Marijuana

Police Informant Says His Lies Killed a Harmless Pot Smoker

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Here is how one source described Ronnie Coogle, a former confidential informant for the Tampa Police Department, in an interview with Tampa Bay Times reporter Peter Jamison: "He's just the scum of the fucking earth. I hate to say that. I hate to cuss. But it's the truth. He is nobody to give information about nothing to nobody, because everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie." And that was Coogle's brother. Saying that Coogle has a credibility problem is like saying that Darth Vader has an image problem.

It is therefore hard to know what to make of Jamison's disturbing story, in which Coogle blames his police handlers for fabrications that resulted in the death of a harmless pot smoker named Jason Westcott during a drug raid last May. But one thing seems clear: The cops recklessly relied on Coogle's highly questionable word as long as he was helping them makes busts, turning against him only after he accused them of misconduct. Now the police department argues that Coogle is utterly unreliable except when it comes to providing evidence against Westcott and other drug suspects.

On the night of May 27, armed men dressed in black entered the home that Westcott shared with his boyfriend, Izzy Reyes, who was sleeping on the couch. One of them threw Reyes to the floor, shouting, "Police! Search warrant!" Hearing the tumult, Westcott, who was in bed, grabbed a legally owned pistol and opened the bedroom door. The cops fired five rounds, killing him. Searching the house, they found 0.2 gram of marijuana, which was 99.99 percent less than the pound Coogle had claimed to have seen while buying a gram from Westcott the previous month. Coogle also claimed that Westcott and Reyes had a heroin connection in New York, but there was no heroin in the house.

Coogle, who said he was guilt stricken after learning about Westcott's death, told Jamison he made it all up under pressure from his handlers: Westcott might occasionally sell a little pot to his friends, but he was hardly a major dealer, and he had nothing to do with heroin. Coogle said he did accurately report that Westcott owned a pistol, but a detective transformed that fact into a claim that Westcott carried the gun during every drug deal. "It was a small but consequential detail," Jamison writes, "elevating Westcott to an armed drug trafficking suspect and triggering the use of the SWAT team."

Coogle, despite his self-reported pangs of conscience, emerges as a thoroughly despicable character, not only ratting on friends for money but, by his own account, lying in the process. Yet Coogle's avowed lies present a problem for a police department that relied on him to justify a dangerous SWAT raid. "In July," Jamison notes, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor "vouched for his credibility." Defending the investigation that resulted in Westcott's senseless death, she said an informer with a "track record" of providing "reliable information about drug dealers" had reported seeing a pound of marijuana in the home and had "additional information suggesting trafficking in heroin." But Castor's opinion of Coogle changed after he said the case against Westcott was built on lies:

After Coogle went to the FBI…Castor took a different view of the man whose truthfulness she had endorsed. "I don't believe him at all," she said.

In an interview with the Times several weeks after Coogle met with federal investigators, Castor and her chief spokeswoman, [Laura] McElroy, savaged the credibility of their one-time "reliable informant." But only to a point.

They said they still believed the information he had fed to narcotics detectives about Westcott. They said it was only his recantation and accusations against his handlers that were untrue.

"You really think that this guy is in a position to question the integrity of police officers?" McElroy said. "A C.I.? Really? I mean, come on, C.I.'s are not upstanding citizens. It's a joke."

It is indeed a joke, but not in the way McElroy means. It is risible that cops expect to have it both ways, saying an informant is solid as a rock when he provides information to justify a search but totally unbelievable when his claims make the police look bad. Yet as New York defense attorney and criminal justice blogger Scott Greenfield tells Jamison, that pattern is familiar. "These are the same guys who are so very truthful that [police] put other people in life-threatening situations based on what they say," Greenfield says. "When the snitch turns, they're a pathological liar and we shouldn't pay attention."

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  1. Sounds very similar to the Ryan Frederick case.

    1. Is he out yet, by the way?

      1. Don’t think so. As I recall it was a ten year sentence.

  2. they found 0.2 gram of marijuana

    IOW, probably, what, a quarter teaspoon, something like that?

    “You really think that this guy is in a position to question the integrity of police officers?” McElroy said. “A C.I.? Really? I mean, come on, C.I.’s are not upstanding citizens. It’s a joke.”

    Let’s hope her impeaching of the informant’s credibility has some consequences in court.

