Friday, April 27, 2007

Evidence that the Drug War is an incentive for Police Corruption

This is a long read but worth every second of your time. Sadly, it took the murder of an innocent 92 year-old-woman to bring these corrupt, illegal and widespread police tactics employed in the drug war to light. This type of lying, illegal searches and mistreatment of the citizens happens every day, on every police force in the US. Death of innocents, as a result, also happens a great deal more that most folks are aware of. It is way past time to end the drug war and to restore our constitutional and civil rights & liberties.

Two Atlanta Cops Plead Guilty in Woman's Death
Atlanta Journal Constitution

What started with a few bags of marijuana being planted near a
suspected street dealer quickly spiraled out of control. Narcotics
officers lied to a judge, illegally broke into 92-year-old Kathryn
Johnston's house, fired 39 shots at her -- and then one handcuffed her
as she lay bleeding before he planted drugs in her basement.

The events of Nov. 21, outlined in court documents, were almost an
"inevitable" outcome of a troubled police unit, a federal prosecutor
said Thursday as two former Atlanta narcotics officers pleaded guilty
and promised to cooperate in a wider probe of the department.

According to investigators, Atlanta narcotics officers hoped to
satisfy goals set by police commanders by repeatedly lying to obtain
search warrants, barging into homes and sometimes restraining innocent
people, an atmosphere that led to tragedy.

The sweeping accusations were made in the guilty-plea agreements of
Gregg Junnier and Jason R. Smith, two on a team of officers that took
part in the botched raid at Johnston's home.

The deceit Nov. 21 didn't end with a faked warrant, according the
officers' plea agreements -- they conspired to cover their actions by
asking a confidential informant to lie for them. Instead, the
informant went to authorities, giving birth to one of the biggest
scandals to hit the Atlanta Police Department in years.

On Thursday, Police Chief Richard Pennington and other department
leaders stood stone-faced as federal officials talked at a news
conference about misconduct on their watch.

"This has been a very painful five months in the police department,"
Pennington said. "The mayor and I, we wanted one thing to occur, to
get to the bottom of this and let justice be meted [out]."

Falsified Search Warrants

In rapid succession Thursday, Smith and Junnier heard their
indictments for felony murder read in court, pleaded guilty in state
court to voluntary manslaughter and other state charges, then pleaded
guilty in federal court on charges of conspiracy to violate a person's
civil rights ending in death.

"Junnier and other officers falsified affidavits for search warrants
to be considered productive officers and to meet APD's performance
targets," according to a federal exhibit released Thursday. "They
believed that these ends justified their illegal 'Fluffing' or
falsifying of search warrants.

"Because they obtained search warrants based on unreliable and false
information, [the officers] had on occasion searched residences where
there were no drugs and the occupants were not drug dealers."

The officers' callous attitude was evident the day of the killing,
said Fulton County prosecutor Peter Johnson. After getting a tip from
a suspected low-level drug dealer that a kilo of cocaine was in a home
at 933 Neal Street, Junnier said they could get a confidential
informant to make a buy there to prove there were drugs there.

"Or not," Smith said, according to prosecutors' account.

The officers chose the latter and lied to a judge that they had sent
an informant to the home, according to the plea agreement.

At an evening news conference, Greg Jones, head of Atlanta's FBI
office, called the officers' conduct "deplorable" and said the agency
will pursue "additional allegations of corruption that other Atlanta
police officers may have engaged in similar conduct."

U.S. Attorney David Nahmias called Johnston's death "almost
inevitable" because of such widespread activity and vowed a
far-reaching investigation into departmental practices. He said he
expects to find other cases where officers lied or relied on bad

"It's a very ongoing investigation into just how wide the culture of
misconduct extends," Nahmias said. "We'll dig until we can find
whatever we can."

Nahmias said: "The department must look forward to reform itself." But
he added "ongoing public scrutiny" on APD is needed to make that happen.

The news conference was held at Lindsay Street Baptist Church, a few
blocks from Johnston's home. It is the same church where Pennington
and Mayor Shirley Franklin faced an angry crowd of residents just days
after the shooting.

