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Volume I, Issue No. 11

July 1 through July 18, 1993
Compiled by Paul Stanford

 

CONTENTS:

Caught with Marijuana, Bank Director Quits (BOGOTA, 07/01/93)
The Virginian-Pilot & The Ledger-Star (07/03/93)
Drug War Locks Up Prisons; Tough U.S. Penalties Crowd Florida Complex (MARIANNA FL, 07/07/93)
Vegetable Bust (MORGANTOWN WV, 07/12/93)
Ireland-Drugs (DUBLIN, 07/13/93)
Court Rules in Tax Assessment Case (LANSING MI, 07/13/93)
Man Convicted of Marijuana Charge (PITTSBURGH, 07/14/93)
Drop in Student Drug Use Halts - Study (ANN ARBOR MI, 07/15/93)
Former Sheriff Convicted of Drug Conspiracy (JACKSONVILLE FL, 07/15/93)
Mayor's Mouth (CHEBOYGAN MI, 07/18/93)

 

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CAUGHT WITH MARIJUANA, BANK DIRECTOR QUITS
[undated, circa 07/01/93]

BOGOTA (Reuter) -- A director of Colombia's central bank announced his resignation a day after police ordered his arrest for possession of marijuana, local news reports said on Monday.
Carlos Ossa Escobar, one of the country's principal economic figures, said he would resign during July.
A local police inspector is expected to decide this week how many days Ossa is to be imprisoned.
Police at Bogota's El Dorado international airport caught Ossa carrying a personal amount of marijuana in his luggage as he left for a flight to Venezuela at the beginning of June.
REUTER

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THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT & THE LEDGER-STAR
07/03/93
[untitled - forfeiture editorial]

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against excessive fines applies to property seizures in connection with drug-law offenses. That's reasonable.
Remember when the feds impounded a yacht because a tiny quantity of marijuana were found in it? That was so ridiculous, inasmuch as the marijuana could have been brought aboard by anybody, that authorities sheepishly returned the vessel. Had the yacht been clearly employed for, or had it been the fruit of, drug trafficking, its seizure could have been justified, but it was neither.
Lots of property -- motor vehicles, aircraft, boats, houses, warehouses, furnishings and such -- have been seized from drug traffickers over the years. The high court's ruling won't stop that, nor should it, when the properties are instruments or rewards of drug dealing.
But in applying the Eighth Amendment to property seizures, the justices exhibited unease about the zeal with which anti-drug warriors have taken possession of things associated, however tenuously, with illicit drugs. We're talking billions of dollars here, a percentage of which has involved expensive property to which modest quantities of illicit drugs, sometimes solely for personal consumption, were linked.
The court is right to conclude that the effect in some cases has been grossly disproportionate to the violation. A continuing criminal enterprise is one thing: a Yuppie's lighting up a joint in a BMW is quite another. Yet BMWs and other cars have been forfeited in just such cases.
Drug abuse is a vice that Americans -- and many other peoples -- have elected, for better or for worse, to criminalize. The Supreme Court rightly has not judged the constitutionality of the drug war, but it has wisely said that property seizures in drug cases should be proportionate to the offense. And it's about time.

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DRUG WAR LOCKS UP PRISONS; TOUGH U.S. PENALTIES CROWD FLORIDA COMPLEX
By William Booth, Washington Post Staff Writer
WP 07/07/93

