law office? How does it identify itself to Ms. Dozier, the executor of Ms. Johnston’s estate? Does The Cochran Firm plan to do to Ms. Johnston’s family what it did to mine (fraud and malpractice as our attorneys re: my brother’s death by police)? I hope someone warns Ms. Dozier and the rest of Ms. Johnston’s family to be very careful of their wrongful death attorneys. It may be hard for the so-called Atlanta office of The Cochran Firm to go into the same GA State Court and flex muscles for a defendant where that firm had a judge declare it nonexistent under its publicized identity in May 2006.

    Because this law office denied in court being any part of The Cochran Firm, despite its much advertising to the contrary, we understood that either they had committed perjury before Georgia State Court in order to dodge our justified lawsuit for fraud and malpractice, or else, all their much advertising was necessarily FALSE. I guess they chose to select false advertising, and now the television commercials advertising The Cochran Firm’s Atlanta office have apparently ended in Georgia. Nevertheless, it is still advertised on the Internet.

    Someone really ought to warn Ms. Johnston’s family to get an honest lawyer to watch their lawyers. In my family’s experience, The Cochran Firm may be working FOR the police rather than its clients. See DOCUMENTATION tab at http://wrongfuldeathoflarryneal.com.

    Mary Neal
    Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill
    P.O. Box 7222
    Atlanta, GA 30357

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