This is your drug war

Utah Parents Sue City After Daughter Is Killed Allegedly “Assassination Style” By Now-Disbanding Special Narcotics Unit

Melissa Kennedy and Frederick Willard, parents of the late Danielle Willard, are suing local police in an extraordinary case in which they say that their daughter was shot to death “assassination style” by a now disbanded special narcotics unit that has been accused of corruption and abuse. […]

West Valley City is a small suburb of Salt Lake City. Danielle Willard, 21, was fatally shot in the back of her head around 1:30 pm by defendants Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon. The complaint states “since the tragic shooting of Danielle Willard, it has been uncovered that Officers Cowley and Salmon were engaged in a pattern and practice of illegal conduct and widespread and systemic corruption, sanctioned by the West Valley Police Department, culminating in the unjustified and senseless killing of Danielle Willard.” The Complaint details allegations of corruption in the narcotic unit leading up to its disbanding. […]

The unit was disbanded after the disappearance of money and drugs as well as the tossing out of roughly 100 drug cases.

Apparently it was only after a routine investigation into the shooting that the missing drugs and money and widespread corruption was discovered in the task force. It had to be pretty major to result in 100 drug cases being tossed. And yet the parents of this girl have to file a lawsuit in order to try to find out what really happened to their daughter.

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42 Responses to This is your drug war

  1. claygooding says:

    There is so much corruption in our law enforcement that carrying marijuana around is the least of your worries,,if the speed traps don’t get you the road checks will,,and we pay people to sit around and think of ways to lock us up.

  2. gravyrug says:

    This sounds bigger than Tulia. Maybe it’ll shine enough light to get Utah to do away with the task forces.

  3. cthulu advocate says:

    This story leaves out one interesting fact–the shooting happened November 2, and the investigation is still going on, with basically no information being released to the public The FBI is now investigating this incident and the broader issue of corruption in the West Valley City Police Department.

  4. allan says:

    And people wonder why we feel the way we do…

    There is a Justice for Danielle Willard FB page. All you FB folks, like it, etc, please.

    Covered in last month’s NYT:

    A ‘Pandora’s Box of Problems’ From a Police Shooting and Drugs in a Utah Town

  5. DonDig says:

    How is it that some justice/police departments in this country have moved to respond to the least violent ‘crime’ with the most violent military-style policing? What sense does this make, and where does it come from? Battering rams and flash bangs create an inherently unstable situation and then folks wonder why something goes wrong and people get killed.
    Do police departments simply become jealous of the way war is waged, (the armed services have some neat tools, and the feds offer them to the civilian police force), finding a way to wage such war on citizens who have been stigmatized by the drug user label? These people are less qualified for the self-evident truth of basic human respect? Is it just the new version of ‘let’s bust those dirty hippy commie peace freaks’?
    I certainly don’t see any rational reasons. None of this makes sense.

    • stlgonzo says:

      Radley Balko has done outstanding reporting on this issue. He has a book coming out on July 9th.

      There is also run by the CATO institute. It used to be Tracks police abuse and keeps the statistics. Only project I know if like that.

      • DonDig says:

        Thanks, I’ll check out the Balko book: certainly looks good in the amazon preview.
        The Cato reporting makes the accused LEOs almost seem like candidates for the Darwin award. I guess there’s no end to how stupid we human beings can be at times, but of course, LEOs are presumably chosen and employed based on the likelihood that they will not exhibit such stupidity.
        Isn’t life grand!

        • stlgonzo says:

          “I guess there’s no end to how stupid we human beings can be at times, but of course, LEOs are presumably chosen and employed based on the likelihood that they will not exhibit such stupidity.”

          I wish that where the case Don.

          They don’t want smart cops because smart people quit being cops, then they have wasted all of those valuable training dollars.

          Court OKs Barring High IQs for Cops

      • Windy says:

        The answer to your question can be found here:
        It is the latest Radley article on militarization of the police over at HuffPo, posted on 6/13/13. There are many comments there (currently 410). It should be on HP’s front page, but instead it is only on his blog — The Agitator. It’s a very good article, but then most of Radley’s articles fit that description. Anyone with even the slightest interest in the subject of police militarization/misconduct should be reading his work on a regular basis.