MARIANNA, Fla. -- During its ongoing war on drugs, the United States has taken a great many prisoners, about 900 of whom are here, serving 20- and 30-year sentences, a virtual lifetime of lifting weights, planting pansies and making office furniture for federal bureaucrats.
From county jails to state penitentiaries to federal correctional institutions such as the well-manicured, medium-security facility here, the United States has never had more people incarcerated, nor more inmates doing time for drug offenses.
The question authorities now face is: Who are these people, and should all of them be jail?
Attorney General Janet Reno has expressed growing concern that overcrowded state prison systems are releasing violent offenders, such as murderers and rapists, to make room for more nonviolent drug offenders.
Reno has requested a review of stiff mandatory sentences for federal drug offenders, including life imprisonment for growing marijuana. Her appeal comes as an increasing number of federal judges are refusing to hear narcotics cases because of frustration about the severity of strict sentencing guidelines.
Nowhere are the effects of the war on drugs as evident as in federal prisons. While some federal facilities were closed during the 1970s for lack of inmates, the system is severely overcrowded now. Many state and city systems, including those in the Washington area, are in worse shape.
"A few years ago, the country was concerned about the drug epidemic," said Joe Class, warden of the Marianna Federal Correctional Institution. "So basically, what you have here is the result of our efforts to control that epidemic. We're locking up a lot of people for drugs. . . . The growth has been extraordinary."
The Marianna facility is typical. Three-fourths of the 1,200 inmates are here for drug offenses. The $45 million prison, completed in 1988 and overseen by administrators in gray pin-stripe suits, became overcrowded in 1990 when its 803-prisoner capacity was exceeded. Prisoners are sleeping in bunk beds in lobbies.
In the entire federal prison system, two-thirds of the inmates broke drug laws, compared with one in 10 jailed for armed robbery and one in 100 for white-collar crimes.
About one-third of state prison inmates are drug offenders, and that number is growing, as more states feel the effects of their own mandatory drug sentences.
"We're locking up drug offenders for much longer terms than we put away armed robbers, rapists and murderers," said Todd Clear, a professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University. "I don't think you will find anybody who can explain why that is a good idea."
Daniel Polsby, a law professor at Northwestern University who has written widely on drug policy, calls the focus on drug offenders "one of the great bipartisan public-policy fiascoes of recent times."
Others, however, said that, if penalties are reduced, drug selling may become even more common and that society must send a message.
"If you take away any threat of incarceration, it approaches the effect of decriminalization," said Les Hess, chief of Florida Criminal Intake Bureau in Orlando. "If you guarantee that people won't go to jail, there's no threat. Dope is a terrible poison that they're passing off, and it's draining us."
Yet incarceration also is very costly. Running the Marianna facility costs $21 million a year, dwarfing, for example, money spent by school districts in the Florida panhandle, where the prison is located. The average annual cost for each federal prisoner is estimated at $20,000 to $25,000, if original construction and other overhead costs are taken into account.
These inmates are not Boy Scouts. "We're not talking about the guy who sells on the street corner," Class said. "We're talking about the guy who flies the plane." Class said he did not know of any prisoners here simply for using drugs.
"We don't get sent to federal prison for smoking pot," Class said. "A lot of these people are criminals. The money these days is in drugs, so they sold drugs."
Yet, while not casual drug users, many are not violent criminals. Throughout the federal prison system, 70 percent of inmates have no history of violence, and 10 percent have histories of minor violence. At Marianna, many men interviewed were first-time offenders.
Most drug offenders here are serving time at a medium-security prison only because of the long lengths of their sentences. In the federal system, drug offenders no longer are paroled early, and most serve 87 percent of their sentences.
"Look, it's not like you see on movies and television," said Ray Cora, 40, serving 12 years at Marianna for smuggling 662 kilograms of cocaine into New York. "It's a business. You don't wave guns around. Everybody knows each other. Nobody likes to see a gun."
