Criminal Justice

Mom Swarmed By Police, Beaten, and Her Child Kidnapped For Social Media Credit

As the Free Thought Project reported last October, the police shooting death of Walter Wallace Jr., a Philly man in a mental health crisis who charged officers with a knife, set off massive unrest in the city. On the first night of unrest, TFTP reported on multiple instances of police officers being attacked and actually retreating from rioters. On the second night, however, the cops appeared to be the ones rioting and an innocent mother and her toddler were caught in the middle of their violence.

In a video posted to Twitter, dozens of riot officers are seen swarming an SUV. For an unknown reason, they begin smashing in all the windows on all sides with a complete lack of concern for anyone inside.

When the driver’s side door is open, the driver is pulled from the vehicle as officers continue pummeling him with their batons. He is thrown to the ground and cops continue to beat him. The passenger, Rickia Young is also pulled from the vehicle and beaten.

It is a scene reminiscent of the Rodney King beating but worse, as there was a child involved. This week, the taxpayers of Philadelphia were put on notice they will be paying Young $2 million because of what the cops did to her that night.

On that fateful night, Young—who didn’t even know their were protests going on—turned down a blocked off street and was attempting to turn around when a massive gang of cops swarmed her car and began attacking her. Young and her 16-year-old nephew were dragged from the car for no reason and then savagely beaten. Young’s 2-year-old was asleep in his car seat in the back and was shaken out of his slumber by the sound of breaking glass.

The attack was captured on video by April Rice and it quickly went viral as Young and her nephew were left battered and bloody for no reason.

“Her face was bloodied and she looked like she had been beaten by a bunch of people on the street,” attorney Riley H. Ross III told The Washington Post.

After kidnapping Young, police then kidnapped her son and shamelessly used him for a fake PR story on social media. A picture of a female cop holding Young’s son was later posted on the National Fraternal Order of Police Facebook page, along with claims that officers found Young’s son “lost” and “wandering around barefoot” before asserting that officers are “the only thing standing between order and anarchy.”

This was all a lie.

“It’s propaganda,” Ross III told The Post at the time. “Using this kid in a way to say, ‘This kid was in danger and the police were only there to save him,’ when the police actually caused the danger. That little boy is terrified because of what the police did.”

Young was separated from her son for hours until the boy’s grandmother finally found him in a police cruiser miles away in Center City, with broken glass in his car seat, according to attorneys.

This is not a scene that should represent the supposed land of the free. This is a scene out of a war torn hell state.

The fact that officers felt comfortable enough to walk up to the vehicle and begin smashing out windows, indicates that they did not feel threatened from an armed occupant or a potential for being run over — nor were they worried about accountability. In other words, this massive gang of riot police carried out an act of violent aggression on a family trapped in the chaos and faced almost no consequences.

Though two officers were fired over the attack, and another 15 await internal disciplinary proceedings, not a single cop has been charged with a crime.

“The video to me is clear that more than two officers that were fired participated in the physical assault,” one of Young’s attorneys Kevin Mincey said. “I can’t understand how those people would be allowed to continue to wear the uniform of the Philadelphia Police Department.”

This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

Cops Flip Car Over Speeding Ticket, Kill 12 Year Old Boy

As the Free Thought Project reports on a regular basis, police in the land of the free will go to violent and often deadly extremes to enforce even the most arbitrary “law.” If police claim to see you break one of these arbitrary laws like speeding, they claim the right to detain and extort you. If you choose to resist this extortion, police will then claim the right to kidnap you. And, as the following tragic case out of Georgia illustrates, if you resist this kidnapping, police will use deadly force like a pit maneuver, including against children.

Last week, Charlie Moore was driving his teen son, 14, and his friend 12-year-old Leden Boykins home from a job at which they cleaned up parking lots for extra cash. On the way home, police targeted Moore for revenue collection, claiming that he was driving too fast.

According to a Georgia State Patrol incident report, Moore was pulled over off of Highway 92 in Paulding County for “driving recklessly and at a high rate of speed,” and when ordered out of the car for a speeding ticket, he refused, saying he was scared since so many officers were present.

While pulled over, Moore called 911 to report the fact that multiple troopers were threatening him and that he was in fear for his life. And, as history shows us, he had every reason to be fearful.

“He told the 911 operator, he said, ‘I need for y’all to get a supervisor out here, there’s too many police cars and I’m in fear of my life,’” Leden’s mother, Toni Boykins said.

When a trooper on the scene began attempting to smash in Moore’s window, he fled the scene to preserve his life. During the chase, he stayed on the phone with 911, clearly indicating to them that he was not a threat and just wanted to be in a safer situation.

“I am afraid. I’m afraid for my life,” he told 911. “They need to get them off of me, right now, because I’m scared, I’ve got my kids with me, right now.”

Everyone involved, from the 911 operator to the troopers involved in the stop knew there were children in the car. They also knew who the car was registered to, knew the driver’s name and address, and easily could have gone to his home after this to enforce the penalties for fleeing a stop for speeding.

But that did not happen.

Instead of applying logic and reason and allowing Moore to simply drive home, drop off the children, and then safely arrest him later at his home, one state trooper decided to conduct a PIT Maneuver—on a car he knew was full of children—to flip Moore’s car over. For a speeding ticket.

On the 911 call, we can hear the trooper trying to flip the vehicle, despite Moore pleading with 911 that he has kids in the car.

“I’ve got my kids with me, man,” Moore told police over the phone. “Oh my God, no, they’re trying to flip my car, man.”

According to the 911 call, Moore remained connected to dispatch during the attack by the trooper and the car is heard rolling over before Moore shouts, “Leden! Leden! Leden! No!…” He knew Leden had been killed.

The official policy of PIT maneuvers is fairly specific on avoiding incidents involving children in the vehicle. Nevertheless, troopers decided the enforcement of a speeding ticket was more important than the lives of two children, and it was carried out.

Now, Moore has been charged with Leden’s murder, and while he certainly deserves to be held accountable for his role in the child’s demise, he was most assuredly not the one who killed him. Leden’s family agrees.

“He does bear some responsibility, that he was pulled over, and he had kids in the car,” Leden’s father, Anthony Boykins told 11 Alive. Adding that he wanted to know, “Why was he considered so dangerous that they had to flip that car with them kids in there? Why did he (the trooper) make that decision? Why did he decide to flip that car knowing there was kids in there?”

The trooper who caused the crash is under investigation, however, this is merely standard procedure and likely won’t amount to any accountability. For now, Leden’s parents are fighting to get back their son from the city, who has had his body since the crash.

This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

Teens Beg for Life as Cop Unloads (and Reloads) Pistol Into Car

When the entire dash cam footage was released, showing officer Allan Brown firing eleven shots into a vehicle—pausing only to reload—and firing another ten shots into the vehicle as the teens inside can be heard begging for their lives, the country was shocked. It is disturbing, to say the least. Yet despite the disturbing nature of the video, this week, in a split ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Brown was granted qualified immunity and he was exonerated.

Christian Redwine, 17, was killed in the shooting and passengers Hunter Tillis and Hanna Wuenschel, two other teens, suffered multiple gunshot wounds. It was the first volley, of the 21 total bullets, that struck Redwine in the head and heart that ended his young life, according to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.

According to the ruling:

“The surviving passengers and Redwine’s grandmother sued Officer Brown for allegedly using excessive force during the encounter, as well as the police chief and the county for supervisory liability. Officer Brown moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The district court granted the motion for Officer Brown as to the first round of shots but denied it as to the second. Because Officer Brown acted reasonably in firing both rounds of shots, we affirm in part, and we reverse in part and render a judgment in favor of Officer Brown, the police chief, and the county.”

