Prisoner at Center of ‘KopBusters’ Campaign May Soon be Freed

Yolanda Madden was arrested and convicted of federal drug charges in 2005, but may now get another chance to clear her name.Yolanda Madden was arrested and convicted of federal drug charges in 2005, but may now get another chance to clear her name.The woman at the epicenter of a Texas filmmaker’s crusade against allegedly corrupt police may soon be freed thanks to a federal judge’s decision to vacate her sentence.

Yolanda Madden, who was jailed in 2005 after being convicted of possession of and intent to distribute narcotics, was the reason that Barry Cooper came to Odessa, Texas last December. After being hired to embarrass the local police by Yolanda’s father Raymond, Cooper set up a fake marijuana grow house and baited officers to stage an illegal raid. When they did, police were confronted by an empty house and lots of cameras, with a hand-written poster explaining they had become part of a new reality show called “KopBusters”.

For Yolanda, the stunt was just the beginning of efforts to secure her freedom. Cooper and Madden’s father insist Odessa officers planted the narcotics she was jailed for.

At a Thursday evidentiary hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Junell granted a motion to “vacate, set aside, or correct” Yolanda’s sentence, effectively guaranteeing a new trial and possibly her freedom, according to CBS 7 in Odessa.

Madden has previously lost an appeal before the fifth circuit court. That decision is available here. [PDF link]

“We have proof that neither one of the cops were at where they said they were,” Raymond Madden told the CBS affiliate.

Cooper, a long-time drug officer who turned against prohibition and became an activist, claims Madden’s arresting officers were his former partners.

“The lead investigator, Officer Greg Traveland, claimed he took a verbal confession from Yolanda at the police station when he was actually miles away booking informant, Keith Phillips, into jail,” Cooper wrote on his Web site.

– Read the rest of the article at Raw Story.

Ruling unclear

by Jim Mustian, Odessa American

A cloud of confusion settled over the Yolanda Jean Madden case this weekend as attorneys scratched their heads over whether a judgment was signed Friday by U.S. District Judge Rob Junell.

The order, which appeared briefly Friday in federal court documents, grants a motion to vacate Madden’s 2005 conviction of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. Madden’s attorney says new evidence has emerged in the case that shows police lied at trial and that her prison sentence of six years and six months should be set aside.

The Odessa woman could be released on bond pending a new trial if Junell rules in her favor.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Klassen, lead prosecutor in the case, said Junell’s office told him the ruling was posted “in error” Friday on PACER, the government’s electronic filing system, and that the judge was still considering his decision.

Madden’s defense attorney Mark Sampson of Austin said Saturday he was confused by conflicting information coming out of Midland on Friday. He said he saw the document online Friday morning and was “elated” but received word Friday afternoon that the ruling was in question.

The Odessa American obtained a copy of the signed ruling, but as of late Saturday, it was not accessible in federal court documents.

If Junell grants the motion to vacate, it would mark the first break for Madden since her conviction. Madden, who is scheduled to be released in 2011, has maintained her innocence in the case and says a police informant planted the drugs without her knowing it the day of her arrest.

Her appeals have been unsuccessful, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case in October 2007. But in August 2008, she filed a motion to vacate the sentence, claiming prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence, a violation of due process protections laid out by the Supreme Court.

During the trial, Cpl. Greg Travland testified he elicited a confession from Madden after her arrest. But the interview was not recorded, and Sampson says Ector County Detention Center booking sheets show it would have been impossible for Travland to be at the Odessa Police Department at the time he says Madden confessed.

At an evidentiary hearing last month, Madden said she had never even seen Travland before the day of her trial. Junell has said he would rule on the motion to vacate by Friday.

– Article from Odessa American.