Cora and five other inmates interviewed recently at Marianna confirmed stereotypes about drug dealers and defied them.
The men were dealers, smugglers or growers. Some had made fortunes. Some had businesses they used as fronts, such as car shops and farms, to conceal earnings.
All had used drugs, often to the point of addiction. Cora was a heroin addict for decades, who entered the drug trade in the 1970s, when smuggling marijuana was something he saw as romantic and appropriate to the counterculture.
John Gaston, 37, doing 30 years for selling about a gram of cocaine, a second offense, was an alcoholic. Another man was addicted to sleeping pills, a third to cocaine.
Mark Massey, 39, a self-styled "good-old-boy who grew up in the Florida swamps" grew marijuana and smoked a lot of it. He ran a 400-acre vegetable farm and cattle ranch but really made his money by growing pot in the woods. He said he and his partner could make $1 million in six months.
Massey is serving 10 years, a sentence he considers himself lucky to have received. Another conspirator in his case who grew marijuana on the west coast of Florida with Massey got life in prison.
"I don't consider myself a criminal," Massey said. "I think drugs should be legal, and the money spent on all this should be spent on education. . . . All the laws in the world aren't going to keep drugs out of this country."
Marijuana is so plentiful that prices have dropped. Massey said a kilogram cost $50,000 in 1980. Today, if you know the right people, Massey said, that amount wholesales for $12,000.
"I don't think that the really astounding increase in jail time has had any appreciable effect on drug trafficking or drug use," Prof. Clear said.
Asked whether their drug-dealing was a corrosive, destroying their families and children, the men said yes and no. They acknowledged that drugs are harmful but said people should be free to make decisions about using them, as with alcohol and tobacco.
"They won't win the drug war unless they declare war on the drug users and start killing them," Cora said, seriously.
"As long as so much money is involved, people will get into the drug business," said Hernando Restrepo, 52, a Colombian serving 20 years for conspiracy to import cocaine.
More than 450, or about 40 percent, of prisoners here are not U.S. citizens, and about 250 are Colombians.
Asked whether the stiff sentences deterred drug dealing, the inmates said no, the money was too good to resist.
But asked whether they would commit drug offenses after release, they also said no, because none wanted to serve such a long sentence if caught again.
Gary Poole, a drug-treatment specialist at Marianna, said he sees "a stark difference" between men incarcerated for drugs and prisoners who committed violent crimes.
Drug offenders generally view armed robbers and kidnappers as true criminals and "a bit psychotic," he said, and tend to see themselves as businessmen, who have their own code of ethics and were involved in an illegal and, they admit, harmful contraband trade.
Asked what danger the men would pose on the streets, Poole and Warden Class said statistics show that some will slip back into drug-taking and probably drug-selling. The prison, however, runs a nine-month resident, drug abuse treatment program, which attempts to alter such behavior.
The inmates said that their long terms are cruel and inhumane and that drug addiction played a role in their lives of crime.
The chapel library grew quiet when John Gaston told a reporter and other inmates that he is serving 30 years.
"Why couldn't they sentence me to my family for 30 years?" he asked. "Like under house arrest for 30 years. Thirty years? That doesn't just hurt me, it destroys my family."
"Anybody that's doing drugs is breaking the law, but I'm not sure what putting someone in jail has done to stop their drug use," said Mark Fontaine, assistant director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association in Tallahassee. "Rather than send them to prison and sit, send them to a program that puts them in a job, offers counseling and gets them back in the community."
Massey, the marijuana farmer, conceded that, if drugs are not legalized, punishment is necessary. But he suggested shorter, more frequent terms - two or three years repeatedly until the dealer gets the message. The inmates said a few years in prison is not a light sentence. In just a year or two, many lost wives, family support and businesses.
"You see guys, first offenders, with 20-, 30-, 40-year sentences," Cora said. "That's just wrong. How can that be right?"
"You wish they would have gotten the message earlier," said Poole, the drug counselor. "You wish they would have felt so strongly about their families and their lives before they got here."