Brown claimed that Redwine tried to use the car to run him over, which caused him fear for his life, and prompted the fatal shots—and apparently the 11 Circuit agreed. An attorney representing Wuenschel said Redwine was trying only to back out of a hole. The attorney said Redwine was shot seven times, Wuenschel two or three times, and Tillis at least twice.

Despite the clearly desperate pleas of mercy from the teens, as Brown unloaded two magazines into their vehicle, a Russell County grand jury found that Brown committed no criminal wrongdoing in the November 6, 2017 incident. Now, four years later and the family’s only chance for accountability has been ruined, yet again, thanks to qualified immunity. 

“We are not persuaded by the plaintiffs’ arguments that Officer Brown was indisputably out of harm’s way,” wrote Chief Judge William Pryor. “For the purposes of summary judgment, we accept the undisputed evidence that Officer Brown was positioned in the “V” between his police vehicle and its open driver’s door and that, as it turned out, the Pontiac drove straight back.” Viewing that evidence in the plaintiffs’ favor, it was not unreasonable for Officer Brown to conclude at the time he fired the shots that the Pontiac posed a serious danger. When an officer is on foot and standing in close proximity to a suspect’s moving vehicle, he need not be directly in the vehicle’s path to fear reasonably for his life. It is “obvious,” in this circumstance, that the suspect could quickly turn his steering wheel and swerve toward the officer.”

When watching the video, however, these claims ring hollow. Brown can be seen on dash cam video trailing two other police cars also in pursuit of Christian Redwine after reports of a stolen vehicle in Columbus.

As the teens attempt to take an exit at high speeds, Redwine loses control of the vehicle.

“We’re gonna be on Riverchase Road dispatch. He has wrecked out. Wrecked out. He is spinning. Start uh rescue,” Brown reports to dispatch.

With the wheels of the vehicle now spinning in reverse, Brown, who is now on foot, fires his weapon 11 times.

The passengers can be heard pleading for the officer to stop firing.

“No, stop! Please! I got shot! Please! Please! ”

Brown, instead, paused only to reload his weapon and fire 10 more times.

“Oh my God I‘m shot! My God. Please no. Please! Please!”

After shooting all three individuals, we can here Brown yelling at the unarmed teens to “get down on the f**king ground or I will f**king shoot you.”

Wuenschel’s cries continue, repeating “Oh my God!” and “Oh my God, sir, please call me an ambulance! Please!”

For several moments after the shooting, the teens are heard crying and begging for help.

By the time Brown had unloaded two magazines, Christian Redwine, 17, was dead, and the two others had both suffered gunshot wounds. In fact, a later investigation would reveal that all three teens had been shot in the initial barrage of gunfire.

When Brown went to trial for his crimes, the city brought in a bunch of police apologist “experts” to justify and propagandize the jury into believing that unloading an entire magazine into a car full of teens, then pausing to reload and drop another ten shots as they beg for their lives, was justified.

Now, years later and the system is once again protecting a cop who tried to murder a car full of teens.

This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

9/11 Propaganda Poisoned America’s Mind (Including Libertarians)

Life in America changed twenty years ago after the 9/11 attacks. Many Americans became enraged at anyone who did not swear allegiance to President George W. Bush’s antiterrorism crusade. Anyone who denied “they hate us for our freedoms” automatically became an enemy of freedom.

Plenty of stalwart defenders of liberty quickly found themselves banished from polite company. At the time of the 9/11 attacks, I had been bashing government policies for twenty years. Conservatives relished my battering of the Clinton administration in books such as Feeling Your Pain (St. Martin’s, 2000). But past writing provided no indemnity for subsequent sins.

Regardless, nothing happened on 9/11 to make the government more trustworthy. Two years after the 9/11 attacks, St. Martin’s Press published my Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice, and Peace to Rid the World of Evil, attacking the war on terror across the board. I scoffed, “The Patriot Act treats every citizen like a suspected terrorist and every federal agent like a proven angel.” When the Justice Department launched a PATRIOT Act propaganda website,, it included an attack on my writing. As one book publicist told me, I was in “the untouchable part of the intellectual caste system.” Luckily, some outlets did not go to the dark side, including the Mises Institute, the Future of Freedom Foundation, and websites like and Counterpunch.

I soon recognized that the feds had more fans than I realized, especially among self-proclaimed friends of freedom. In February 2004, I spoke to a hundred folks at the best-known libertarian forum in New York City. Some of the attendees had followed my work for years, while others may have shown up simply to howl at a heretic.

Three minutes into the speech, a paunchy middle-aged guy leaped to his feet and denounced me: “You sound like an isolationist—and that means you are anti-Israel!”

What the hell?

I began to suspect that only people with unmedicated ADHD were permitted in the audience and I’d be lucky to speak three sentences in a row. Attendees were not considered to be hecklers unless they threw physical objects at the speaker. The scene quickly became akin to a political convention, with random people jumping up to make speeches, most of them bad. It is tricky to argue with self-evident truths that were established solely by echo chambers. Plenty of attendees had never recovered from their own high SAT scores.

As the evening progressed, I was accused of everything except advocating infanticide. Perhaps the biggest surprise that night was that many people objected to making fun of the government. A tall, elderly gentleman declared that comical pratfalls by the Transportation Security Administration and the FBI were irrelevant to the “big picture.”

“What’s the ‘big picture?’” I asked.

“The fact that there haven’t been any terror attacks since 9/11 proves the feds are doing a good job,” he declared, spurring loud assents from the audience. He insisted that hundreds of Muslim sleeper cells in the US were waiting for the signal to sow mass death and chaos. I was chagrined to see folks more fearful of alleged invisible Muslim perils than of rampaging federal agencies. I have always considered mocking the government as a trademark of a free citizen. And, as H.L. Mencken wrote, “One horse laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms.” At the end of two hours’ sparring, the host gave me a check that was larger than I expected, so all’s well that ends well (or at least profitably).

That brawl was a bellwether on how the freedom movement had changed. A few months later, the Abu Ghraib photos and memos from the Justice Department authorizing torture leaked out. A top Justice Department official had assured the White House that the president was entitled to violate criminal laws (such as the Anti-torture Act) during wartime. That preemptive “get out of jail free” card unleashed interrogation methods such as waterboarding (simulated drowning), pummeling, and long-term sleep deprivation.

There was no way to deny the depravity of Bush’s war on terror after that, right? No such luck. When I spoke at the largest nationwide gathering of freedom activists in Las Vegas and at the national Libertarian Party conference in 2004, I was booed for my criticisms of Bush’s warring and torturing. I was also later booed for opposing torture at the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. Plenty of libertarians were no longer in favor of freedom—unless it included the freedom to torture terrorists. And how do we know who is a terrorist? That’s easy—because someone somewhere claims to suspect them of something.

A few months before the 2004 election, St. Martin’s Press published my book titled The Bush Betrayalwhich flogged Bush’s secret arrests, “Total Information Awareness” surveillance schemes, and cult of presidential supremacy. The blog site the publisher created for the book included an email link so readers could send me their thoughts unimpeded by spellcheckers. Here’s a sampling of the fan mail which was reposted on in a piece headlined “Bush Supporters Vindicate the President”:

  • “You are a communist bastard! … So don’t forget that there are those out here who put there lives on the line for assholes like you to have the freedom of speech—to say what you will—and so can I!”
  • “Are you dilusional or just trying to make a buck?”
  • “I think we should be torturing these SOB’s … Your concern over the so called ‘torture’ of the prisoners is ludicrous when one looks at how barbaric they are to begin with. What you are caling ‘torture,’ most people would call callege hazing.”
  • “You are a very little man. Those of you who don’t appriciate the freedom our sons and daughters paid for make a mockery of their sacrifice. May God have mercy on your soul, you ignorate little person.”
  • “You are one sick mother fucker. Why not just support the troops instead of criminilizing them. does history not teach you anything? Like John Kerry is a fucking liar/traitor.”

