Those of you who live in the Will County area of Illinois may want to watch where you shop. Especially if you shop at a place called Midwest Hydroganics.
The DEA is.
Meet Angela Kirking, who lives in Shorewood, IL. She has learned firsthand how law enforcement will use anything to get around the Constitution when it comes to drugs. Illinois police have had a power monopoly and have done everything they can to prevent the public from taking any of it away, from doing everything they could to stymie concealed carry to...well...this.
Illinois recently made medical marijuana legal, but only medical possession. You can't grow it, and of course, you have to prove it is medical. And for I Am The Law types, this is an invitation for people to skirt the law and bring about the Downfall Of The Republic. So they decided to observe Midwest Hydroganics, which sells stuff that could be used to grow marijuana (why they aren't staking out head shops instead, I have no idea. It's like I always wonder -- if the DEA wants to make some easy busts, why don't they just stake out Dead, Fish, and ICP concerts?).
Among the people was Kirking, who is 46 years old and a face paint artist. Last September, she went to Midwest Hydroganics to buy a 16 ounce bottle of organic fertilizer. That was it. The only thing.
This was enough to start an investigation on her. Donn Kaminski, an officer from Braidwood, IL, who was assigned to the DEA, got the job. In his search warrant application, he noted that he observed Kirking leave "carrying a green plastic bag containing unknown items." He concluded she was illegally growing pot because he had "previously conducted numerous investigations that involved the surveillance of Midwest Hydroganics and persons purchasing items at Midwest Hydroganics, which has led to the arrest of suspects for production of cannabis saliva plants and production of cannabis."
You're probably thinking that isn't enough to get a warrant, and you're right. So Kaminski went with the old standby of searching her garbage. He wrote in the search application that he noted "a strong odor of green cannabis" (hey, everybody! It's Notorious Norbert The Narc! -- G). He brought up her electric bill and found her electric use was higher than her neighbors. Another officer conducted a field test on a green plant stem (that's "a" plant stem, as in "1" or "one"), and it tested positive for marijuana. This was enough for the judge to sign the warrant.
And so, three weeks after her trip to the store, on an early October 11 morning, Kirking and her husband found themselves in the middle of a raid on their house by four DEA agents and five Shorewood officers (this is from the police report). The results: 9.3 grams (less than a third of an ounce for those of you not on metric) of marijuana in her art room. Holy shit, it's fucking Scarface.
Kirking has lawyered up, and oh, is she lawyering up. To battle the Will County prosecutors, she has enlisted Jeff Tomczak, who is himself a former Will County prosecutor. He's saying that this is an example of misplaced priorities and federal overreach. To prove this, he pointed out that this little operation has resulted in 10 other people getting nailed with raids. Discovery led Tomczak to a search warrant for one of the other suspects. They had searched his trash, and found no evidence of marijuana residue in the trash. Police said that was proof that the suspect was covering up his marijuana grow. Yup, that was good enough for the judge to sign the warrant.
Tomczak is trying to have the search warrant and two misdemeanor charges it spawned thrown out. Why? I mean, this is pretty big name for some anonymous face painter in small town Illinois to have on her side. Well, he gets this, he establishes a precedent. One that can be used to undermine other cases where the cops are swinging their dicks around. Among the information he revealed was that the same cop who investigated Kirking also checked out a 39 year old man in Channahon, a town about ten miles from Shorewood. He had shopped at the same place in March of 2012. They raided him in July, and he plead guilty in February. They tried to search his garbage, but he only put it curbside twice during the 18 week investigation, prompting them to conclude he was ditching his trash somewhere else. The raid turned up a single marijuana plant and 98 grams (a little over three ounces) of cannabis in a jar, along with growing equipment. Meanwhile, the real dealers are having a big big laugh.
The Will County prosecutors recognize this, and have gone into defensive mode. Charles Pelkie is the director of public affairs for the state's attorney office. "There are 11 total cases based upon search warrants that were written and charged based upon this type of surveillance in Will County by the DEA. Eleven of those cases are charged, eight have been prosecuted in Will County." Yeah, they got some small fish, like sea monkey small, but they also nailed a guy with 120 marijuana plants, 290,510 grams of cannabis, and 178 Ecstasy pills. He brags that the result is one person pleading guilty to a felony. Please note that is ONE person pleading to ONE felony. If you have that much shit and can only get one charge to stick, you shouldn't be doing that job.
Pelkie was asked if this was really the best use of the DEA's resources. "With regard to how the DEA conducts its investigations, you really have to refer to them."
The DEA's MO is actually becoming standard. The idea started with "Operation Constant Gardener," which was HQ'ed in Kansas City, MO, and monitored two states. The trigger for investigations was the clientele at hydroponic garden stores. Over the course of two years with raids happening on April 20 of 2011 and 2012 ("Weed Day"), they caught 14 people. Among the people they raided were Adlynn and Robert Harte, the parents of two kids in Leawood, KS. Wearing bulletproof vests and carrying assault rifles, law enforcement raided the house, not realizing the parents were former CIA employees. Oops. Nothing was found, and according to the Hartes, police even suggested to them that maybe their 13 year old son was using. Cheryl Pilate is the couple's lawyer, and she didn't mince words. "These folks have never used drugs at all. They have the cleanest backgrounds ever (well, duh, they're CIA. -- G) They used a SWAT team -- or a bunch of deputies dressed up like SWAT officers using SWAT tactics -- which was totally inappropriate." The Hartes are suing for damages, and the case is still pending. Yup, those local cops aren't going to get work anywhere else now.
This will be the downfall of drug laws. It's not that people are becoming more accepting (I don't use, but I support legalization), but because people will see how this is an excuse to trample their rights and will legalize just to eliminate the problems. It's just going to take more high profile busts for it to happen.
And you know it's coming.