        • primus says:

          The Agitator is a wonderful blog, but I had to quit reading it–it was too too depressing, and got my dander up way too much.

  6. Servetus says:

    Alternet’s story on the killing of Danielle indicates the parents are pursuing the correct legal path to bypass small-town shenanigans.

    Going through the federal court system, hiring an out-of-state attorney, plus an in-state attorney to make court appearances and file paperwork, bypasses the Utah state and county courts and sets up the Utah villains for a good-cop/bad-cop routine that saws the West Valley City authorities in half. Otherwise, Utah will defend their knuckle-dragging drug cops just to protect their authoritarian politics and what little is left of a positive public image for the state.

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  8. allan says:

    “The illusion of freedom [in America] will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”

    – Frank Zappa

    • Then/they/throw/their/brain/away says:

      But will they move the dishes first?

      • Duncan20903 says:


        Ya know you probably confused everyone who isn’t Irish with that piece of obscure trivia. But there are some of us who refuse to piss in the sink where we wash our dishes. All the other sinks are fair game though.

    • DonDig says:

      That’s a prescient quote if there ever was one. Thanks Allan.
      Frank was truly brilliant, perhaps the sanest, and probably the most direct communicator I ever had the pleasure of working with. (in the late seventies on one of his projects)

    • claygooding says:

      The one thing we have that keeps the curtains up and stage set is if they think it’s tough making ends meet with most people paying their taxes wait until everyone quits.

  9. Pingback: Conspiracy Theories! | This is your drug war – Drug WarRant

  10. claygooding says:

    Former DEA Head Endorses Medical Marijuana?
    by Tom Angell • June 13, 2013 • Blog

    It’s hard to believe that the guy who ran the Drug Enforcement Administration under President George W. Bush would endorse medical marijuana, but that’s seemingly what Asa Hutchinson did during little-noticed remarks during a debate at the University of Arkansas back in 2011:

    “I think that if there is a medical need and the doctors say you need a particular substance — whether it is Marinol or marijuana or whatever — if the doctor or medical community says that, then patients ought to be able to get that.”

    Did we miss this somehow cause I sure don’t remember anything about it.


    • allan says:

      oh… I doubt we missed it:

      Asa Hutchinson, a staunch Republican who once the ran the U.S Drug Enforcement Agency, went to Canada early in March to do a peculiar thing. He tried to talk the Conservative Party out of some new tough-on-drugs legislation that lawmakers may pass in Ottawa.

      “We have made some mistakes, and I hope you can learn from those mistakes,” he told a legislative committee, offering a mea culpa for some of America’s drug-war policies.

      The main mistake, he said, was jailing nonviolent drug offenders.

      3/23/11 –

      • claygooding says:

        He is running for governor so anything coming out of his mouth is suspect,,an already corrupted law enforcement administrator as a governor,,,scares the shit out of me..AR isn’t far enough away.

        • allan says:

          I figure if Asa was serious about all of that he would’ve joined LEAP.

        • stlgonzo says:

          I never thought Arkansas would be more progressive than Missouri on anything. We seem to go backwards.

        • claygooding says:

          wait until Texas beats CA to legalization,,cause CA will still be waiting on the “perfect” pot law.

        • allan says:

          @ stlg… that’s why so many of us refer to that state as the grate state of Misery.

        • Freeman says:

          @Allen: That goes for the natives too. I was born in the state of misery.

        • kaptinemo says:

          He’s probably hoping to start up the Mena conduit again. It certainly benefited ol’ Billy Cee while he was Governor…

      • War Vet says:

        Try to top my state: making hash is the exact same thing as cooking meth in my state, but ‘manufacturing’ hash can carry a bigger penalty . . . our politicians and LE have began to grow gills and move back into the waters . . . some single cell creatures have more cells than our politicians and LE have. Having a cold or allergies can cause felony reactions . . . especially if you have a large family with all of them sneezing and with runny noses. Someone fed these poor morons, oil and allowed them to breath in natural gas when they were but babies.

  11. Duncan20903 says:


    I’m sure that at one time or another most all of us have heard the prohibitionists using the excuse that Federal law has to be uniform across the board. It’s just theoretical nonsense but a few days or a week ago I read a post from somebody who suggested looking into Title 11. That’s the bankruptcy law at the Federal level.