Middle Seat Edification

But maybe not everybody thought like that? Maybe folks would simmer down after Bush was reelected? Alas, as Shakespeare observed, “Hope is a curtail dog in some affairs.”

A few months later, I was flying from Washington to Dallas, two days after Bush’s second inaugural speech. The flight was overstocked with Texans returning after attending celebrations for their former governor.  One frumpy lady loudly gushed to an acquaintance in the next row: “Laura looked so wonderful with that designer dress at the ball.” I had no regrets about not being invited to that shindig.

I was stuck in a middle seat between a chubby little fourteen-year-old boy and a tripwire-tense enlisted Air Force man who spent the entire flight watching reruns of bad situation comedies on his laptop.  The kid devoted himself to paging through a school textbook and highlighting almost every paragraph with a yellow marker.

As the plane taxied to its takeoff position, the kid asked me, “Did you go to the inauguration Thursday?”

I smiled and said no, and asked if he had gone.

His eyes lit up, his face suddenly seemed cognizant, and he declared, “Yes!” He told me he was from Bush’s hometown, Midland, Texas.

“What did you think of the speech?” I asked.

“I loved every word of it!”

“So you think it is a good idea for the US to be spreading freedom?”

“Oh yes. We have to do that.”

“Are you concerned about going to war to spread freedom?” I asked nonchalantly.

The Air Force dude erupted: “DON’T LISTEN TO HIM! This guy hates America! This guy hates our president! Don’t listen to a single thing he says!” Maybe he didn’t like my beard.

This guy—mid-thirtyish with a semijarhead haircut—swore that the Bush administration never made any false statements on the road to war with Iraq.

I shrugged. “Cheney said Saddam had a reconstituted nuclear weapon.”


“Actually, it was on March 17, 2003—on Meet the Press—and …”


“Well, if I had my book with me, I could show you.”

“THAT’S A LIE!” He was absolutely convinced that I was determined to smear the nation, the military, and Bush—of whom he proudly said: “He’s my LEADER!”

“You people are going to be proven all wrong next week!” he declaimed very fervently, for someone practically sitting on my elbow.

“Who is ‘you people?’” I asked.

“People like you that hate America and oppose the Iraq War!” Pounding his fist on the armrest, he declared that I was “one of those people who thinks that Arabs don’t want to be free—you don’t care about liberating the Iraqi people. Next week, when the Iraqis go out and vote and become a democracy, you and your kind will be proven totally wrong!”

At that time, the Bush administration was claiming that upcoming parliamentary elections would prove that Iraqis approved of the US invasion. On Election Day, US military convoys rolled through Iraqi neighborhoods shortly after sunrise with loudspeakers blasting orders in Arabic for people to go vote. The Bush administration also secretly and illegally delivered millions of dollars in cash to boost the political campaigns of its favored candidates.

As the flight crossed over the state of Mississippi, the boy proudly told me that he was president of his school class in Midland.

After I congratulated him, he declared that he planned to go into politics.

I asked: “Who is your congressman?”

He gave me a blank look. “I don’t know,” he said, followed by a momentary grimace. This kid was definitely not in the league of Lyndon Johnson, another ambitious Texan famous for coming to Washington as a youth and exploiting every human contact he ever made to maximize his future clout.

During the flight, I was hand editing printed chapters of a forthcoming book. As we neared landing, the boy asked a question or two about my political views. I said I admired the Constitution and favored leashing all politicians and federal agencies.

He squinted and said warily: “You sound like you hate the government.”

I laughed. “No. I don’t hate the government. I just think its power should be limited.”

My answer did nothing to placate his suspicions.

“What do you think the government should be doing? What is its main purpose?” I asked.

The kid paused, struggled briefly, and then replied, “Keep people under control?”

Since that was the new American vision of freedom Bush sought to impose at home and abroad, that boy was backing the right politician. Unfortunately, tens of millions of Americans also revered their ruler’s iron fist.

Whacked and Stacked?

I attended most of the major antiwar protests from 2002 onward. With each passing year, the police became more heavily armored and more aggressive.

In September 2005, hundreds of thousands of marchers protested the Bush administration’s Iraq war. The well-organized event included bevies of activist lawyers stationed along the main route with video cameras to document any police brutality against demonstrators. I walked my bike with the marchers as they passed the Treasury building on the east side of the White House, where I snapped my all-time favorite photo of an overfed, stupefied cop.

After hoofing for a mile with the crowd, I rode off to reconnoiter. There were metal sawhorses scattered all over the nearby streets, making it difficult to recognize what roads were open and which were restricted.

I zipped down the street between Lafayette Park and the White House and then swung down Seventeenth Street on the west side of the White House, heading toward the National Mall. That road was deserted except for two cops standing in the middle, twenty-five yards ahead of me. As I got closer to them, a fat cop suddenly raised his four-foot wooden pole over his head and began lumbering directly into my path.

I was puzzled until I heard the other cop mumble about how I wasn’t allowed on that street. His partner was getting ready to bust his stick over my head.

I sped up, veered left, and laughed at the G-man over my shoulder. The street closing was not marked, but cops were still entitled to assail any violators—as long as there was no one around to film the beating. Actually, if that cop had smashed me with that pole, I might have been arrested on ginned-up charges for assaulting a policeman. In the same way that cops routinely justify shooting motorists by claiming the driver was trying to run them down, so the pole dude might have claimed I was trying to run him over. Or maybe I would have been booked on “conspiracy to damage a federal pole” that he wanted to break over my bike helmet.

This struck me as a microcosm of what American society is becoming—more and more government agents waiting to whack anyone who doesn’t obey the latest secret rules.

After leaving those chumps behind, I swung down a side street away from the main action. But then I heard loudspeakers in the distance, perhaps coming from the Ellipse, in front of the White House. Was another demonstration busting out? Like a moth attracted to a flame, I bustled down a mostly empty street back in the direction of the White House. As I arrived within sight of the President’s Palace, a gnarly police commander with a burning cigar butt clenched between his teeth screamed at me: “How did you get here!?!”

“I rode down the street,” I replied.

“You’re not allowed to come down on this street!”

“I didn’t see any signs or anything prohibiting it,” I said.

“I had two policemen at the entrance of the street,” he raged. “How did you sneak by them?”

I said I hadn’t seen anyone.

The cop boss was tottering on the edge of arresting me. Another policeman, dressed in civvies, suggested to this cigar chomper that he just let me go through the opening of the metal sawhorses.

Not a chance. The boss cop insisted that I reverse course and ride back down that street. I did so and, at the end of that block, I saw four DC police officers lounging in the shade, perhaps yammering about the Washington Redskins’ latest loss. Regardless of his subordinates’ lethargy, that police commander took great satisfaction in compelling one bicyclist to reverse course. Maybe he even touted it as a “potential terrorist incident averted” in his official report on the day’s action.

New President, Same Vitriol

After Obama was elected, I thought folks might simmer down. Wrong, dude. While Obama unleashed plenty of policies that reasonable Americans could justifiably condemn, some of his loudest adversaries were hellbent on reviving Bush’s worst practices. After attending a Tea Party rally in Rockville, Maryland, in 2010, I wrote, “Many ‘tea party’ activists staunchly oppose big government, except when it is warring, wiretapping, or waterboarding.” Speakers bitterly complained that Obama gave orders to cease using “enhanced interrogation” torture methods on detainees. I was not charmed by folks clamoring for war with Iran and denouncing the president for finding his “inner Muslim.”  That piece, published by the Christian Science Monitor, concluded: “America needs real champions of freedom—not poorly informed Republican accomplices.”