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VEGETABLE BUST
APn 07/12/93

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- A drug task force that expected to uncover a cache of marijuana plants at a home found only tomato and pepper plants belonging to a 72-year-old woman.
"We got information, but it was not accurate," said Victor Propst, member of the Mon Valley Narcotics Task Force. "We made a mistake."
Propst apologized in a letter to Mary Billie for obtaining a search warrant and accompanying three sheriff's deputies to her home April 6.
After entering the home, officers found 60 small tomato and green pepper plants growing in paper cups sitting on a table in a back room of the house.
Billie said Monday she was not angry, and would not take up a friend's suggestion to consider suing.
"I said, `I'm not interested in a swell case,"' she said. "I said, `I'm just glad I'm still on this Earth."'

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IRELAND-DRUGS
APn 07/13/93

DUBLIN (AP) -- Irish police said they captured a boat Tuesday packed from bow to stern with marijuana and arrested four crew in the police force's biggest drug haul.
The crew -- two Irishmen, a Belgian and a Dutchman -- were charged after officers boarded their 65-foot boat off western Ireland at sunrise and found marijuana with a street value estimated at $30 million.
The British-registered Brime sailed from Morocco days ago bound for a remote area of Ireland. British and Irish police tracked the boat and it was boarded at sea by crew from an Irish vessel, the Orla.
Lt. Cmdr. Mark Mellett, the Orla's skipper, said the crew first tried to ram his boat, then scuttle their own.
The rugged and sparsely populated coastline of western and southern Ireland has proved a popular route for yachts smuggling in drugs bound for Britain and continental Europe.

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COURT RULES IN TAX ASSESSMENT CASE
UPce 07/13/93

LANSING, Mich. (UPI) -- The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that the state Treasury Department cannot use illegally seized evidence to assess unpaid taxes.
In a unanimous decision this week, the court tossed out a $26,000 tax assessment on an Inkster woman who was arrested on marijuana charges in 1989. Those charges were dismissed when a judge ruled that the search warrant was ubvalid.
Treasury officials had used financial records found during the search of the woman's home to assess UNpaid taxes, based on her purported drug- related earnings.
Treasury officials said they have no overall figures on how much money may be involved in such cases each year. But when it does happen, they said, there is usually a large assessment.
Meanwhile, Assistant Attorney General E. David Brockman said the state may ask the Michigan Supreme Court to review the ruling.

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MAN CONVICTED OF MARIJUANA CHARGE
UPma 07/14/93

PITTSBURGH (UPI) -- An El Paso, Texas, man has been found guilty by a federal court jury in Pittsburgh of distributing marijuana.
The U.S. District Court jury deliberated only 20 minutes Tuesday before convicting Alfonso Sanchez Jr., 50, following a 1 1/2-day trial.
Prosecutors say Sanchez and Martin Rios, also of El Paso, and others unlawfully conspired to distribute and distributed marijuana. Rios remains a fugitive.
Sanchez will be sentenced Sept. 17 by U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond. Sanchez faces from five to 160 years in prison, fines of $8 million, or both.

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DROP IN STUDENT DRUG USE HALTS - STUDY
RTw 07/15/93

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Reuter) -- The long-term decline in drug use among American college students halted in 1992 and the use of LSD and other hallucinogens rose for the third straight year, a new study said Thursday.
The national survey of 1,500 college students by University of Michigan researchers found that 30.6 percent of the respondents used an illegal drug at least once in the prior 12 months, a slight increase from 29.2 percent in 1991.
The increase, attributed to a higher proportion of students using marijuana, is not statistically significant, according to the researchers, social scientists Lloyd Johnston, Jerald Bachman and Patrick O'Malley.
But the steady declines in drug use noted in previous years has clearly halted, they noted. About 27 percent of the students surveyed used marijuana in 1992 versus 26 percent in 1991.
The researchers also noted use of hallucinogens rose for the third year running, from 5.1 percent of respondents in 1989 to 6.8 percent in 1992, a change considered statistically significant.
LSD accounted for most of the increase, used by 5.7 of those polled, up from 3.4 percent over the same period.
Cocaine use continued to decline, dropping to 3.0 percent in 1992 from 3.6 percent in 1991.
But use of crack cocaine, stimulants, barbiturates, tranquilizers, inhalants, heroin and other drugs showed little or no further declines in 1992.
"Whether this is a pause, or the beginning of a turnaround, we cannot say," said Johnston, the principal researcher.
"But it clearly contrasts with the steady declines we had been seeing since 1985. Taken along with the upturn in drug use among 8th-grade students, which we had reported earlier this year, it certainly presents the basis for some concern."
The study also found that heavy drinking remains widespread on college campuses, with 41 percent of respondents -- 51 percent of males and 33 percent of females -- indicating that in the prior two weeks they had consumed five or more drinks in a row on at least one occasion.
The study, conducted since 1975, had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
REUTER