    Well wow, all BK proceedings are governed by Federal law and filed in Federal Court and every single State, District, and Territory of the United States has different rules which are established at the Federal level. E.g. in Florida, Texas, and Nevada the debtor can’t be forced to sell his primary residence to satisfy debts no matter the amount of free & clear equity. I knew about Florida because there’s a darn good chance that the people who engage in scamming people using the stock market as a prop will be Florida residents who list a piece of Florida real estate as their primary home. As they collect their ill got gain they funnel it into that piece of real estate and then borrow against the equity. In Maryland you can only protect $21,750 of equity. Around here that’s not equity, that’s a flippin’ down payment. Lots of amusing exclusions, e.g. in West Virginia the debtor can’t be forced to sell his banjo to satisfy his debt. I’m sure I could go on all day listing differences in State level exclusions of property from a debtor’s bankruptcy estate. But the point is that every State is different and that the differences are accepted by the governing Federal law. As I suspected, Federal law doesn’t have to be the same in Alabama as it is in California. But it is nice to have proof.

  12. Francis says:

    OT: Obama Administration Has Spent Nearly $300 Million Cracking Down On Medical Marijuana: Report

    An analysis from pro-medical marijuana group Americans For Safe Access found that President Barack Obama’s administration has spent nearly $300 million on combatting medical marijuana in states that have legalized the drug.

    The report calculates the total amount of federal spending on medical marijuana intervention at $289 million over Obama’s four-and-a-half years in the White House.

    Of course, that $289 million figure is really just a “numerator.” If you divide it by, say, all the money in the world, it seems a lot less outrageous.

    Taken as a whole, Obama’s participation makes up the majority of what ASA says is a $483 million war of lawsuits, indictments and asset forfeiture attempts waged by the Department of Justice under the past three presidents.

    Judging From Prosecutions, Obama is 80 Percent Worse than Bush on Medical Marijuana

    According to a new report from California NORML, “over 335 defendants have been charged with federal crimes related to medical marijuana in states with medical marijuana laws.” Despite Barack Obama’s promises of prosecutorial restraint in this area, “153 medical marijuana cases have been brought in the 4¼ years of the Obama administration, nearly as many as under the 8 years of the Bush administration (163).” In other words, Obama is averaging 36 medical marijuana prosecutions a year, compared to 20 a year under his predecessor.

    But that massive increase in the federal enforcement of cannabis prohibition (over which Obama has tremendous control) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give him credit for the “dramatic” decline in the “intensity of [state and local] marijuana possession enforcement” (over which Obama has little to no control). Or something. I don’t know. You’d have to ask Keith Humphreys.

  13. This is the reason I am here at Pete’s couch. Best evaluation of the danger of the drug war I have seen:

    A focus on the war on drugs

    “… Toward the end of his life Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall reminded his fellow justices that there is no drug exception in the Constitution. But there might as well be one because instead of privacy and protection against unreasonable search and seizure and no warrants issued without probable cause, we have a world where some of our citizens live in something like a police state where they can be stopped and frisked for not probable cause but something called a furtive movement, which can be anything.”

    “… We have courts that have okay’ed putting a GPS tracking device on a car without probable cause and search warrants based on anonymous informant tips and helicopter surveillance of homes without a warrant. The Big Brother state has been alive and well in the drug war for decades, a world where, as The Wire creator David Simon blogged this week, the government has used court orders to cull dialed numbers from thousands of calls to and from certain pay phones. Sounds like what the NSA is doing because now. Along with a drug exception to the Bill of Rights we have a terror exception which affects us all. But these authoritarian abuses were acceptable to most when it was the drug war largely because of who they were happening to.

    Now it appears some of this is happening to all of us, but the fourth amendment has been eviscerated–so even if you think it’s discomforting, it’s not illegal. And thus it may be too late. It reminds me of that famous poem, which I’ll remix a little. First they came for the communists and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the black men in drug-riddled areas and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t one of them. And when they came for my metadata there was no one left to speak for me.

    The war on drugs was a war on the rights of all of us that we see manifested in many other ways. As one federal judge said, “It may profit us very little to win the war on drugs if in the process we lose our soul.” I wonder if we already have.”

  14. allan says:

    you had me fooled Francis… I thought Keith had dropped in.