My ringside report was not universally appreciated. Tea Party zealots took to with verbal pitchforks and torches:

Buzz: “Libs are traitors and should be treated as such. Traitors have very few rights. I can only think of 2, and they are more of a courtesy then rights. (blindfold,smoke).”

RAGNAR: “Just another dihonest bit of editorializing nothing new to see here just move on everyone”

RJ: “The first Liberal since the beginning of time, a Lier, a Thief and a Murder, satan.”

JH: “What make him a Nazi and not just a Liberal? Why a Nazi, as Nazi must defend and promote a position with lies and not stand on facts.”

Scott: “Its funny how WE stand up for our RIGHTS and BELIEFS and get attacked and told to shut up.. But we are subjected to your apathetic ideas by force of Gov’t. HOW VERY COMMUNIST OF YOU … ”

The Obama White House soon became as power crazed as the Bush administration. In May 2011, the Christian Science Monitor published another piece of mine, “Assassination Nation: Are There Any Limits on President Obama’s License to Kill?” I derided the Obama administration’s claim that the president possessed a “right to kill Americans without a trial, without notice, and without any chance for targets to legally object…. Killings based solely on presidential commands radically transform the relation of the government to the citizenry.”

Testy online responses confirmed the sea change in how absolute power was viewed. My article mentioned an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit pressuring the Obama administration “to disclose the legal standard it uses to place US citizens on government kill lists.” “Will R.” was indignant: “We need to send Bovard and the ACLU to Iran. You shoot traders and the ACLU are a bunch of traders.” (I was pretty sure the ACLU was not engaged in international commerce). “Jeff” took the high ground: “Hopefully there will soon be enough to add James Bovard to the [targeted killing] list.” Another commenter—self-labeled as “Idiot Savant”—saw a grand opportunity: “Now if we can only convince [Obama] to use this [assassination] authority on the media, who have done more harm than any single terror target could ever dream of … ”

What the heck—they haven’t taken me out yet.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

How the FBI’s War on Drugs Contributed to the 9/11 Attacks

The story of 9/11 is filled with painful “what-ifs.” Among the most prominent:

  • What if the CIA hadn’t blocked two FBI agents from alerting Bureau headquarters that a future 9/11 hijacker had obtained a multi-entry U.S. visa?
  • What if the FBI hadn’t nixed agents’ request for a warrant to search the computer of “20th hijacker” Zacharias Moussaoui after his arrest in August 2001?
  • What if the FBI hadn’t ignored a Phoenix agent’s July 2001 recommendation to contact aviation colleges across the country, on suspicion that Osama bin Laden was preparing extremists to “conduct terror activity against civilian aviation targets”?

Those what-ifs give us all pause, but they weigh heaviest on those who were closest to them, such as retired FBI counterterrorism agent Ken Williams, author of the so-called “Phoenix memo.”

Though his unheeded warning about extremists at flight schools looms large in the saga of 9/11, Williams is haunted by two more what-ifs that are lesser-known but equally gut-wrenching:

  • What if his request for a surveillance team to monitor bin Laden disciples at an Arizona aviation school hadn’t been declined in favor of the FBI’s pursuit of drug smugglers?
  • What if he hadn’t been ordered to suspend his investigation of those extremists for several months to help with an arson case?

For Williams, the answer is all too clear: His investigation would have led to the scrutiny of two future 9/11 hijackers—and that scrutiny may have started unraveling the entire plot.

Extremists at Embry-Riddle

In April 2000, Williams received an important tip from a confidential informant who’d once been a member of a Middle Eastern terrorist organization.

The informant had built a stellar reputation for providing valuable information. “I used to refer to him as my E.F. Hutton,” says Williams. “When he spoke, you listened.”

The informant told Williams that two foreign students were attempting to recruit Phoenix-area Muslims to an organization called Al-Muhajiroun, or “The Emigrants.”

Founded in Saudi Arabia and then banned by the kingdom in 1986, Al-Muhajiroun was unabashedly extremist. Before 9/11, the group referred to itself as “the eyes, the ears and the mouth of Osama bin Laden,” says Williams.

In 1998, the group’s leader issued a fatwa, or religious decree, declaring jihad against the U.S. and British governments and their interests—including airports. After 9/11, Al-Muhajiroun became notorious for organizing a “magnificent 19” conference in London in honor of 9/11’s 19 hijackers.

The informant gave Williams one of the flyers the pair had been using in their recruiting drive. The phone number on the flyer belonged to Lebanese student Zakaria Soubra. Via surveillance of Soubra, Williams and his team identified his counterpart as a Saudi named Ghassan al-Sharbi.

Both were students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. Williams describes it as a prestigious school providing an “Ivy League” education in aviation and related sciences.

Soubra was studying aviation security, while al-Sharbi studied engineering. The two were also making frequent, two-and-a-half-hour drives to Phoenix to recruit new members of Al-Muhajiroun from area mosques.

Williams and another agent traveled to Prescott to interview them at the small room they shared at a cheap motor lodge. Williams quickly noticed it was decorated with photos of Osama bin Laden, Ibn al-Khattab of the Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya, and wounded mujahideen fighters.

In his years of experience, Williams had grown accustomed to Middle Eastern students being “meek, mild and intimidated as shit when you show up at their door”—the product of growing up in countries with iron-fisted security forces. Soubra, however, was a jarring exception.

“He told me he considered the FBI, the United States military and the United States government legitimate military targets of Islam, and he described bin Laden as a great Muslim brother,” says Williams. “He was raising his voice, and you could see the veins on the side of his temples start to pop out of his head.”

“Trust me, I did everything in my power to get him to assault me or my partner…try to push us or do something so we could arrest him for assault on a federal officer,” says Williams.

On the way out, he told them, “We know what you’re all about and we’re not going away. If you cross that line, you will go to jail. We’ll find you wherever you’re at.”

“I don’t generally don’t make those kind of threats, because they’re idle, but I wanted to kind of up-it a notch with them,” says Williams.

Links to a Possible 9/11 “Dry Run”

Williams discovered that Soubra and al-Sharbi were driving a car registered to Muhammad al-Qudhaieen, a Saudi student living three hours away at the University of Arizona.

Months earlier, in November 1999, al-Qudhaieen and Hamdan al-Shalawi, a Saudi attending Arizona State, were involved in an incident that prompted an America West flight to Washington, D.C. to make an emergency landing in Columbus, Ohio.

Crew members said the two had asked a variety of suspicious technical questions, and that al-Qudhaieen twice attempted to open the cockpit door. He told investigators in Columbus he’d mistaken it for the bathroom door.

Noting that these were students at a top-notch university with experience traveling internationally, Williams says he finds the excuse ridiculous.

“They were conducting an intelligence-collecting operation on board the aircraft, to see how the flight crew was going to react and see how far away they could get with doing things,” he says.

The America West incident has been cited in ongoing civil litigation in which 9/11 families, survivors and insurers allege various Saudi officials helped facilitate the al Qaeda plot. Al-Qudhaieen and al-Shalawi were traveling at Saudi expense to an event at the Saudi embassy.

The pair were released after questioning. Immediately after the incident, Williams says, they held a press conference in Washington and claimed to have been victims of Islamophobia.

Williams says the public relations move was likely part of al Qaeda’s strategy: Well-publicized, embarrassing accusations of bigotry against America West would make other airline and airport employees reluctant to react to future suspicious behavior.

