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The definition of irony is when words are used to convey the opposite of their typical or literal meaning. It may also be what happened to my family on May 1st, 2013. My husband had stepped outside barefoot to play cops and robbers with a gaggle of squealing children: our infant son who was already walking, our tiny niece, and our 5-year-old nephew for whom my husband, Ty, is a hero. The game was his idea.
Our nephew is one of those incredibly sensitive and bright boys who loves being challenged mentally. He loves spending time with his uncle, especially when his daddy, a truck driver, is on the road. The kids had come for a visit to run around outside and enjoy the weather. They ended up watching their uncle be deprived of his freedom, instead of enjoying their own.
The last thing I expected to see that sunny early afternoon, when I followed seconds later with my mother and sister, was a short, plain-clothes police officer grinning wickedly and swinging his handcuffs around his index finger with glee.
Short, pot-bellied, and clearly balding (his hair shaved in that desperate way men think will make them look like Bruce Willis), this troll of a man had been stalking our family for nearly two months. He had knocked on our door after 10 PM on weeknights (without any kind of warrant). He had blocked our vehicle into the garage while screaming threats at us (in front of our son) when we refused to be questioned without an attorney.
He was here, in our yard, to arrest my husband for medical marijuana. He knew it was unquestionably medical and that my husband in no way profited from the attempted transfer in question. He still boasted loudly about how he had arranged for my husband to (unnecessarily) spend a night in jail for refusing to talk to police and about how he was going to charge him with multiple felonies instead of “some simple ticket,” still trying to terrify my husband into implicating himself.
What he wasn’t saying out loud was that he was here to teach my husband (and me too, most certainly) a lesson. We hadn’t done what he had wanted, and so he was going to use the full power of his position to make us regret that non-compliance.
When he had first pounded on our door weeks ago, I went outside after he re-entered his vehicle and refused him entry to the apartment. He then claimed he smelled cannabis through the closed front door (which was never opened in his presence).
Interestingly enough, my husband and I do not grow marijuana, nor do we store it in quantities beyond that for personal medical use in our home. What we do have is stored in locked cases, well out of the reach of our son. We also run a professional grade deodorizer used for smoke damage when cannabis is present, just in case. There was no smell.
Still, I provided him my medical marijuana caregiver documentation which essentially turned his claim of a non-existent smell from “probable cause” to illegally enter and search my home into a statement of known, state-registered fact in no way indicative of a crime.
There was a lot of implied threat in my conversation with the him and another detective dispatched to question my husband. The word “felony” kept coming up, over and over.
I was raised Catholic, and I went to Catholic school all the way through college. As a Catholic girl, I was trained my entire life to defer to authority, especially male authority.
I get so obsequious when dealing with law enforcement that my excessive politeness has previously given one cop her idea of reasonable doubt. She searched me and my car and detained me in her back seat for fifteen minutes during a stop, all because I had pulled over to let my car windows de-fog.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, repeatedly refusing to answer their questions and refusing them entry to my house. It didn’t mean they were done trying, but it was the last time I answered the door or went outside after someone unexpected came knocking.
Flash forward to May 1st, and this walking inferiority complex was handcuffing Uncle Ty in front of horrified little kids who idolize him. The cop was nearly a foot shorter than my compliant husband, who just asked that he be allowed to put on the shoes I had grabbed him from inside. I kissed my husband goodbye and went inside to wait interminably for his call.
Despite the fact that he was arrested just after noon on a Wednesday for a non-violent offense, he was held overnight. He saw dozens of people, many accused of much more serious crimes, come in and leave within hours. Ty was being punished; he was being made into an example.
He was released on personal recognizance bond the next day after being arraigned by video. He was being charged with a drug felony, but no one could seem to tell him exactly what drug felony. The charge and number of charges kept changing. His online arrest record shows his charge as felony manufacture of a THC analog, which makes it sound like he was mixing up some deadly herbal incense.
So what had my husband done to net him one (possibly two) felony drug charges and a night in jail? He had done something any decent person would have done in his position.
My husband’s mother and step-father live in another state, too far to drive with our young son. Earlier this year, his 65-year-old mother had fallen over a treadmill in her basement. She suffered a multiple-point compound fracture to her left arm that required massive surgery. Because of how extensive the damage was and the amount of swelling, she had to wait a week for the surgery to fix her arm.
She’s a tiny slip of a woman despite having a son who is 6’4”, and she couldn’t keep down the narcotic painkillers her doctor prescribed. He had offered her an anti-nausea drug used by chemo patients, but their insurance wouldn’t cover the (insanely!) expensive pills. She called us sobbing because she was in such excruciating pain.
For those of you who are fortunate enough to not have experienced one, compound fractures are considered one of the most painful experiences a human can have. Ty is a very compassionate man. Despite having a strained relationship with his mother at the best of times, he made the decision immediately to offer her what little he could: a safe, effective pain reliever she wasn’t going to vomit up after taking.
He obtained various kinds of medicated edibles, aka medibles, in several strengths, as well as an alcohol tincture, and several capsules of non-psychoactive cannabis oil. There was no smokable marijuana, psychoactive concentrate (such as BHO), or hash.
This would eventually cause a lot of confusion regarding what he should be charged with, because in Michigan, medibles aren’t cannabis. He wrote a brief letter explaining to her the various dosages and when each one should be taken. He went to a shipping store and paid for overnight shipping to his mother. Although there was no marijuana and no marijuana smell, the clerk decided my husband looked “suspicious” and called the cops.
When we went to the preliminary hearing ten days after my husband’s arrest, our entire family sat in court with a public defender. The prosecutor and judge make it very apparent neither of them thought of my husband the way the police officer had.