    1. I wonder if even the slightest part of her was able to notice the irony of that statement.

      1. Do they need to produce confidential informants in court? And with the guy dead, is there even going to be a court?

        1. They occasionally do. But they fight it. Sunrise, Florida (who became famous for luring drug suspects from all over the country into the city so they could arrest them there and get that sweet, sweet forfeiture cash) recently dropped a bunch of drug cases where they had been required to produce a CI. That they’d rather drop the cases than produce the CI says a lot.

          1. That they’d rather drop the cases than produce the CI says a lot.

            That they don’t actually exist?

            1. I was thinking either parallel construction or the CI’s such a scumbag, that he’d ooze all over the jury, lose the case and, by extension, all the assets seized.

              1. Plus, if the CI gets discredited in one criminal case, then that testimony is on record and fair game in future cases.

        2. Do they need to produce confidential informants in court?

          If the defense can prove relevance, I think so, yes. And with a CI who has been publicly defenestrated by the cops, I don’t think it will be hard to prove relevance.

          And with the guy dead, is there even going to be a court?

          Not in this case, but this guy was a warrant factory. There might be others.

          1. Yeah, I guess that particular factory is now shuttered.

            1. You’d like to think so, but I wouldn’t be 100% sure of that.

          2. There might be others.

            Understatement of the year.

          3. publicly defenestrated

            Band name?

          4. The ci is not dead!

  3. “Scum of the earth” you say? The PD should have issued him a badge and gun. He could be on paid vacation, now.

  4. Look, are you going to believe the police or are you going to believe a self-confessed liar?

    1. with a “track record” of “reliable information”!

    2. But, you repeat yourself.

  5. We have to kill as many people as necessary to save people from drugs.

    /the drug warriors

    1. If it just saves one life, all those deaths are worth it, right?

  6. This is like the Little Rascals child molestation case. As the number of accused grew and grew… and grew… and grew, people started to suggest the children were confused. “No, no they’re not confused at all” contended investigators.

    Then children started identifying the investigators. “Oh now the children are confused” contended the investigators.

  7. That guy came out of his room in the middle of the night with a gun, when any law abiding citizen would have known it was a SWAT raid. Good shoot.

    BOOYAH

    1. Needs moar “we’re winning!”

        1. +1 Reason Liars Are Lying Liars Lying About The Bernie Kerick hth

  8. “He’s just the scum of the fucking earth. I hate to say that. I hate to cuss. But it’s the truth. He is nobody to give information about nothing to nobody, because everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie.”

    Accurately describes most informants. Which is why getting a warrant based on nothing more than their word is a fucking joke.

    1. The only ones laughing are the cops who get away with murder on raids based upon lies and their own suggestions.

      1. Oh I bet they at least get a chuckle from the judges and DAs too.

  9. “Snitches Get Stitches” – in this case, not gonna lie, I’d be fine if someone put a bullet in Coogle’s forehead. He’s richly earned it.

    Movie about his life? “Coogle’s Bluff”

    1. As far as I’m concerned, when the snitching is just about drugs, snitches should get stitches. If someone helps me lure people into my rape dungeon, they have done a crime and deserve punishment. I don’t see what CIs in drug cases are doing as any different.

      1. Because drug crimes are victimless crimes, they become problematic to enforce. Being that there is no victim, nobody goes and asks the police for help in righting an injustice. So the police must enlist CIs in order to track down these lawbreakers. Then the real injustice begins.

  10. Evidence looks a little light for a warrant, but since the judges aren’t held accountable, this won’t be the last such raid.

  11. “You really think that this guy is in a position to question the integrity of police officers?” McElroy said. “A C.I.? Really? I mean, come on, C.I.’s are not upstanding citizens. It’s a joke.”

    I’d say a CI would have a unique insight into the ethics and methodology of police officers, something unavailable to the vast majority of the population; one worth investigating.

    1. CI’s have zero insight, that takes intelligence, snitches are feral morons.

      The feral animal CI should be up on premeditated murder charges and be executed.

  12. Watching the The Wire marathon over the weekend made me question whether the war on drugs is even worth it.

    1. Dont rush to any conclusions. Maybe we should wait another 30 years and then decide.

    2. But seriously though, how can you hate any war that produces such quality television?

      1. I only made it to the third season because for some reason they wanted me back to work today. As I recall the third season was my favorite first time I watched the show. Bunny’s Hamsterdam experiment was great.

        1. DONT RUIN IT FOR ME!

          I only watched seasons 1-2 this summer. and i’m a few episodes into 3 as we speak.