Al-Qudhaieen and al-Shalawi’s profession of innocence was undermined in November 2000, when the FBI received reports that al-Shalawi trained in Afghanistan to conduct attacks like the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers housing facility in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 American service members and injured hundreds.

After being questioned by Williams, Al-Sharbi fled the United States. In the wake of 9/11, he was arrested in Pakistan with Abu Zubaydah, who was then one of the world’s most-hunted al Qaeda associates.

Add it all up and Williams was clearly onto something big in the year 2000.

However, since his investigation subjects hadn’t committed any overt criminal acts, building a case would require a lot of work, with an emphasis on visual surveillance—tracking comings and goings, identifying associates by photographing them and checking their license plates, noting places subjects and their associates routinely visit.

It’s a highly labor-intensive undertaking. In the FBI, doing it well means calling in the agents of the Special Operations Group (SOG).

“Surveillance is the only thing these agents do,” says Williams. “They’re given extensive training on the tradecraft of whatever enemy they’re looking at…(including) how al Qaeda functions. They study whatever we have in our intelligence quivers so they know what to look for when they’re out there,” says Williams.

“Every agent can do some surveillance,” he continues, “but these guys have old beater automobiles, they have aircraft capabilities, electronic capabilities, photographic capabilities—video and still—and they’re trained how to use all this stuff.” Their observations are summarized in a daily report provided to the lead agent on the case.

However, none of that would be available to Williams: Despite the disturbing set of facts and associations he’d uncovered, his request for SOG support was denied.

Chalk it up to a warped set of institutional priorities: In the pre-9/11 FBI, counterterrorism often took a back seat to drug investigations.

“I’ve got this threat I’ve identified through my training and expertise. I’m telling my command staff ‘these guys are the real deal, this is no bullshit,’ yet (my bosses are) still held accountable to meeting what headquarters has set as priorities for the southwest border states—and that’s drug interdiction and that’s taking down cartel members,” says Williams.

Williams says he doesn’t blame his Phoenix supervisors, because they were following priorities dictated in Washington. He does, however, resent that the FBI had to pursue drug cases at all.

“What angers me about it and what I get upset about is—that’s what the whole Drug Enforcement Administration was created to counter. We were the only agency at that time that protected the United States from terrorists. You’ve got the DEA, every police agency and their mother looking at drugs. Why can’t the FBI get out of the drug trafficking arena and concentrate on protecting the national security of the United States of America in the areas where we have the sole purview to do it? If we don’t do it, nobody’s doing it at that time,” Williams says.

America’s powerful post-9/11 marijuana legalization trend makes the de-prioritization of his counterterrorism case all the more aggravating in retrospect.

“Some of the stuff we were competing with were marijuana smuggling cases. Now, for chrissakes, every other corner out here has a marijuana dispensary. They’re as frequent as Starbucks,” says Williams.

Denied SOG support, Williams and his teammates soldiered on without it, conducting their own off-and-on surveillance as best they could.

“I was doing it haphazardly. I was doing it by myself and maybe with a couple squad mates,” says Williams. “But there’s a huge degree of difference between having an SOG team on a target and a group of non-SOG-trained agents who do it part-time at best.”

Even in well-resourced situations, pursuing such a case can take a lot of time. “Some people think 12 months in an investigation is a long time—not when you’re working these kinds of cases like Soubra and Al Sharbi,” says Williams.

Collecting intelligence, trying to recruit informants, and amassing the information needed to obtain more investigative authority is a slow grind. The lack of SOG support made it all the more difficult.

The prioritization of drug cases was a major drag on Williams’ investigation, but things were about to come to a screeching halt.

An Arsonist Unwittingly Abets al Qaeda

In December 2000, someone started setting fire to million-dollar houses under construction along the border of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. One of them was even burned twiceEleven structures were torched in all.

The media speculated that the arson was the work of an eco-terrorist organization—perhaps the Earth Liberation Front or something akin to it. In messages at the crime scenes and elsewhere, the perpetrator started identifying as the “Coalition to Save the Preserves,” and seemed to revel in taunting police.

The arson spree was racking up millions of dollars in damage and commanding high media attention. Between public pressure amid mounting concerns the fires could take a deadly turn, Phoenix police asked the FBI for help.

Williams received a profoundly unwelcome order: He and every member of the Phoenix counterterrorism squad would have to shelve their current investigations and pursue the arson case full-time.

“I went to my supervisor at the time, Bill Kurtz, and I said, ‘Bill, you can’t take me off this case. This is the real deal…these guys are with this al Qaeda group that we’re starting to learn about, that blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania’.”

The decision stood. And the timing couldn’t have been worse.

The very month Williams was forced to turn his eyes away from Arizona’s network of al Qaeda sympathizers, Hani Hanjour and Nawaf al-Hazmi moved from Southern California to Phoenix.

Nine months later, they would hijack American Airlines Flight 77. Hanjour himself would steer the Boeing 757 into the Pentagon.

Williams is confident that, had he not been diverted to the arson case, Hanjour and al-Hazmi would have come under his scrutiny: “There’s no question in my mind. I’m convinced we would have crossed paths with them. Guarantee you.”

“All these guys were in the same circle. We got the two guys on America West Airlines doing their dry run and collecting intel. We’ve got Ghassan al-Sharbi who was arrested with Abu Zubayda, so he was kind of a big shot. And then we’ve got these two guys getting ready to kill themselves on September 11th coming into our area. All these guys are living within miles of each other. They would’ve been bouncing off each other, I guarantee,” he says.

Williams did help solve the arson spree, which turned out to be the work of a lone, thrill-seeking arsonist named Mark Warren Sands, who was indicted on June 14, 2001.

By that time, Hanjour and al-Hazmi had left Arizona, arriving in Falls Church, Virginia in April.

Williams gives his former supervisor Kurtz full credit for expressing regret to the 9/11 Commission about having taken Williams off the terror case.

He holds lingering anger, however, for the arsonist who put Kurtz in a tough position.

“I wish I could prosecute him for something tied to 9/11, because he really took our eyes off the guys in Prescott,” says Williams.

With the arson case closed, Williams ramped his counterterrorism investigation back up, posting his now-famous “Phoenix memo” on July 10.

With his investigation first slowed by a lack of surveillance assets and then halted for months by the arson investigation, his recommendation for a nationwide FBI campaign to contact civil aviation universities and colleges in search of extremist students was submitted just two months before 9/11—and then ignored until it was too late.

A Reunion with al-Sharbi

Having been arrested in Pakistan with Abu Zubaydah, Ghassan al-Sharbi—the quieter of Williams’ two Prescott investigation targets—is now detainee #682 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A 2016 government profile said “he has been mostly non-compliant and hostile with the guards…his behavior and statements indicate that he retains extremist views.”

You’ll recall that Williams closed his Prescott interview of al-Sharbi with a warning: “If you cross that line, you will go to jail. We’ll find you wherever you’re at.” Little did Williams know it would happen halfway around the world.

After al-Sharbi was captured, Williams traveled to Gitmo to question him. When Williams entered the room, he says al-Sharbi’s face signaled his recognition—with an expression that said, “Oh, shit.”

Williams greeted him by saying, “I told you we’d find you.”

Recalling the scene with a chuckle, Williams says, “It was a Hollywood moment. You couldn’t script it any better.”

A New Focus: Making a Case Against Saudi Arabia

While that moment gave Williams something to smile about, 9/11 remains a constant and grim presence in his life.

There’s no escaping the nagging question of how the world may be different had he received the surveillance support he’d requested, or if he hadn’t been reassigned to the arson case.