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FORMER SHERIFF CONVICTED OF DRUG CONSPIRACY
UPse 07/15/93

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (UPI) -- Former Nassau County Sheriff Laurie Ellis was convicted Thursday on seven counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana and two counts of obstructing justice.
He was aquitted on one other drug-related count. The federal court jury in Jacksonville returned the verdict after deliberating about 11 hours over three days.
Ellis was found guilty of conspiring to sell drugs his department obtained from other law agencies for use in undercover stings, and of lying about it to a federal grand jury.
He faces a maximum sentence of two life terms in prison and fines of up to $4 million.
Evidence in the case showed that he paid $70,000 in cash for a car, boat and other big-ticket items. His former chief deputy, Rocky Mistler, testified against Ellis in exchange for leniency.
Prosecutors said Ellis and Mistler split $350,000 obtained from selling the marijuana and cocaine intended for use in drug stings.
Ellis testified that he trusted Mistler, and believed him when Mistler reported that the drugs had been destroyed. Ellis said the cash came from membership dues for a hunting club he ran.
Ellis admitted he lied about the income on his federal tax returns, and said he was in the process of filing amended IRS returns. He was not charged with any tax-related crimes.

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MAYOR'S MOUTH
By John Flesher, Associated Press Writer
APn 07/18/93

CHEBOYGAN, Mich. (AP) -- Mayor Louis LeBlanc Sr. has a ready answer for critics who say his salty language and brusque manner embarrass his constituents and chase away business prospects.
"They're full of crap," says the 67-year-old LeBlanc, who became mayor in April 1992. "I've never said anything that was out of line. They're a bunch of hypocrites."
But enough people in this town on 5,000 on the shores of Lake Huron have been alienated to force a recall vote Tuesday.
If LeBlanc loses, the city council will appoint one of its members to serve the rest of his two-year term.
Opposition leaders say the mayor's reputation gives the town a black eye as it competes for new businesses.
"He's made us look like fools," says Andy Brown, a local businessman and leader of a group that led the recall effort. "We don't hate Louie. But it boils down to getting quality representation when we absolutely have to have it, and we aren't."
Brown says the last straw for many people came when High Times, a magazine published by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, ran an article critical of a grand jury investigating drug trafficking in northern Michigan.
It quoted LeBlanc as advocating marijuana legalization, describing his town as "backward," and proclaiming: "My father used to say, `If the Lord gave the world an enema, he'd stick the tube in Cheboygan."'
In the ensuing furor, LeBlanc first denied making the remark, then admitted saying it but insisted he didn't know he was talking to a reporter.
In an interview Friday, the mayor said his comments were meant to prod the town's power structure into being more progressive.
"The only way you get action out of these people is to get into a state of anger ... you have to demand," he said. "Why do people call me with their problems, instead of the city manager? Because they know they'll get action."
Cheboygan's jobless rate has been high, often topping 30 percent. A Procter & Gamble Co. plant that was its biggest employer closed in 1990. So local leaders are trying to attract other light industry and bolster tourism.
LeBlanc says a number of companies, including Wal-Mart, have come to town recently or announced plans to do so. "Does that look like I'm running people out of here?"
He takes pride in solving problems for ordinary people -- among them, Al Budzinski, who credits him with having culverts lowered along his street when rainwater flooded yards.
"He's the first mayor we've ever had that'll stand up to those idiots downtown," Budzinski said.

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[End]

 

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