Heidi Groover writes in The Stranger about the verdict in the Kettle Falls Five case in Eastern Washington. Down from the original 5 defendants, the 3 remaining medical marijuana patients were facing long jail terms, essentially being charged as big-time drug traffickers rather than ordinary folks pushing the plant limits of our state’s collective garden law. The jury saw through the bullshit being thrown around by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Eastern Washington and acquitted them on all but one charge.
I’ve written before about this case and the incredibly cynical and spiteful behavior of U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby. There’s really no excuse for the Obama Administration to continue having him serve in that role openly defying the Obama Administration’s desire to leave ordinary patients alone. Groover details the more egregious aspects of this prosecution:
The U.S. Attorney’s Office combined photos they found of 75 plants grown in 2011 with the 74 live plants they found in 2012 in order to charge the family with growing 100 or more plants. That’s the number that triggers a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. This actually made up three of the counts facing the defendants: 1) conspiring to grow and distribute, 2) growing, and 3) distributing. (On Tuesday, the jury found them guilty of growing fewer than 100 plants, but not guilty on charges one and three.)
Then, the feds tacked on another troubling charge: use of a weapon in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The Harveys keep multiple guns in their house, which they say are for hunting and protecting their dogs from bears and cougars on their property. (I know this is weird. Guns are terrifying. But they’re common enough in Eastern Washington that having them near a pot grow doesn’t mean you were using them to protect that grow.) It was troubling because it would have added another five-year mandatory minimum.
Anyone could see that the defendants in this case weren’t big-time drug dealers. No evidence was ever presented that any of the defendants sold what they were growing. Nor was any evidence presented that their legally owned firearms were used in any way other than for protection. This was nothing more than an attempt to railroad innocent people, for reasons that aren’t clear to anyone. And, as Groover points out in her article, Ormsby is unapologetic and continuing to pursue other cases. If there are other victims of Ormsby’s office out there, I hope we’re able to shine some light on their cases as well.
More news items from the past two weeks…
Trevor Timm on why shutting down the Department of Homeland Security would be a good thing.
The Defense Intelligence Agency is either unable or unwilling to provide any evidence that Edward Snowden’s actions have harmed U.S. national security in any way.
Julian Sanchez discusses why the NSA isn’t being realistic about the feasibility of allowing encryption “back doors” in communication technologies for intelligence purposes.
Glenn Greenwald writes about the FBI’s outstanding record of foiling its own terror plots.
Dan Froomkin writes about how CIA officials were confused about the disconnect between what they were doing and what the Bush administration was saying publicly.
A study has shown that, in the United States, a person is far less likely to receive the death penalty for a homicide if the victim is black.
Maurice Chammah writes about the horrors of prison rape and the efforts to combat it.
A controversial police body-camera bill is nearing a vote in the Washington state house.
A prison nurse in Idaho reached a settlement over sexual harassment at a prison run by Corrections Corporation of America.
A bill passed by the Kansas Senate could lead to teachers being arrested for using controversial books or other materials in their courses.
Cleveland Police Union leaders are still openly and brazenly lying about the Tamir Rice shooting. Now that lawsuits are being prepared, city officials have begun to blame the victim before the ensuing outrage forced them to start walking that back.
A Texas police chief spoke up about how increased policing can have a negative impact on a school’s dropout rate.
Texas was 9 days away from executing a likely innocent man before the highest court in the state issued a stay of execution.
In Louisiana, video evidence exonerated a man who was falsely accused of assaulting police officers.
Liliana Segura writes about a controversial 20-year old arson conviction in Tennessee and the flaws in fire analysis that have led to wrongful convictions.
Allie Gross writes about Georgia’s racist probation system.
In Tallahassee, another unarmed black man was shot under questionable circumstances.
A woman in Washington DC is accusing an officer of forwarding to himself a naked picture of herself from her phone during a DUI stop.
An environmental group in Pennsylvania reached a legal settlement with state law enforcement after the state hired a private security firm to conduct illegal surveillance on them.
Tom Robbins writes about abuses in the Attica prison in New York.
AJ Vicens looks at police abuses in Puerto Rico.
Canada’s equivalent of the NSA has been snooping on the private communications of its citizens as well.
The Venezuelan government is trying to unseat an opposition politician in order to charge him with trying to overthrow the government.
The killing of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov emphasizes the dangers of challenging the current regime in Moscow.
Israel is refusing to grant asylum to thousands of valid asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan.
Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy is still awaiting trial in Egypt for reporting “false news”. An Egyptian court sentenced well-known activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah to 5 years in jail for an unathorized protest. An atheist in Egypt was sentenced to a year behind bars for his religious beliefs. And for good measure, they’re going after homosexuals as well.
There are concerns that liberal Saudi blogger Raif Badawi might face the death penalty.
Iran has arrested more Baha’i citizens.
Pakistan is forcing all cell phone users in the country to register their fingerprint info with the government.
The torture of detainees continues to be a problem in Afghanistan.
The daughter of Uzbekistan’s president Islam Karimov has been detained at her home for a year, unable to communicate with the outside world.
Kyrgyzstan is threatening to pass anti-gay legislation.
China is continuing to crack down on activists and human rights groups.
The government of Myanmar was criticized by the UN for its treatment of minorities and dissenting political views.
Singapore is still caning people, even for relatively minor crimes like vandalism.
More modern countries whose citizens are being arrested for drug trafficking and killed by the Indonesia government are starting to look at how to deal with the situation.
The Philippines is cracking down on government-backed death squads.
New Zealand’s spy agency is spying on the citizens of its neighboring countries in the South Pacific and sharing the data with the NSA.
In Nauru, dozens of peaceful refugee protestors were arrested, including children.