    Another point, that $300M is less than .1% of the global drug syndicates’ income. There and fore it’s apparent that spending that $300M against the cartels would be like trying to drink the Columbia River dry, so of course we’re going to pick on patients and their providers. Obviously they don’t make hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Yet.

    I don’t know how we can ever thank Keith enough for that analytical tool. It’s all so understandable now.

  15. War Vet says:

    Look up Tulsa Oklahoma and dirty cops:

    Granted, it wasn’t as bad as what happened to this poor woman. I’m ashamed I protected these goons freedoms in the war, but proud to have represented the rest of the good people’s of America . . . we shall prevail in our pursuit of having a free and democratic America . . . this great experiment in democracy will not go to waste . . . America will gain her independence and one day become a true sovereign nation worth of that big green female statue in NYC.

  16. Irie says:

    Just another casualty in this war…..

    ” Outside of the drug and crime element, Peters is facing a reality many post 50s are experiencing — providing regular care for a family member. More than 65 million people act as caregivers to chronically ill, disabled or aged loved ones per year, according to the Caregiver Action Network. According to a 2012 study, 46 percent of family caregivers perform medical and nursing tasks for care recipients with multiple chronic physical and cognitive conditions.

    There are other post 50s facing harsh sentences for marijuana, which more Americans are in support of legalizing (baby boomers are increasingly pro marijuana legalization as well). compiled a list of prisoners sentenced to life for marijuana crimes; many on the list are over 50.”

    I think it is safe to say that most on this couch are “post 50”, and yes, soldiers on Pete’s couch, war is hell, but we all must keep fighting, if not for us, for victims like Frank Dennis and his wife of 40 years.

  17. DdC says:

    that big green female statue in NYC…


  18. All Sines says:

    From a question raised in the comments of this blog post, the following is what I posted at my newly created Liberty Shield fan page:

    From comment (from blog post: “How is it that some justice/police departments in this country have moved to respond to the least violent ‘crime’ with the most violent military-style policing?”

    From my answer to you prohibitionists out there:

    Take all drugs the people in power don’t like (e.g. set alcohol aside, because of its popularity and previously failed illegality) and simply call them drugs, so extreme heroin abuse and moderate cannabis use are equal in the public eye. Say “alcohol and drugs” even though alcohol is a drug, scientifically speaking.

    Continue to constantly swap the words use and abuse to the convenience of you people financially benefiting from the war on some drugs, despite lacking anywhere near sound evidence to support that swapping.

    Get the mainstream media on board with the ‘certain drug’ demonization campaign. The more the public associates crime with drugs (and no good associated with these drugs, or bad associated with your prohibition against them), the more supportive the public will be.

    Now you’re in the zone, prohibitionist! Here’s what you have going for ya…

    1. Failed Prohibition

    This is beautiful! The black market is huge and so too are the profit margins. This means gangs of all sizes can afford to arm themselves with top-notch (even military grade) weaponry.

    Better tap into a lot of taxpayer money to add military grade weapons into law enforcement to compensate, despite the wisdom in avoiding blurring the line between military and law enforcement. Done.

    Be thankful you have a mainstream media whom finds tragic events newsworthy. After all, the mainstream media does not want to bite the law enforcement hand that consistently feeds newsworthy information about tragic events, right? This gives you the ability to bring some military style warfare (with collateral damage in the form of innocent victims) into our communities without the mainstream media constantly beating you up for it to generate legitimate public outrage!

    Now you’re a go for military style law enforcement conflict for decades! Good thing you insanely think someone horribly abusing meth is equal to occasionally vaporizing some cannabis. Now you have a lot of people in the public to aggressively attack with your well-armed SWAT teams in the supposed name of serving and protecting the public!

    You can raise your chest up in pride, prohibitionist! The people making guns and ammo for law enforcement, the people building more prisons for more non-violent drug offenders, and those operating in the black market (necessary for keeping your job) are making A LOT of money on both sides of the law! “Moooooo!!!”, says the cash cow!

    With all of that money, prohibition supporting groups can constantly apply a very powerful lobbying effort to keep your fellow public servants responsible for legislation supporting your precious cash cow, even though you have failed to demonstrate even slightly beginning to create a drug-free America (i.e. effectively stealing money from taxpayers for your own selfish good). Ha! We don’t even have a drug-free prison system!