“I what-if that every day of my life and I will til the day I die,” he says. “How close were we?”

“My ex-wife used to say I was obsessed with it, but I’d say, ‘Well, how can you not be obsessed with it? There’s thousands of people dead and you’re somehow associated with this,” recalls Williams.

In 2017, Williams hit the FBI’s mandatory retirement age of 57. He soon found a perfect outlet for his 9/11 obsession: He’s working with attorneys representing the families and survivors of the 9/11 attacks in their civil suit against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is still in the pre-trial phase.

His work is done under a protective order that prevents him from sharing what he’s learned from depositions and from reviewing still-classified documents from Operation Encore, the FBI’s investigation of Saudi government links to 9/11.

However, he’s unequivocal about what it adds up to: “The evidence is there.”

His work on the case goes against the wishes of the FBI. As Williams told me in a 2018 story that broke the news, a lawyer from the FBI’s Office of the General Counsel told him not to join the plaintiffs’ legal team, saying it could impact “other pending litigation” and undermine the pursuit of warm relations with Saudi Arabia.

This time, though, Ken Williams gets to set his own priorities.

This article was originally featured at Stark Realities and is republished with permission.

Blue on Blue Violence: How Private Citizens Are Culpable When Cops Kill Each Other

On an early morning in May 2020, Bonneville County Sheriff’s Deputy Wyatt Maser lost his life while responding to a call in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He and another officer arrived to assist a motorist, Jenna Holm, after she was in a single-car crash on a rural stretch of road. They arrived to find Holm in distress. While attempting to bring her into custody, another officer driving at high speeds arrived and hit Deputy Maser with his patrol vehicle. Maser died at the scene. Holm was charged with manslaughter in connection with his death.

Tracking Police-on-Police Violence

Jenna Holm is not the only person to face charges as a result of one officer killing another. Here are other stories of police-on-police violence in the United States.

  • Officer William Wilkins was an Oakland narcotics officer shot and killed by two uniformed fellow police officers in February 2001.
  • In May 2009, New York City Police Detective Omar Edwards was chasing Miguel Goitia, a person suspected of breaking into his car. Another New York City police officer, Andrew Dunton, saw Edwards running with a gun, misread the situation and shot Edwards.
  • Geoffrey Breitkopf of the Nassau County Police was killed March 2011 by another police officer after being mistaken for a suspect during an incident in Long Island, New York. Breitkopf and many officers were gathered to assist with a person reportedly brandishing a knife in a Nassau County neighborhood.
  • Two border patrol agents split up to track a suspected drug smuggler(s) in October 2012 near Bisbee, Arizona. They never found any suspects, but they ended up in a shootout against each other—each unaware the other was a fellow officer. Nicholas Ivie was killed in the exchange.
  • Detective Jacai Colson was killed March 2016 in Landover, Maryland by fellow officer Taylor Krauss who mistook him for an active shooter.
  • While investigating a robbery in progress in Queens, New York in February 2019, Detective Brian Simonsen was shot by fellow officers. The officers had flanked the entrance to a T-Mobile store that was being robbed and were inadvertently positioned to shoot at each other. Within 11 seconds, 42 shots were fired by 7 different officers. The two robbery suspects, Christopher Ransom and Jagger Freeman, both survived and were charged with second-degree murder for the death of Simonsen.
  • In September 2019, a New York City police officer Brian Mulkeen lost his life to friendly fire. In what was described as a “chaotic situation,” Officer Mulkeen and six other New York City police officers chased Antonio Williams for reasons not disclosed to the public. In approximately 10 seconds, 15 shots were fired by police, killing Antonio Williams and Officer Mulkeen.
  • Deputy Constable Caleb Rule was shot by Deputy Chadwick McRae while investigating a possible home burglary in Missouri City, Texas in May 2020. Both officers were independently investigating a report of a suspicious person, with Officer Rule arriving first. Deputy McRae arrived second, and observing an open door, shot into the house, killing Rule.
  • Alexander, Arkansas police officer Scott Hutton was killed by fellow police officer Calvin “Nick” Salyers after going to Salyers’ house in June, 2020, while both were off duty.
  • Officer Jonathan Shoop was shot by fellow officer Mustafa Kumcur, who was located in the same car as Shoop during a traffic stop in Bothell, Washington in July, 2020. Henry Eugene Washington is alleged to have initiated a shootout after being pulled over for a traffic infraction. Washington was charged with aggravated first degree murder for the death of Officer Shoop.

In more than half of these cases in which police were killed by police, a suspect was either charged and/or convicted (Maser, Colson, Simonsen, Shoop) or blamed (Mulkeen).

In so many of these cases, the defining features are chaos at the scene and poor communication between the police officers: disadvantageous arrangement of law enforcement in a scene without clarity on everyone’s part, poor communication regarding the location of law enforcement officers, lack of communication regarding who is a law enforcement officer and who is in charge, and so on. Most of these police deaths could have been prevented by the police themselves through improved communication and tactics and appropriate use of force.

Police-on-police violent encounters are commonplace across sheriff’s and police departments in the United States but there are no known efforts to track them locally or nationally. In 2010, David Paterson, the then-Governor of New York, convened a task force to examine police-on-police accidental shootings. The task force’s final report describes over 300 incidents of non-fatal police-on-police violent incidents across the United States, observing that while officer-on-officer violent incidents are common, how officers and agencies handle these incidents are a patchwork of policies.

“Because the United States—uniquely in the world—has literally thousands of separate police departments with no government agency able to set standards for them all, the variety of policies and protocols is virtually endless, with enormous variation in how thoroughly departments train for such encounters, if they train at all.”- New York Task Force on Police-On-Police Shootings

The task force found that most shootings were accidental slayings of non-uniformed officers that were mistaken for individuals committing crimes. Their findings indicate that black officers were more likely to be shot and killed under these circumstances, as was the case for Jacai Colson, William Wilkins, and Omar Edwards.

Two years after Omar Edward’s death, New York City Police instituted more training for interactions between on-duty and off-duty officers. The effectiveness of these trainings in preventing police-on-police violence is not known.

Wyatt Maser and the Case of Jenna Holm

When Jenna Holm was involved in a one-car crash at approximately 5 a.m. May 18, 2020 on a rural road near Idaho Falls, Idaho, a passing motorist saw her car on its side, pulled over and called 911. When the Sheriff’s deputies arrived, Holm was in the middle of the road, holding a machete to her chin. Bonneville Sheriff’s Deputy Benjamin Bottcher arrived first, and was soon followed by Deputy Wyatt Maser. They spoke with Holm, saying they were there to help and asking her to put down the machete. Bottcher had interacted with Holm several days prior at the Idaho Falls Crisis Center. Holm was screaming, clearly in distress and possibly experiencing a mental health crisis. After several requests, she did put down the machete. Twenty minutes after their arrival, Deputy Bottcher tased her. When this did not initially subdue her, Bottcher continued to tase her for several more seconds.

Eventually, Holm dropped to the ground due to the ongoing tasing. Deputy Maser stepped into the roadway to bring Holm into custody. Without warning, lights from Sergeant Randy Flegel’s patrol car illuminated the roadway and he hit Maser with his car. Deputy Maser died at the scene. According to the evidence presented in court, Flegel was driving over 90 miles per hour into bright lights as he approached the scene, and he slowed to 53 miles per hour when he struck Maser. Holm was taken into custody, and a few days later, the Bonneville County prosecutor charged her with manslaughter for the death of Wyatt Maser.

Standing In Law

Jenna Holm is charged with “involuntary manslaughter,” which under Idaho Code §18-4006 is “the unlawful killing of a human being…in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate any unlawful act.”

