Covering items related to the drug war here at HA, I’ve focused mostly on local happenings, but the drug war continues to destroy lives all over. Here are four recent cases from across the United States:
In California, where medical marijuana has been legal for 12 years now, a dispensary owner in Morro Bay named Charlie Lynch was convicted yesterday in a federal court and faces a minimum of five years in jail, and a maximum of 85.
During the trial, the jury was not allowed to know that Lynch was providing marijuana to people who were ill and authorized by doctors under state law to use marijuana. The judge even went so far as to try to keep registered patients out of the courtroom in order to deceive the jury as to the true nature of Lynch’s business. As far as they knew, he was just some guy selling drugs to people, and not a legitimate business owner who was warmly welcomed by the mayor of Morro Bay. He had no criminal record but could now receive a longer sentence than if he’d murdered someone.
Reason.tv has covered this case extensively. Drew Carey produced a great video on Lynch and one of his customers, a young man who got bone cancer in high school, lost his leg, and discovered that marijuana was the most effective medicine for the phantom pain that many amputees experience. Nick Gillespie has more here, as does Radley Balko.
Cheye Calvo, the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, was raided by a Prince George County SWAT team on the evening of July 29th. After storming into the house, according to Calvo, the officers shot one of his two black Labrador retrievers immediately and shot the second one as it ran away. The reason for the raid was that police intercepted a large package of marijuana addressed to Calvo’s wife.
After first claiming that Calvo, his wife, and his mother-in-law were “persons-of-interest,” the police later figured out that it was a scheme to mail a package to a random person and intercept it. The police also claim that the dogs were threatening them, a claim that Calvo strongly disputes. In addition, the officers didn’t even have a no-knock warrant, so the entire raid was illegal anyway.
This January in Lima, Ohio, a SWAT team raided a house occupied by Tarika Wilson and her 6 children. The police were looking for her boyfriend, Anthony Terry, who was suspected of dealing drugs. Wilson was shot and killed by Officer Joe Chavalia as she was on her knees trying to protect her 1-year-old son. The toddler was shot twice but managed to only lose a finger. Terry was arrested during the raid and is now serving a 7-year jail sentence for selling crack and marijuana to police informants. Wilson was never a suspect.
Chavalia was charged with negligent homicide, but at the trial, claimed that he thought he was under attack when he heard his fellow officers shooting Wilson’s two pit bulls during the raid. He was acquitted this week by an all-white jury. Both Wilson and Terry are black.
Black residents of Lima are furious as this is just another in a long line of questionable incidents by local police towards their community. The U.S. Department of Justice is considering civil rights charges. The Lima police department has yet to apologize or even admit that a mistake was made. Anthony Terry was certainly breaking the law (although he was no more than a low-level dealer), and there may even have been reason to think he was potentially dangerous, but raiding a house where six kids are living and shooting wildly is never acceptable in any circumstance.
Arguably the most moronic story comes from Tallahassee. A 23-year-old graduate of Florida State University named Rachel Hoffman was arrested by police in possession of 5 ounces of marijuana and 6 ecstasy pills. It was her second arrest after being forced into drug treatment once after police had pulled her over with marijuana in her car a year before. According to her friends, she was a bit of a hippie who just supplied her college friends with recreational drugs.
At this point, she was potentially facing some real prison time, so she decided (without the knowledge of her attorney) to become an informant and help Tallahassee police bust some suspected gang members in order to avoid going to jail. The police set Hoffman up on a sting to try to purchase a large amount of drugs and a gun from Deneilo Bradshaw and Andrea Green. The two men, likely smelling the idiotic sting attempt from a mile away, lured Hoffman to a different location and killed her. Bradshaw and Green have been arrested and face murder charges.
This case has gotten the most media attention so far, including a report on ABC’s 20/20 which contains a long interview with the unbelievably clueless Tallahassee Police Chief. Hoffman’s parents are angry as hell and are now worried that the judge in Bradshaw and Green’s murder case is trying to keep them from criticizing local officials over what happened.