How the DEA's Special Operations Division Nearly Destroyed Our Family
Right now the narrative is that the DEA is secretly obtaining information from the NSA that's only used to target drug dealers and really bad guys. However, my attorney and I believe the DEA and NSA targeted my wife and me, for the crime of playing a key role in the passage of California medical marijuana legalization bill Prop. 215.
My family was subjected to a home invasion of 21 heavily armed officers, our accounts cleaned out, our office equipment seized, resulting in us becoming bankrupted, and charged with 19 felonies that would have resulted in sentences of 40 years to life.
Thankfully a jury acquitted my wife. The jury refused to convict me on the marijuana charges, but I was convicted of possession of a mushroom stem and peyote button found in our guest bedroom. Although this conviction was later dismissed by Judge Nelson in Mendocino County, these covert actions nearly killed me and have damaged my family terribly. Despite the narrative about drug dealers, it was our family and my political activities that ended up in their evil crosshairs.
Information released yesterday in a story by Reuters may be shining some added light on the shady history of my case:
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
So how do revelations about the DEA's Special Operations Division (SOD) relate to my case? It all began with a DEA report allegedly provided to a local task force that a guest at our Squaw Valley, California home, was a Jamaican drug smuggler.
The person in question was hardly a drug dealer or Jamaican. Instead it was Cannabis Culture journalist Pete Brady, who has blonde hair and had never been to Jamaica. We believe this DEA report is a fake and was used to fraudulently persuade a judge into signing a search warrant. We also believe the prosecutor, Christopher Cattran, shown on the right, willfully and deliberately avoided having to produce this fraudulent DEA report.
In the original Statement of Probable Cause to obtain the search warrant, it was alleged: "Brady was also checked through DEA's NADIS system and there were two returns found. The first returned was on Brady, Peter. This showed that Brady was part of an investigation in 1985 with the DEA office in the state of Florida. Brady gave information and/or was involved with the smuggling of large quantities of marijuana from and/or to Jamaica. The second return was on Helbert, James. This showed that Helbert was part of an investigation in 1982 with the DEA office in the state of Florida. Helbert was involved with smuggling of marijuana in Jamaica as well." (James Helbert was an alleged alias for Pete Brady.)
Pete Brady did not fit this NADIS profile in any way, shape or form. He was at my home doing a story about my run for governor as the Libertarian Party nominee and on my legal medical marijuana garden. After the raid on my family, Pete was also arrested. He later testified – under oath – that the arresting officer, Michael Lyke, told him to come up with evidence to convict me or he "would end up in a cell with a big black dude who would make him his bitch."
Fortunately, Pete Brady refused to make up anything against me and was ultimately found innocent in court. Still, he was angry about what had been done to him and took the time to follow up on the details of this statement of probable cause. He wrote the DEA to see if this NADIS report on him actually existed. When the DEA replied with a form letter (below) checking off a box which stated that no such file existed, Pete was furious and wrote a second letter starting an appeal of action.
Richard L. Huff, Co-Director, Office of Information and Privacy, US Department of Justice replied in a letter dated June 24, 1999, "You were advised by the DEA on March 24, 1999 that no records responsive to your request could be located in the indices of that Office. It has been determined by my staff that its response was correct. Inasmuch as appeals can be taken only from denials of access to records which exist and can be located in Department of Justice files, I am closing your appeal file in the Office."
Then when our legal advisors read the following excerpts from our trial, the pieces started falling into place.
David Nick (Michele’s attorney - shown on the right): "I can almost assure this court in an evidentiary hearing that whatever physical description they had of this Peter Brady that they found on the NADIS index is not anything even close to what the real Pete Brady that was at Mr. Kubby's house looks like. Thanks."
Placer County Deputy District Attorney Mr. Cattran: "Your Honor, I am a little bit at a loss ... These comments by counsel alleging omissions and they should have done this and might have done this and could have done this and they omitted this, and I think it was reckless there, they haven't met their burden. I mean to even be talking about any of this stuff. There is a burden to show that – there is a burden here that they need to show through. I believe evidence, and we are not there. I mean procedurally, I am not talking about granting a hearing pursuant to Franks. I am talking about the offer of proof and the requisite evidence that has to be shown to even address it. I just don't think we are there. I don't know what the court's feeling on that is if the court thinks I am all wet."
This convoluted statement by the prosecutor is clearly evasive and calculated to suppress evidence. Nevertheless the court ruled against our motion to request a hearing and ask Mr. Lyke, (the arresting officer), what was actually on the report. The court forced us to continue with the trial, to our utter disbelief. Now, however, in view of the DOJ's statement to Pete Brady that the report does not even exist, our advisors believed we had the legal right to challenge the court's ruling and force the prosecutor to produce the alleged DEA report.
On May 16, 2005, my attorney Bill McPike (pictured right), took this matter up before Judge Cosgrove, in Placer County California and placed into evidence a followup letter from the DEA and DOJ insisting that there was no DEA report. McPike argued that the DA had never produced the DEA report and now that the DEA and DOJ said it didn't exist, we have the right to demand that the DA produce whatever document he showed a judge to get the warrant. "You can't have it both ways," said McPike. Think about it. How difficult would it be for the prosecutor to go to his file, grab the document and show it to us in court?
To our profound disappointment, the judge denied our request. We assumed he was corrupt, but McPike has had cases before this judge since then and he believes the judge is honest. McPike believes that this judge was told that it was a matter of national security and that is why he ruled against us.
McPike believes the prosecutor screwed up by submitting the DEA report sent to him, instead of destroying it and creating an independent paper trail. "The Jamaican thing smells like the SOD part, of NSA sharing international info w/SOD. So it appears very plausible that you were caught up in this secret process. Perhaps a DEA letter did exist, but was destroyed. Perhaps for reasons of national security, or to protect SOD, the judge and DA were forced to not reveal the DEA letter? So you have the DA claiming the letter existed, while the DEA denies existence of the letter. At this point it might take political help to pursue this," said McPike.
Only now are we learning about how covert operations were used against me, not to fight terrorism but to fight medical marijuana, by winning convictions against those responsible for the passage of Prop. 215. Like so many other cannabis activists, my family and I have paid some very painful dues in this brutal drug war. For me, the absolute most painful punishment was the loss of my courageous and inspiring wife, Michele. We lived together in loving bliss for ten years without a single argument, disagreement or even a hard word between us. Michele was everything to me. I loved her with all my heart and soul.
All that changed when Michele was threatened by Child Protective Services with the removal of our two young daughters. It was then that the one and only true love of my life was forced to choose between me and our precious children. Michele did what any good mom would do under such terrifying circumstances and acted to protect our kids from being abducted by CPS — she filed for a divorce. Heartbroken, I had no choice but to accept her decision. Apparently, the government wasn't happy we beat them in court and found other means for sending me a message to end my activism. Like many of you, the harder they push, the harder I push back.
Despite the divorce, my former wife and I have remained good friends. We've accepted what has happened and she has her own life now. Best of all, my kids and I have remained close, sharing many wonderful adventures in my new hometown of South Lake Tahoe, California.