At her probable cause hearing, the prosecutor stated: “By continuing to be a danger to others and not complying with law enforcement orders, she produced the death of Deputy Wyatt Maser.” Her defense attorney indicated the intent was not to threaten or endangers others or disobey orders. She was in emotional distress at the time, and she did not feel safe since she was on a dark, rural road with limited cell phone service. In addition, it was dark and very noisy from high winds, making it difficult for everyone present to ascertain what was going on.

The Bonneville County prosecutor chose not to charge Sergeant Randy Flegel, the person driving the vehicle that hit and killed Deputy Maser. It is common for law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys to work closely together, raising questions about the suitability of a prosecutor’s office deciding whether or not to charge an officer within their jurisdiction. Indeed, the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office referred to the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office as “our partner” in a Facebook post from April 15, 2021.

The defense has stated that Sergeant Flegel acted negligently by approaching a police encounter taking place in a road at such high speeds, especially since it was dark. Most recently, the defense filed a motion to dismiss Holm’s manslaughter charge, arguing that she was not committing an unlawful act when Maser was killed. Holm was on the ground and incapacitated when Flegel struck Maser.

Recently, the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office completed an internal investigation into the incident. In that report, they identify several factors that may have led to Wyatt Maser’s death: no emergency red and blue emergency lights were activated by law enforcement (only scene lights were used), Deputy Bottcher provided incorrect directions and locations when he relayed the situation to the dispatch, and a witness present had bright vehicular lights pointing into oncoming traffic. The report recommends additional training for new recruits focused on roadside safety and supervisory oversight on compliance.

The prosecution originally provided only a summary of those findings to Holm’s defense team. They did not release the full internal investigation despite obligations to follow the Brady Rule, which holds that prosecutors must turn over potentially “exculpatory evidence” (that supports the defendant and/or absolves them of the crime) to the defense. In a court hearing, the trial judge ruled that the prosecutor must turn over the entire report from the internal investigation to the defense team.

Jenna Holm is facing a maximum of 10 years in prison and $15,000 in fines for manslaughter, and a maximum of 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines for aggravated assault.

An Emerging Pattern

What happened to Jenna Holm is shocking. That interaction between her and the Bonneville County Sheriff’s office could easily have ended without the senseless tragedy if not for the mistakes of the sheriff’s deputies. As I researched this piece, it was surprising to discover a pattern of pinning blame on civilians for the mistakes of law enforcement. At some point after 2009, a blueprint emerged wherein the civilian(s) originally caught up in the police encounter were blamed for police harm regardless of the circumstances or if the original police encounter was ever justified. In New York City, Miguel Goitia was not held criminally liable for the death of Omar Edwards in 2009. But after that, the New York City prosecutorial policies shifted. Antonio Williams was blamed for the death of Brian Mulkeen, although both died in the same incident that the NYPD initiated despite no criminal wrongdoing by Wiliams. Christopher Ransom and Jagger Freeman are being charged with murder for the death of Brian Simonsen. A similar pattern is repeated in the cases of Jacai Colson, Jonathon Shoop, and Wyatt Maser. Police officers have been held accountable for the death of another officer when there is not another person involved in the encounter, like in the cases of Scott Hutton and Caleb Rule, but this is uncommon.

While these incidents are rare, the pattern is chilling. Could any one of us end up caught up a police murder charge due to negligence and carelessness by other police officers? Holm’s manslaughter charge started as a one-car traffic accident. She likely needed a tow truck and a mental health professional. Instead, she was tased and is now facing charges for actions that occurred while she was incapacitated. This case also raises questions about the overall integrity of the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff’s deputies erred in their actions that day resulting in a tragic outcome, yet the Sheriff’s Office has not publicly acknowledged this to the community it serves.

These cases not only upend the lives of civilians, they fail to bring true justice and accountability for the surviving friends and family of slain officers. The families of William Wilkins, Jacai Colson, and Geoffrey Breitkopf were clearly not satisfied with the response from law enforcement and/or the criminal justice system and hence sought redress in civil courts. Notably, the case of Geoffrey Breikopf is different. The civilian Anthony DiGeronimo was not blamed for Geoffrey Breitkopf’s death, but the Nassau prosecutor also did not charge retired officer John Cafarella, despite the evidence that his actions created chaos and led directly to Breitkopf’s death.

It is important that law enforcement publicly take responsibility for their mistakes, particularly when those mistakes lead to tragedies, so that existing harm can be addressed and in the future, prevented. Clearly, errors were made by the Bonneville County Sheriff’s officers during the events of May 18, 2020. While the recommendations from the internal investigation—training on roadside safety for new recruits—are a good step, the continued attempt to prosecute Jenna Holm undermines those reforms; the message is that roadside safety protocols sort of matter, unless there is a ‘perp’ to blame. Additionally, this recommended training may not prevent another incident like Maser’s death if it is not required for current officers.

As written in the Idaho State Code § 31-2202, county sheriff’s offices have a deep responsibility to the communities they serve. Their ability to fulfill this relies on public trust, and respect and transparency are two core ingredients to maintain that trust. I hope that the Bonneville County prosecutor will take this seriously and reconsider what is to be gained by prosecuting Jenna Holm for Wyatt Maser’s death.

Cop Pleads Guilty to Trafficking in Child Porn, Raping Dog

As TFTP previously reported, a police officer from the Bossier City Police Department was arrested in December 2018 for filming unspeakable acts with animals. Officer Terry Yetman, 38, was charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of animals—producing the evidence himself—including filming sex with his own police K9. This decorated cop was also charged with 31 counts of child pornography several months later. Now, nearly 3 years after his initial arrest, Yetman has pleaded guilty.

TFTP learned at the time, Yetman, who had only been out on bail for two days for the 40 counts of animal abuse charges, was taken into custody once more and charged with 31 counts of possession of pornography involving juveniles.

According to the Louisiana State police, Yetman was originally arrested on December 19, 2018 and charged with 20 counts of sexual abuse of animals by performing sexual acts with an animal, and 20 counts of filming sexual acts with an animal.

In a plea deal, however, Yetman—despite facing over 70 charges—pleaded guilty to just one count of possession of child pornography and five counts of sexual abuse of an animal.

“The Louisiana State Police Special Victims Unit who was assisted by the Bossier City Marshal’s Office and Department of Homeland Security did an outstanding job on this case. They delivered a very strong case to our office and Assistant District Attorney, Allie Aiello Stahl, did an excellent job prosecuting this case,” District Attorney Schuyler Marvin said. “My office will do everything in our power to prosecute those who prey on children and animals.”

Yetman is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 23, 2021. He faces a total of 45 years in prison and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

In Defense of Animals is a group who works to advance the cause of justice and show lawmakers the public is united against “senseless and horrific animal abuse,” and they held back no words when they decried this officer’s “horrific” abuse.

“Thousands of In Defense of Animals supporters were moved by this horrific case and want to see justice done,” said Doll Stanley, campaign director for In Defense of Animals in a news release at the time.

“A healthy society protects its innocents: vulnerable children, animals, elderly citizens. Sexual predators must be made to fear the loss of freedom and a stinging financial impact,” said Stanley.

As TFTP previously reported, Yetman was a decorated officer on the department’s Domestic Task Force. The task force was responsible for championing the rights of domestic violence victims and their families. Just before he was arrested, Yetman was awarded the the 2018 Trey Hutchison Award for his work on the force.

The image remains up on the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Sadly, however, it appears that Yetman led a double life and while he was “championing the rights of domestic violence victims,” he was initiating and filming his own violence and abuse at home.

