KopBusters was hatched in one of many late-night board meetings, which consists of me and my wife Candi smoking herb and pillow talking about our upcoming strategies to assist Americans. We were discussing the thousands of citizens who sent emails to NeverGetBusted.com asking for help regarding crooked cops in their communities. I
was formerly one of our nation’s top drug enforcement officers and have first-hand knowledge of the corruption the American Drug War produces, so I knew the constant flow of emails complaining of civil rights violations (specifically the 4th Amendment, unreasonable search and seizure) were true. With guilt welling up, and not knowing how to help the millions of abused citizens, I focused on Candi through teary eyes as she gently suggested, “Babe, you were so good at arresting people, why don’t you start arresting those bad cops? We can call it KopBusters.”
The next several weeks were spent discussing reverse sting operations based on my intimate knowledge of the police mindset and their preferred methods of operating. I used my past training and experience as an undercover agent to weave nine “kop traps” that would be placed across America to catch “krooked kops”. KopBusters’ first target was Washington State, a place that generated hundreds of complaints regarding illegal raids on marijuana grow rooms. The “Dummy Grow Room Operation” was selected from our nine traps to lure the cops into either an opportunity to obey the law and respect the 4th Amendment, or to disobey the constitutional law and conduct an illegal raid.
The plan: KopBusters rents a house in the jurisdiction of the crooked cops and sets up an indoor light system commonly used to grow marijuana. We rig the house with cameras, and grow legal non-cannabis plants. Undercover detectives are planted in the community to “leak” the news of a secret “marijuana grow operation”, triggering an investigation from the local cops.
Legal Note: Although federal American law still prohibits marijuana, the 4th amendment forces police to follow certain investigative guidelines to seize the marijuana. If those guidelines are not strictly followed, the seizure is illegal and the citizen’s rights have been violated. Criminally, the evidence is supposed to be thrown out, and civilly, the citizen can sue the government to punish their disobedience of the law. When seeking a search warrant to invade a home, police must present a judge with an affidavit listing the reasons for the search. The judge examines the affidavit and, if sufficient probable cause does not exist to sign a warrant, the judge instructs the cops to gather more evidence. If the officers fail to gather more evidence, the target house is protected under the guidelines of the Constitution.
The goal of “Operation Dummy Grow Room” is to expose one of three crimes commonly committed by judges and cops when seeking opportunities to make money from illegal raids:
• The first unlawful act is the cop’s willingness to lie on a search warrant affidavit, claiming a reliable and confidential informant saw the plants and/or the odor of marijuana could be detected coming from the house. Cops secretly refer to the former as the “ghost informant” method of obtaining a search warrant, and one or both of these reasons alone is enough probable cause to conduct a legal raid. We knew if the cops lied on the affidavit, the lies could easily be disproved by reviewing the hours of hidden-camera video that show neither informants nor marijuana had ever been in the trap house.
• The second unlawful act is the illegal use of FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Radar) cameras. FLIR cameras were legal to use without a warrant when I was a drug cop, but have since been outlawed by the Supreme Court unless a warrant has been issued to use one. The probable cause needed to raid a house is usually the same probable cause needed to use the FLIR, so the cameras basically became unusable to law enforcement overnight. However, police secretly continue using the cameras but neglect revealing that information on the warrant affidavit because it is illegal. This is similar to an illegal wiretap: if a cop illegally listens to your telephone conversation, he will use the information he learned but will not reveal how he learned it.
• The third unlawful act is the judge’s willingness to sign a search and arrest warrant without sufficient probable cause on the affidavit. Judges often ‘rubber stamp’ warrants at the request of greedy cops, knowing the judges are protected and are not held accountable for signing a faulty warrant. Judges in the US can sign any order they choose without fear of criminal or civil liability. The cops acting under the judge’s orders are protected as well, because they are carrying out the orders of the judge. Cop corruption is directly married to judge corruption. Where there are crooked cops, there are crooked judges – and we caught one in our first reverse sting operation.
Shortly after targeting Washington State, I received a report from a citizen in Odessa, Texas, advising us his daughter, Yolanda Madden, had been set up by some of my former partners-in-crime at the Odessa Narcotics Unit. KopBusters immediately redirected the operation to Odessa, and the trap was set. Less than 12 hours later, the Odessa narcotics unit raided the trap house. KopBusters’ first operation was a success and the raid was captured with hidden cameras that streamed off-premise to the Kop Busters’ Secret Mobile Unit. We posted the raid footage on YouTube, so be sure to check it out (www.youtube.com/NeverGetBusted). KopBuster’s Hollywood Manager, David Ballard, was notified of the secret operation and plans were made to produce a TV reality show surrounding the Yolanda Madden case and the KopBuster trap. Kevin Booth, director of Showtime’s, American Drug War: The Last White Hope, will direct the series. We are currently in talks with TV networks, and should know who will air it soon. Check out the website KopBusters.com for updates.