The prosecutor offered a plea deal to simple marijuana possession. Although it meant throwing ourselves on the mercy of the judge, as he would sentence my husband then and there, it was clearly our best option.
My husband plead guilty and was then allowed to explain to the judge what had happened that had led to these charges. The judge shook his head and all but rolled his eyes as my husband talked. When he spoke, he reminded my husband that what he had done was technically against the law.
His words are truth; were my husband less educated, or a person of color, or less well-spoken, if he had chosen to wear jeans instead of dressing up for his court appearance, it is very likely that this attempt at compassion for his mother would have resulted in a prison sentence or at least probation.
As it stood, the judge could see that my college-educated husband was a good citizen, a loving father, and not a threat to society. He gave my husband the minimum fine of $550 and temporarily suspended his license. He shared a laugh with our family because he was wearing a bow tie under his robes and our son was wearing a “bow ties are cool” onesie (complete with red printed bow tie) under his dress shirt. I like to tell people the Doctor helped save my husband.
The cop, who my retired social worker mother has taken to calling “Detective TWEP” (teeny-weeny-eeny-peeny, which is quite an insult from a strict Catholic nurse who won’t say “hell”) actually came to the preliminary court date and approached me in court.
People who faced the judge before Ty on multiple charges of felony cocaine trafficking, for example, didn’t have their arresting officer present. Seeing him there made the whole scenario come into sharp focus. He didn’t need to be there; he wanted to be there. This whole thing was about his ego.
He wanted me to know that he was a good guy. He felt compelled to tell me he had spoken with the prosecutor personally and told them to go easy on my husband. I told him I had nothing to say to him, and reminded him that the prosecutor was the one who decided the charges and pleas.
I wish I had pointed out that every single person seen before us was also offered a dramatically reduced charge as part of a plea bargain. It is common practice, and it’s one of the ways the system defeats even innocent people; fighting doesn’t seem worth it when the charge is so minor.
I am glad that I denied him the satisfaction of playing along in his delusion that he helped my family. He didn’t help my family; he saddled my husband with a misdemeanor drug charge that, in economically-depressed Michigan, ensures he will never find a job that pays above minimum wage. He hurt my son’s chances of going to college and of having decent health care.
Because of his personal pride, his need for a “high solve rate” for the non-violent drug crimes that are his daily bread and butter, and his inability to accept the fact that my husband wouldn’t incriminate himself, he pursued my husband and terrified my family for weeks regarding an action that was a crime in only the most technical sense of the word. Many people might call what my husband did simply being a good son. Or a decent human being. Statistically, less than one in five Americans thinks what my husband did should be a crime.
As the officer in charge of the investigation, he had the discretion to decide that no crime had actually been committed. Certainly the attempt was there, but the package never entered the FedEx stream and never left the city, let alone the state.
He could have dropped the whole thing when he called Ty’s mother to question her about the package. She knew nothing about it, but was fresh out of her operation and told him all about her terrible injury. He questioned her within hours of her surgery, while she was under the lingering effects of anesthesia and I.V. painkillers.
He could have decided then that this was a clear case of a son trying to help a mother with no profit motive and no victims. He chose instead to pursue my husband like a violent criminal and waste thousands of taxpayer dollars to do it, all for some personal grudge over our adamant but polite refusal to speak.
According to my neighbors, he sat in the parking lot of the apartment building across from us on at least six different dates for hours each time. This is in addition to the times he pounded on our front door (at least four) and confronted us in person and was told we wouldn’t speak without an attorney (twice).
He also went back weeks after the package was handed over to police to question the kid from the shipping center and had him pick my husband’s smiling driver’s license photo out of a stack of angry mug shots. I don’t know how much money that ends up representing, but I’m pretty sure it’s more than the $550 we paid in fines.
A lawyer we spoke with told us Detective TWEP has a reputation for locking up non-violent offenders as an interrogation and intimidation tactic. He told us the story of an elderly woman who was arrested for medical marijuana and kept in a women’s holding cell over an entire weekend with prostitutes and violent drunks.
When this sort of thing happens to otherwise decent, law-abiding citizens, it results not only in a lack of respect for law enforcement, but also in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for those bullied and stalked (or heaven forbid, served a “no-knock warrant”) by police.
Make no mistake people; the War on Drugs is nearing it’s end, but the last days are going to be rough.
“Make no mistake people; the War on Drugs is nearing it’s end, but the last days are going to be rough.”
Instead of being more reasonable and rational about drug enforcement as public opinion has shifted, law enforcement agencies have become more strident, more eager than ever to seize people’s possessions and incarcerate non-violent offenders. We need to eliminate the glut of law enforcement and prison jobs which serve no purpose other than to perpetuate themselves and expand their industry.
The people wielding these positions like cudgels will not give them up willingly. Their salaries and pensions come at the price of the lives and livelihoods of tax-paying, hard-working, productive American citizens. They are bullies in the truest sense of the word, harming countless others to avoid facing the fact that they need therapy and job training.
They do not deserve severance pay; they should be grateful if they are given immunity against prosecution for war crimes against the very people they were sworn to protect and serve. Detective TWEP is not a hero; he is not a good guy. He is a small man with a small mind who makes his living ruining lives over a plant. All the proof you need of that is to ask my nephew if he still wants to play cops and robbers.
“No. Maybe we can play Darth Vader instead?”
My nephew understands that his uncle didn’t become a bad guy because he got arrested. He understands what his uncle did. Sadly, what he learned was that cops are even worse than Darth Vader.