Prosecutors say Yetman engaged in sexual conduct with a dog and possessed pornographic images of a person and an animal engaged in sexual conduct. That person was him.

Disgusting indeed.

Police officers sexually abusing animals—and even filming it—is not an isolated incident. Even more disturbing as well is the fact that, like Yetman, many of the officers who engage in sex with animals also abuse children. In fact, TFTP predicted this outcome with Yetman when he was arrested the first time.

As TFTP reported, Robert Melia Jr. was sworn to protect and serve, but a Burlington County jury found he abandoned that oath when he and his former girlfriend repeatedly molested teenagers in the home they shared in Moorestown.

The attacks, including a violent sexual assault on an incapacitated, bound and blindfolded teenager captured on video, took place just feet from where his Moorestown police uniform hung on his bedroom door. Melia and his girlfriend also filmed themselves having sex with a cow. They were both arrested and convicted for their acts.

Officer Derren Tomlinson, 44, with the West Mercia Police department was sentenced to 11 years in prison for unspeakable crimes against children and animals. The allegations against this well-respected police officer of nine years shocked the town.

This model public servant was convicted of raping a girl under 13-years-old, sexual assault on a child, and bestiality. When sentencing Tomlinson, Judge Robin Onions said he was “utterly unsuited to being a (police officer)” — an understatement, to say the least.

A Harris County Sheriff’s deputy, who was fired after the department found he’d produced and starred in a video where he was having sex with a dog, was sentenced to 27 years in prison. The cop, Andrew C. Sustaita Jr., 31, was not sentenced to prison for having sex with a dog. Instead, he was remanded to Texas’ penal system because he was found to have been in possession of child pornography.

As TFTP reported, Sustaita’s bestiality made national headlines but once investigators secured search warrants for his computer, some 200 videos and images of child pornography were discovered, some involving a family member’s daughter, made by Sustaita himself.

This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

They Never Learn: National Review Demands Marijuana Criminalization

Aron Ravin, a self-described “nudnik,” who writes for National Review thinks so and I suspect others do as well. This thinking, however, is that of an ever-shrinking minority and it is hard to imagine the pro-legalization trend being reversed. Nevertheless, let’s look at the arguments and why he claims libertarians are so wrong on this issue.

Before we press on, it is important to remember that cannabis legalization is basically citizens of individual states standing up to federal authority and flipping it the bird.

Ravin claims, “I do not, and do not plan to, partake in the devil’s lettuce.” Well, libertarians have never suggested, apart from medical reasons, that people consume cannabis any more than they suggest people consume alcohol, potatoes, pornography or Nike products. Libertarians, above all others, support the right to consume—and not to consume—so that is not a real issue.

The first issue Ravin raises is the increasing consumption of cannabis over the last twenty years, the period when cannabis has become increasingly legal and accepted. For any number of reasons, everyone should have expected this: more legalization, less punishment, lower prices, greater availability, new uses, new forms, substitution for other legal and illegal drugs, means more consumption. So, I’m not sure what Beltway libertarians he hangs out with, but they fail the basic-common-sense test.

But does this increased consumption lead to greater health concerns? Ravin thinks consumers should be concerned with lung cancer and disease, but of course that is related to smoking, which presumably everyone knows about and cannabis smokers typically consume tiny amounts compared to cigarette smokers. While the science is limited, “Smoking cannabis has not been proved to be a risk factor in the development of lung cancer.”

Ravin also notes the correlation between cannabis and psychosis, but does cannabis cause psychosis or does psychosis lead to cannabis consumption? With respect to this first general concern, nobody thinks this is a national emergency requiring people to be put in jail, or even that sin taxes or fines would be appropriate.

Ravin points to the broken promises of legalization. It did not wipe out the black market like the repeal of alcohol prohibition (i.e., the Twenty-First Amendment), it did not prevent children’s access, it did not decrease consumption, and it even did not prevent cannabis growers in California from stealing water. No surprises here.

The most important consideration is that our cannabis legalization has been a step-by-step, many-decades-long process, not an overnight success, like Repeal. High taxes and regulations have kept the black market in business, as expected. Nothing prevents children’s access to anything, but consumption among twelve- to seventeen-year-olds is down, not up, running counter to the general trend of increased consumption.

As mentioned above, consumption in general was always expected to increase, not decrease. In addition to the straightforward economic reasons for this, there has also been a substitution away from pain medications and other pharmaceuticals toward cannabis. Some of that has occurred under medical supervision, but mostly it is just people realizing that drugs like OxyContin, heroin, various psychoactive drug, and other drugs can harm or kill you while cannabis poses fewer such risks.

The last argument he presented is key to the whole war on drugs debate. Ravin notes that cannabis potency, i.e., the percentage of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active psychoactive ingredient, has risen dramatically. Cannabis is widely available, and cheap. He thinks the legal product is both cheaper and more expensive because of taxes and regulations.

THC levels in pot today are anywhere from five to 50 times as high as they were in the ’70s. Young people increasingly just want to get high on the cheap, and illegal weed in a legal market is as cheap as it gets. The combination of greater potency than ever before and greater access than ever before is an obviously dangerous one.

The argument is that cannabis is now too potent to be legal. However, high drug potency is actually the number one scientific reason against the war on drugs, not a vault of legalization.

First, cannabis potency has been rising for a long time, at least since President Nixon declared his “war on drugs” in 1972. By the time citizens stated declaring cannabis legal in their own states, cannabis had already increased in potency some twenty times since Nixon’s declaration. Most importantly, it was the war he started that caused higher potency.

This is based on the simple economic concept that if you add a fixed cost, such as transport cost, to two grades of a product, the higher-quality or higher-priced grade will more likely be exported and the lower grades will stay at home or be processed into different products. Top grade Idaho russet potatoes tend to get exported and the lower grades stay closer to home and get turned into instant mashed potatoes.

The same is true with drug potency. Growers and smugglers would rather deal with a product of higher potency, given similar local prices, because it means more “doses” can be more easily transported and concealed without detection by law enforcement. My “discovery” was dubbed the iron law of prohibition by Richard Cowen, then President of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, published in none other than National Review!

However, I’ve been told that the trend toward higher-potency cannabis continues inside the legal dispensaries. Has the law been violated?

Not really. Cannabis consumers have grown up in a black market where the litmus test has been potency, especially if one brand costs the same as another. In addition to this factor, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Higher potency is still valuable to some sellers and consumers.
  2. Consumers can still get a lower amount of THC just by consuming a smaller quantity.
  3. Many new consumers use cannabis medically and some ailments call for very high THC or CDB (cannabidiol) potency levels.
  4. Some consumers do not want to smoke large quantities because of their lungs or the smell and would prefer higher-potency products.
  5. Some dispensaries might tout higher-potency products, like a restaurant advertising a free seventy-two-ounce steak for anyone who can eat the whole thing. They are really trying to sell hamburgers and French fries.
  6. Growers are using more capital goods, technology, genetic engineering, and better harvesting and processing techniques which can readily increase measured potency at low cost.
  7. We should not be surprised if average potency increases, especially if we consider the highly refined THC products.

Even if all of this were taken into account, it would still ignore the legalization of hemp and CBD products, which contain at most only trace amounts of THC. If the market for such products were roughly equal to the legal market for cannabis, it would mean that consumers as a group have effectively cut the potency of their products in half.

The arguments presented by Ravin seem to have some surface legitimacy, but they are based on distortions, untruths, or the illogical pronouncements of Beltway libertarians. Most importantly, the federal government, along with pharmaceutical, alcohol, and tobacco companies have spent money politically trying to put the legalization genie back in the prohibition bottle, so any argument or propaganda will suit their purposes.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

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