The Yolanda Madden Case
The Odessa narcotics unit illegally compelled an informant to plant drugs on Yolanda Madden. It’s called an informant plant. The informant testified in federal court he planted the drugs on her, and he passed a polygraph confirming the same. Yolanda also passed a polygraph along with a hair follicle and urine test, showing she did not use drugs. Our broken criminal justice system ignored the evidence and railroaded her through court, sentencing her to eight years in prison. My ex-partner, Joe Commander, mistakenly thought Yolanda Madden was “The Ice Queen” from Dallas. The informant testified that the cops told him to give Yolanda her son’s video game bag. The informant did as instructed, but did not know the bag contained almost two ounces of methamphetamine. The police initiated a traffic stop on Yolanda and arrested her for the drugs in the bag.
Probably the hardest thing to do while making the preparations to sting the cops was living in a shroud of secrecy. Candi and I are very public people and have always made our lives an open book for all to read. Having to make excuses for being out of town so much was difficult, and having to make excuses why we weren’t involved in certain activist events was just as hard. We couldn’t tell our peers we had to skip an interview or business dinner because we were in the middle of busting cops. We were forced to be deceptive, and I hate that part – I told Candi when this first started that I dreaded going back into the role of an investigator who tricked others into breaking the law. I know I’m on the right side of the fence now by busting crooked cops, but playing the deceptive role of working undercover, doing surveillance, and paying informants is the worst part of the job for me. After I left law enforcement years ago, I decided I was never going to be deceptive in another job again. I always hated the way lying felt.
Having to use pre-paid phones for six months was also a big pain in the rear. To speak with one of our detectives I had to say “I’ll call you in 30 minutes” and then hang up. He knew this meant I was going to call him from my pre-paid phone in 30 seconds, and he would answer his other line. This does not seem like much of an inconvenience, but try doing that fifty times a day for six months! The emails are just as bad; we used encrypted email accounts and had to give the signal to all the detectives when an urgent email was sent for all to read. The signal usually came in the form of a text message sent to each phone reading, “check your box.”
The 300-mile drives from Austin, Texas to Odessa were nerve racking for me because of the high probability of being interdicted by one of the dozens of drug cops patrolling the West Texas highways. We shipped everything we could, and always mailed sensitive documents in case we were the subjects of a traffic stop. I knew if we were pulled over, it would be hard to explain the grow equipment, extra phones and spy gear. We took painstaking efforts to disguise the suspicious equipment and practiced our stories in case we were stopped. I used every technique I knew to not get profiled. We even placed a John McCain bumper sticker on one of our autos to throw off the police – plenty of law-abiding citizens in Texas love McCain! In a dozen or so trips we never got pulled over, but we once had a close call: I was driving back from Odessa with Candi after a few days of surveillance and noticed a cop approaching fast on my rear. Within seconds he was on my bumper tailing me. My thoughts flashed to the large bud I had stashed in the ashtray, and knew I had to eat it before pulling over. I quickly popped the bud in my mouth and grabbed the bottle of water we keep nearby for pot swallowing – just like I advised in the first Never Get Busted DVD, I never carry more than I can eat. The bud got lodged in my throat and I tried washing it down, and the water had nowhere to go; my eyes were watering and I was gagging, but then I remembered a technique I learned in fighting. I forced myself to relax, which made breathing a bit easier. A few more attempts to swallow finally dislodged the bud, and it felt like a giant, scratchy marble! I was so relieved the evidence was gone – then the cop went around me, going after someone else. Candi laughed, but I was bummed. We still had four hours of traveling before reaching Odessa, and no weed for the drive!
Since I use to work in Odessa and most cops know me from my anti-drug war films, while working there I stayed in our hotel room or went out in disguise. We’ve learned most people don’t recognize me if I wear sunglasses and a hat, but almost everybody recognizes my voice (my crew had to constantly remind me to be quiet in public places because I’m loud and have a distinctive accent). The most tormenting part about stinging cops was worrying that they somehow knew about the operation and thinking that every move I made may be in vain. I had this fear many times, especially when a person having intimate details of the operation insinuated he was going to blow the whole thing if I didn’t pay him a certain amount of money. It was extortion, but I couldn’t go to the police and say “I’m in the middle of an operation designed to sting cops, and someone is trying to extort money from me,” so I allowed him to think he was manipulating me with the threats. He believed the big day was a month away, but in reality we planned to bust the cops much sooner.
After the grow light was activated and the hot air began to pump from the trap house, the waiting began. Watching computer screens of an empty house, waiting for the door to fly open, is thrilling, boring and intense all at the same time. We knew the police had the house under surveillance because we could see them with our hidden cameras equipped with remote control pan, tilt, night vision and zoom capabilities. We also had an informant inside the police department giving us detailed information as the cops planned the raid. After waiting and waiting, our lawyer, Adam Reposa, volunteered to enter the house and wait for the police to execute the search warrant. He purchased sunglasses, a ski hat and a fire log, then was dropped off three blocks away from the trap house. Knowing the cops would see him enter the house, Adam removed the fire log from his backpack and lit it in the fireplace to give the appearance from the outside that he was burning evidence.
