As the New Year approaches, it is time to take stock and look back at yet another year of incompetence, ineptitude and absurdity in our nation’s War on Drugs. As always, many of the biggest busts were as bizarre as they were illuminating, so today I want to review some of the extraordinary federal drug cases that captured our national imagination. Herewith I offer my First Annual Five Most Outrageous Federal Drug Stories of 2010:
5. Lying Prosecutors Reach Record Numbers
As USA Today reported back in September, the number of prosecutors caught lying, cheating, and misleading juries has only continued to grow at an astonishing pace – at least 201 cases in recent years. One well-reported story focused on an inmate – Nino Lyons – who was convicted because an overwhelming number of witnesses claimed he sold them cocaine. The only problem? All of the witnesses were inmates, and many were secretly promised early release for cooperating with a group of crooked cops. One such witness who claimed to have purchased “hundreds of pounds” of cocaine from Lyons was literally unable to recognize his picture.
4. Senior Federal Judge Busted with Drugs, Stripper Mistress
Sometimes the enforcers among us are hiding the biggest secrets. Senior Federal Judge Jack Kamp was caught in a sting in early October and charged with four drug charges and one count of possessing firearms while illegally using drugs. The whole sordid story went national when it was learned that the married Kamp had been involved with a stripper, plying her with drugs, offering to protect her with a pair of guns, and following her without notice. The judge even gave her his federally-issued laptop and offered to help the young woman with a series of felony convictions.
3. Feds Raid Brassiere
Any good list needs an outlier to mix things up, and ours hails from Fairbanks, Alaska, where the canon of unusual smuggling conceits gained a new member in April. U.S. Marshals and members of the DEA were casing the parking lot of a local gas station when a couple arrived to complete an alleged meth deal on the asphalt. The man, Dale Albert Homan, was charged immediately with alleged meth and marijuana in his truck, but his partner nearly emerged unscathed. That is, until someone noticed that one cup of her brassiere appeared to be “misshapen.” Sure enough, a female officer called to the scene allegedly discovered more than a gram of meth inside Elizabeth Patricia McDaniel’s brassiere, leading to a second charge, and a national wire story.
2. SWAT Terrifies Family, Shoots Pets Over Small Amount of Marijuana
A shocking video of a Columbia, Missouri drug raid conducted by SWAT officers spawned national outrage this year as viewers chimed in on the horrific events of that evening. A young couple, Jonathan Whitworth and Brittany Montgomery, were at home and the woman was allegedly reading to her 7-year-old son when a SWAT team in full gear exploded into the house and fired seven shots, killing the family’s pit pull and injuring their pet corgi. Despite the child’s utter terror at the raid, and despite the fact that Whitworth was never charged for the small amount of marijuana in his home, the couple was charged with “child endangerment.” “I’ve never felt so violated or more victimized in my life,” Montgomery told to a reporter at Reason. Thousands of viewers across the country agreed.
1. Latest Smuggling Tunnel Has Everything But an Xbox
And lastly we come to the Outrageous Drug Story of the Year: the increasingly impressive smuggling tunnels that continue to make national news. November saw two such discoveries, each spanning the ½-mile distance between Tijuana and San Diego. Each had ventilation, electricity, and a sophisticated rail system designed to move marijuana across the border with maximum efficiency. 76 such tunnels have been discovered in the last four years, but these most recent examples may be distinguished by their staggering drug hauls – over 50 tons of cannabis in total. Investigators believe both are the handiwork of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, controlled by one Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman. The Feds are plenty encouraged by their success, of course, but the question remains: just how many tunnels remain, and which of them will take the cake in 2011?