          1. Then in my opinion you’re in for a treat. How are you watching it? Are you seeing the remastered HD episodes?

            1. Nein. I have a dvd set

          2. The last season (4th, I think), kinda fell down from the previous standard. I didn’t even finish it.

  13. Remember, early after 9/11 when the Bush people said, “weed smokers funded terrorism“? That was fun

    A guy i knew made a good mixtape on the back of that meme

    1. That was cute.

      How the fuck do people fail to see that drug prohibition does in fact fund terrorism?

      1. People focused on their good intentions are blind to the actual results.

        That is how the road to hell gets paved with good intentions.

  14. OT, but somewhat related.

    I was talking to my mom yesterday, and she told me that my cousin’s husband (who is in the California Highway Patrol) apparently uncovered some car repair shop that was a front for drug dealing, and blackmailed them into giving him a car to keep him quiet.

    To give some context, I’m not all that surprised, as my cousin-in-law is the kind of cop who’s not all that into it, and went into law enforcement cause of parental influence and because it’s a stable job with decent pay. I suppose that’s better than being a true believe in the police state.

    1. *believer

    2. I wonder how else he abuses his power. Sounds like a piece of shit to me.

      1. As I implied, I don’t think he’s the kind of cop who cares enough to be one of the jackboots (also, CHP usually aren’t the ones doing that stuff in Cali, it’s usually local cops or maybe the Sheriff, depending on where you are), but he’s definitely the kind of cop who would look to use his power for personal benefit (he’s talked to my brothers and I in the past about how he totally abuses the overtime system to maximize his compensation).

        1. … are you serious about this? You do realize you are being a bad-cop apologist, right?

          The jackbooted thugs are by and large NOT “true believers”. They are indifferent assholes exactly like your family member. They don’t care about right and wrong, morality, ethics, etc. – just, as you put it, looking “to use his power for personal benefit” and ”
          go home safe” – whether that’s free cars extorted from criminals, intimidation and murders because it’s fun or feeds their adrenaline rush, getting a promotion by busting victimless rimes for the asset seizure, etc.

          You have hard the phrase “the apathy of evil”, right? It’s the indifference to the evil, personified by your cousin’s husband, that allows the jack-booting to happen.

          Your relative shouldn’t be a cop, and you shouldn’t be excusing his apathy.

        2. “…he’s definitely the kind of cop who would look to use his power for personal benefit…”

          In other words, a run-of-the mill petty criminal behind the badge.

  15. I’m worried that by posting these articles – however true – Reason will come off looking anti-cop sooooo soon after two cops were killed in NYC.

    1. Go worry somewhere else – you sound like you’re afraid of the truth as much as the dirty cops are.

      1. Less needs to get to know Rufus more.

    2. More anti-cop rhetoric that is tearing our country apart.

  16. Essentially state agents are active and unapologetic participants in a burglary and murder ring. I don’t see any other way to describe this, and of course this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is shit is going on wholesale all over the country. Everyone involved should be in prison. The pols that enable it should be stretching ropes.

    The war on drugs is one of the greatest evils our government has ever engaged in.

    1. I get up from typing that comment and go to the kitchen and notice that playing on the television is another copsucking propaganda tv show portraying state agents as zany, lovable and eminently honorable guardians of all that is good.

      Puke.

    2. The drug war is nothing more than “Treason for Profit”.

  17. I am bracing myself. Any moment now someone will show up here and tell us what anti-cop bigots we all are.

  18. Strikes me that this sort of story amounts to a large ZITZ on the face of police credibility, though I could be wrong re this conclusion.

  19. The feral pigs need to be deported or put on trial for treason and shot as the feral animals they are.

    The psychopathic informer needs to be given to Dick Cheney’s buddies to practice on.

  20. who cares if the guy had a house full of pot, pot doesnt cause any problems if you compare it to the cost of alcohol, its abuse, health related issues, drunk driving, killing innocent people, etc. It seems the only time that someone gets hurt when pot is involved, is when the cops are involved.

  21. “It is therefore hard to know what to make of Jamison’s disturbing story.”

    I certainly don’t condone snitching, but the other end of it is that cops pressure arrestees to snitch, in order to get out from under their own legal trouble, and they are pressured to keep producing. I can easily see someone making up stories to keep themselves out of jail, expecting that the cops would go there and find little to pin on the victim. You might justify it to yourself by thinking that no one will get into serious trouble.
    Again, I’m not condoning, but you have to try to put yourself in his situation. I mean, this kid probably doesn’t read the news much. He probably had no idea how common it is for cops kill innocent people over suspicion of drugs, and did not expect this outcome. I think that few of my (fairly literate) friends are really aware of what goes on. I’m sure that, under the circumstances, his regret is real. I have no problem believing his story.

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