First off, this month the Fourth Texas Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of a Fredericksburg police officer who thought it was "cool" to return seized marijuana to a snitch. (See coverage from the original trial.) Officer Clint Stewart performed a "consent search" at a traffic stop, arrested the driver for marijuana possession, then gave her back a portion of the dope after she agreed to work for police as a snitch. Stewart claimed he thought that was normal procedure. Said the court in a footnote to its decision:
Stewart was asked where he had heard that "this is done ... with some officers, you give a little bit of dope to them and then they bring you information?" He replied, "I've heard it from other officers, just TV, you know, just listening to people." He later explained he had heard of this behavior from a veteran narcotics officer in Corpus Christi. Stewart admitted on cross-examination that his law enforcement training did not include instruction that returning a portion of seized contraband was appropriate conduct.Great - so now Texas cops are getting their notions about what's good policing from watching television!
To me, though, Stewart's likely innocent error of returning pot to a snitch pales in comparison to his real malfeasance: his willingness to lie in court and cover up the mistake. The ironically named Detective Weed in the Fredericksburg police department testified against his fellow officer:
Weed testified that when Stewart told him about returning part of the marihuana, Stewart asked "whether he should lie about it in court," to which Weed replied, "that's the last thing you'd want to do." As explanation of why he had returned some marihuana to Lavender, Stewart told Weed that he "thought it was cool" to give some back to develop a relationship with an informant. Weed, who had three to four years of narcotics experience, testified that he had not heard of officers giving back drugs to gain the rapport of an informant. Weed stated that he had explained to Stewart that the only time an officer might give drugs back would be in an undercover capacity.The Fredericksburg police chief is angry about the case and said last year he questioned the motives of the District Attorney who brought it. But I say any DA who knows that a cop offered to lie in court and doesn't prosecute isn't doing their job. Even a snitch with critical information isn't worth that, much less some gal you picked up at a traffic stop with half an ounce of smoke. It's sad, and a shame, that a chief of police wouldn't understand that.
So this fellow was an informant targeting improper money transfers to Pakistan, meanwhile he stole from more than 250 customers and had $7 million in unaccounted-for income pass through his bank accounts, some of which itself made its way to Pakistan, either to the defendants family or for heaven knows what purpose.
In 2003, [Muhammed] Aslam became a federal informant, ratting on some associates to help FBI and IRS agents make their case in a multi-million-dollar illegal gambling and money laundering investigation that targeted a network of game rooms and convenience stores in Austin, according to federal court testimony.
In exchange for immunity in the case, Aslam told the agents about the convenience stores he operated that were owned by Tariq Majeed, who has since been indicted, along with 14 others in the case, an FBI agent testified last year.
But as the investigation progressed, authorities began to suspect Aslam was involved in a bevy of other criminal activity.
What is unclear in Aslam's case is whether his cooperation with the FBI and IRS drew authorities' attention to his other crimes. The Majeed investigation was led by the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force, while Aslam's investigation was led by a state and local financial crimes task force. FBI agent Timothy Stephens testified last year that Aslam was an informant until September 2005.
The federal charges came in August.
As part of the plea deal, investigators agreed not to pursue charges in federal and state court related to other crimes they suspected Aslam committed. According to court documents and testimony, he is suspected of frequently buying stolen gasoline, cigarettes, alcohol and other goods to sell at his stores. Since 2002 he has reported just $1.1 million in receipts for sales tax purposes to the state comptroller, even though more than $8 million went in and out of his bank accounts in that time, the documents show.
Some of that cash was sent to Pakistan, where Aslam has family, court documents show. It is unclear how it was spent.
But the Joint Terrorism Task Force didn't care about any of that - it took state and local officials investigating to bring this case forward. Aslam's federal anti-terrorism handlers apparently never caught on that their snitch was funneling potentially millions of ill-gotten gains to a country widely known as a terrorism center!
You tell me: Were these snitches' contributions to justice worth the crimes tolerated or the police integrity breached? Or would officers (and the public) have been better served if they tried to make their cases another way?