Pennington didn't hesitate to respond to questions that police
higher-ups set arrest goals.

"The Atlanta Police Department does not have a quota system," he said.
"Yes, we get on officers for performance. Any corporate system does

"We have enough crime in Atlanta; we don't have to get quotas," he

Community Not Satisfied

Thursday's event at the church got dicey again. State Rep. Able Mable
Thomas, who represents the area, took federal prosecutors to task.
"The community is not satisfied with the plea bargain," she said. "The
reality is the police are not off our back."

Nahmias tried to step in to get the conference back to a
question-and-answer, when an irked Thomas waved him off. "The federal
government just says close it!"

Markel Hutchins, the Johnston family's spokesman since the shooting,
stepped up to the bank of microphones, saying, "We are quite
comfortable this will be used as a tool to rid this community of this

During Thursday's state plea, a fidgeting and barely audible Smith
leaned forward toward Fulton County Superior Court Judge Michael
Johnson and said: "I wanted to say how regretful I am ... and sorry."

Junnier chose not to say anything, but his outspoken attorney, Rand
Csehy, told the judge: "It's a case where the fish rotted from the
head down," referring to police brass not properly training narcotics
officers and turning a blind eye to improper tactics in that unit.

"Hopefully [the pleas] will reverberate through the police department"
and help the narcotics unit clean up its act, Csehy said.

Under the plea deals, Junnier, who came forward to federal authorities
Dec. 11, would get 10 years in federal prison and Smith would get 12
years and seven months.

The maximum penalty for the federal charge they accepted is life in
prison. Their sentences could be shortened if they provide
investigators with "substantial assistance" in their ongoing probe of
the department.

In state court, multiple charges of felony murder as well as burglary
and other charges were dropped.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said his office has
started looking at hundreds of cases in which the officers were
involved. He said "as soon as we find out" corruption was involved,
those convictions will be undone.

Smith, 35, a former Georgia National Guard officer who served in Iraq,
was indicted on 13 felonies, including four counts of felony murder,
violation of an oath by a public officer, two counts of giving false
statements, two counts of burglary and one count each of aggravated
assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment and perjury.

Smith's attorney, John Garland, said his client "was trained to lie by
fellow officers to establish probable cause."

Junnier, 40, with nine years in the narcotics unit, was charged with
three counts of felony murder, violation of oath by a public officer,
criminal solicitation, two counts of burglary and one count each of
aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and making a false statement.

A third officer, Arthur Tesler, 40, is charged with violating his oath
as an officer, making false statements and false imprisonment. Tesler,
with eight months as a narcotics officer, vowed to fight charges
against him.

His attorney, William McKenney, said Tesler was "pleased the grand
jury listened to him. They saw [the more serious felonies] as baseless
charges. The imprisonment [charge] is factually flawed and will be


Anonymous said...

This is just sickening and disgusting beyond what I can express! All I can say is... "What is this world coming to?" Thank God they've been caught, found out, and are paying for it now! And they'll have plenty of time to think about what they've done and hopefully, what they can do to atleast show some accountability and remourse! As for what they've done to Kathryn... NO WORDS; just emptiness!

Anonymous said...

Good grief, Lo, I never realized it was so bad until I read this. Thanks for being on the ball and spreading the word. YOU'RE THE ONE!

Anonymous said...

Good grief, Lo, I never realized it was so bad until I read this. Thanks for being on the ball and spreading the word. YOU'RE THE ONE!

Unknown said...

Loretta, this really demonstrates the battle ahead of us, and why this country, and this world desperately need to legalize, regulate, and CONTROL Drugs. If the costs and destruction caused by this type of police corruption are staggering in Atlanta, Imagine what its like in Los Angeles, New York, or my local big town, Detroit. Mikey Evans, Chairman, Oakland County NORML

Anonymous said...

the dea and local cops did the same lying, breaking the laws and violating my rights in my marijuana bust here in Butler, al. i hope they all burn in hell, those devils.