In the News

DEA returns seized birdseed

An embarrassed Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), yielding to pressure from the Canadian government, has returned 50,000 pounds of sterile hemp seed seized at the border in August. DEA must also promise to let future shipments through U.S. Customs unimpeded. The owner of the seed, Kenex Ltd. of Ontario, has not ruled out the option of suing DEA to recover legal and other expenses.

Out-of-control lockup

Sheriff Tom Russell's Miller County, Missouri jail operation is the subject of an intense corruption investigation by State Attorney General Jay Nixon. The probe had already resulted in a deputy sheriff, three jailers and two former prisoners pleading guilty to corruption and assorted criminal charges. Two other jailers arrested in the probe have pleaded innocent and are awaiting trial.
Nixon alleges Russell ran an "out-of-control" jail where inmates ran the lockup, rogue cops snorted cocaine with inmates and bartered sex for leniency, and corrupt guards sold prisoners everything from conjugal visits to liquor.

Crack babies: another drug war myth

According to a recent study, babies exposed to cocaine or crack before birth show no significant trends towards retardation or other health problems, compared to babies not exposed. In fact, poverty has a far greater negative impact on the ability of a young child's brain to focus, organize, and problem-solve than exposure to cocaine before birth.
"A decade ago, the cocaine-exposed child was stereotyped as being neurologically crippled - trembling in a corner and irreparably damaged," study lead author Dr. Hallam Hurt, the chairman of the division of neonatology at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, told Reuters news service. "But that is unequivocally not the case. And furthermore, the inner-city child who has had no drug exposure at all is doing no better than the child labeled a 'crack-baby.'"

Prohibition terror

Five Baltimore women were slain in a single day as a warning to rival drug dealers, according to the Associated Press. Authorities say the women were not involved with drug dealing but were shot to send a message to friends or relatives who were. The 22-year-old son of one of the five victims was also found fatally shot the morning after the killings.

Drug test results in suicide

An Atlantic City, New Jersey police officer, home on disability since May and in constant pain from a back injury, was selected at random for a drug test under a new 'zero tolerance' departmental policy. He failed, putting his job and pension at risk. Officer Michael Strehle then went home, locked himself in his bedroom, and hanged himself. Officer Strehle was 15 months away from retirement.

Customs fires whistleblower

U.S. Customs Service has given a termination notice to an inspector who went public with allegations that black and Hispanic airline passengers were being targeted for drug searches because of their race. Cathy Harris had allowed a television station access to internal records showing that black passengers in Atlanta were singled out for searches at a higher rate than whites. Customs official deny any racial bias and cited 'regulations' as the reason for the termination.

Oklahoma governor branded a racist

A state senator has called on Gov. Frank Keating to apologize for remarks he made during a conference on methamphetamine use in Oklahoma.
"It's a white-trash drug ... methamphetamines largely are consumed by the lower socio-economic element of white people ... and I think we need to shame it ... just like crack cocaine was a black-trash drug and is a black-trash drug." Keating had told the audience.
"Those kind of comments are inappropriate and offensive for anyone to use, especially the man who holds our state's highest office," Sen. Larry Dickerson, D-Poteau, a former district attorney, told the Tulsa World.

Officer worked for drug dealer

A veteran New York City police officer has been accused of acting as a guard for a drug dealer. Federal agents have alleged that Officer Mark Acosta of the 26th Precinct in West Harlem worked as a paid escort for numerous narcotics deals. Officer Acosta has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

Wife of drug warrior indicted

A federal grand jury has indicted the wife of the former commander of the U.S. antidrug operation in Colombia on 13 drug-trafficking charges.
Laurie Ann Hiett, wife of Col. James Hiett, is accused of using embassy privileges to smuggle cocaine to the United States. If convicted, she could face more than 10 years in prison.
The defendant, who is free on bail, has agreed to give up her right to a speedy prosecution to pursue a possible plea bargain.

Johnson appoints new top cop

New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has named Albuquerque police chief Nicholas Bakas as the new director of the Department of Public Safety. Bakas succeeds Darren White, who resigned because he disagreed with what he called Johnson's "crusade to legalize drugs".
Bakas has supported drug legalization within the context of "regulation, control, taxation, education and treatment." Gov. Johnson told the Associated Press he was concerned that he hired someone for the job who has an open mind on the subject.
"Nick impressed me as a cop's cop ... someone who stated in our interview that police are not afraid of change," Johnson stated. "They're just as eager to engage the debate as anyone else."

Rewriting the Bill of Rights

Grand Prairie, Texas police and city officials are confident that a new ordinance that does not require officers to have probable cause to detain a "suspected drug dealer or user" can survive possible court challenges. Hopefully the courts will feel otherwise.

Potential life sentence leads to double suicide

A Sacramento, California couple was found dead in an apparent double suicide in December, hours after the man was to have appeared in court to face a possible life sentence under the notorious "three strikes and you're out" law. He was charged with possession of marijuana and amphetamines.
Friends who grew concerned when the 46-year-old man failed to appear in court found the two in a running car in their garage. They had died by self-inflicted carbon monoxide poisoning.

Industry challenges prison labor

Rick Cipple, president of American Apparel in Selma, Alabama, recognizes the threat that prison industries pose to the American workforce. He has accused Federal Prison Industries (FPI, or UNICOR) of costing many Americans their livlihoods, including the loss of 120 jobs in American Apparel's Brantley, Alabama plant when FPI entered the apparel industry. Appearing before Congress, Cipple claimed FPI is operating outside its own charter, which mandates " . . .the program may not materially affect any one industry or business."
Cipple stated in The Birmingham News, "There are whole industries that have been put out of business by the FPI ­ upholstery, draperies, office furniture, glovemakers. I'm not sure I can define material adverse impact, but if your whole company went under, that would probably feel pretty material."

Girl dies in 'boot camp'

The death of a 14-year-old girl has prompted an FBI inquiry into the practices of state-run "boot camps" for juvenile offenders.
The girl was shackled and dragged on a nearly 3-mile run last July, then left lying in the sun untreated for more than three hours by staff at the South Dakota State Training School. The probe has given rise to a debate over the widespread practice of sending teens to institutions where, many say, they are physically and emotionally abused. South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow, a former U.S. Marine, defended boot camps, saying, "we're getting the booze and drugs out of their mind."

40 years for pot

Arthur Donnel Miller, Jr., a Payne County, Oklahoma prisoner, received an astonishing 40-year sentence for being caught with marijuana in his cell. Miller's cellmate, Eric Thompson, who was also charged and earlier pleaded guilty, had already testified the marijuana was his, according to the local district attorney's office.

Packing those prisons!

New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Gov. George E. Pataki have each proposed laws that would sharply increase the penalties faced by people who repeatedly commit misdemeanor crimes like trespassing, turnstile-jumping or possessing small amounts of marijuana.
Both proposals would mandate that after a person is convicted of a certain number of misdemeanors, any subsequent misdemeanor conviction would be treated as a felony, further crowding the already overflowing New York prison population.