After waiting for about an hour with no action, Adam decided to walk to a restaurant to eat. Halfway there, the cops rushed him, slammed him onto the ground and secured the arrest – our attorney was in custody, but we didn’t know it because he was out of camera range. As we watched the many monitor screens waiting for Adam to return, we noticed the cops staging several cars near the trap house, getting ready for the raid. Unbeknownst to us, Adam was in back of one of the cars, under arrest. They had written a description of him on the search and arrest warrant after seeing him enter the house for the first time. All of the sudden I heard one of our detectives yell, “They’re in! They’re in!” The monitors came alive with video of cops with guns sweeping each room. We quickly scrambled to our vehicles, and rushed to meet the cops head-on and find Adam.
Confronting the cops at the trap house was my favorite part of the entire operation. On our way to the scene, KopBusters detective Jason Osborne notified us he could see our attorney on camera in handcuffs standing near the police. Upon arrival, cameramen and our group of ten people jumped out of various vehicles and I announced, “I’m Barry Cooper with KopBusters. You planted drugs on Yolanda Madden, and you all are busted!” (You can see portions of this confrontation by watching the trailer at KopBusters.com.) The cops would not allow us near the trap house and refused to give us a copy of the warrant affidavit. I noticed Adam standing near the officers, and began yelling, “Why is my attorney under arrest? Charge him, or set him free,” and one of the officers responded, “He is not under arrest, he is being detained.” I asked if he was free to leave, and continued repeating that question until the police finally told my attorney he could go.
Several days later, after the media continued pressing police, the affidavit was produced. The affidavit gave two reasons why the affiant, Investigator Jessie Garcia, wanted the judge to sign the warrant: 1) An anonymous letter the affiant claimed was given to him by a preacher named Pierce; and 2) The affiant made two drive-bys of the suspected house to confirm it fit the description contained in the anonymous letter.
I raided over 100 homes during my tenure as a narcotics officer. If I would have presented an honest judge with the same application for permission to raid, he rightly would have said, “That is not enough evidence for me to sign the warrant, so go investigate and gather more evidence. If you can’t find any more evidence, then we can’t raid the house. If you find more evidence, I’ll re-examine the affidavit.”
The judge should never have signed the warrant. The US Supreme Court is very clear on this: an anonymous tip is never enough probable cause to raid a home. One Internet-savvy blogger who was following the story pointed out “Preacher Pierce” is the chaplain for the Odessa Police Department. When the reporters asked him about the letter, he denied knowing anything about it. Upon learning this, the Odessa American Newspaper questioned the cops – so the cops changed their story, claiming they got the wrong name on the affidavit and it was actually “Pastor Pugh” who delivered the letter. The cops are now investigating who wrote the letter in hopes of pinning the letter on KopBusters, so they can file False Report Charges. As part of their investigation, the police contacted the Odessa American and asked the newspaper to release the personal information of all the citizens who posted comments online under their KopBusters article. The newspaper is refusing to cooperate with the police, citing a First Amendment case previously won in court.
Many are wondering why the police are spending so much time trying to figure out the author of the letter after the raid, when that should have been done beforehand. When the media asks me if we had anything to do with the letter, I respond: “Anybody could have written that letter. The police could have written it. The preacher could have written it. The neighbors could have written it. That is why it’s called an anonymous letter, and that is why the Supreme Court finds anonymous letters insufficient for probable cause to break into a home with guns drawn. If it were legal to conduct a raid based on an anonymous letter alone, then citizens could send anonymous letters to trigger raids on their enemies.”
Going Viral On The Net
Within 24 hours of the sting, our website generated millions of hits. According to the news-tracking website Digg.com, KopBusters led the world as the most talked about story on the Internet and ranked #10 in most searched-for words on Google. KopBusters placed second on RawStory.com for the most Digg votes, and attracted over two million page views. The world’s interest and concern regarding corrupt cops in America caused KopBusters to go viral on the net. Yolanda Madden’s case is now well known, and hopefully this attention will help set her free by pressuring authorities to re-examine the evidence and police work related to her case. I’ve received a number of tips about other corrupt cop behavior in the same area and from places across America, and will continue to track down and expose these rogue agents. Stay tuned for more updates from the Never Get Busted and KopBusters crew.
Update: Seconds before this article left for print, we got the news a federal judge has granted Yolanda an evidentiary hearing on April 30, 2009, in Midland/Odessa Texas. Our attorneys will be allowed to submit the pile of evidence proving foul play in Yolandas case. If we win, she walks free and can rejoin her children, family and friends. KopBusters is staging an event in front of the courthouse. Supporters are invited so go to KopBusters.com and learn how you can attend this event to help free Yolanda.