    Keep this prohibition process going, or you may have time to address the many unsolved murder and rape cases!

    And shhhhhh!!! Don’t tell the public…

    1. Billions of precious taxpayer dollars are annually going into what YOU call in the most positive light a temporary “dent” in illicit drug supply. The public may start to realize their money isn’t actually doing anything except funding you (and seriously funding criminal organizations) for no societal benefit!

    2. The fact is there’s no experimental science proving any harm in moderate entheogen use. This includes the most popular illicit drug by far — cannabis (a.k.a. marijuana). Legalizing cannabis would seriously cripple your cash cow. Better do what you can to keep the plant illegal, no matter what reasonably works against you!

    3. The law cannot actually be on your side. In order to preserve your cash cow, the Supreme Court had to irrationally apply the Commerce Clause to allow Congress to ban non-economic activities involving the drugs you’ve been brainwashed into loathing. More precisely, the public record clearly proves our judicial branch illegally redefined the Commerce Clause from “To regulate commerce” to ‘to regulate any activity having a substantial effect on commerce’. Because your thought activity, which determines all of your buying and selling decisions, always has a substantial effect on commerce, this redefining allows Congress to regulate thoughts! Can you imagine the public outrage, if this gets out?! The (cough!) legal precedence from this blatant judicial corruption puts everyone’s liberty at risk!

    4. You need to proclaim disaster will strike, if society weakens drug laws. Otherwise, there’s no need for your expensive prohibition. Don’t tell the public that drug laws have been weakened many times over the past few decades and that people like you are not coming out with your ‘See! We told you so!’ campaign, because no disaster actually exists.

    5. This list is tragically a lot longer (but we’re outta time)! In fact, you and your kin have demonstrated an inability to literally sustain even one point towards keeping your cash cow LOL!

    Sure these drugs can be (and are at times) abused, and it makes sense to apply constitutional and effective means to address abuse in any of its many forms, especially the abuse of law (wink wink).

    To cap it off, good thing the mainstream media cannot find anything newsworthy about your massive and continuous prohibition industry proven to supply you with money at the expense of liberty, law, and a lot of resources that do societal good!

    If the public catches on, then the mainstream media’s credibility will be at stake, and they will be forced to start exposing how utterly corrupt the war on some drugs actually is, since the other hand that feeds them is their viewership!

    Hopefully, someone won’t undermine the mainstream media and your hideous industry by posting such exposure on something like social media for the public to share in large numbers.

    • claygooding says:

      Yup,,the government created the black market when they banned anything and now it is a player in the money markets,,so huge that without them many major banks would have failed,,with or without the Bush/Obama band-aid just as Osama Obama took office..

      No rehabs centers are built to handle the flow of marijuana arrests so now the ONDCP/DEA/DOJ is facing a hard decision,,do they ask congress for more funding to build more prisons or decrim enough to slow the arrest rates for some crimes to control the overfilled prisons.

      And while the ONDCP,etc are deciding how they will handle it every state with strict possession laws is looking at the same problem,,I know TX is,,they are closing prisons and releasing violent criminals because of lack of funding to make room for the marijuana users.(actually I think the arrests for possession are starting to drop off a little,,more LE are starting to write tickets instead of arresting for small quantities)

      The economy is not improving,,more people every day start growing just to make ends meet,,I am seeing it in TX and I know it is even more pronounced in more lenient states,,I bet the Hydroponic shops in CO are doing a landslide business. We are not backing off and we will not quit,,,and it looks like the corporations running this three ring circus feel the same way,,all it is going to accomplish is the failure of our economy trying to shore up the war on marijuana and abandoning all social programs as necessary to keep the black market going,,,the banks don’t care,,legal money or illegal money,,they make theirs but they don’t pay taxes on illegal gains so the profit margin is much better.

      As allan said,,dark,murky waters ahead indeed.

  19. Duncan20903 says:

    The rotten spam filter swallowed one of my posts because I said Eat The Rich!

  20. Duncan20903 says:


    I recall reading about a statistical study of bargain hunters which said that people are much more willing to drive across town to save $10 on an item that’s half price, but very few would make the same effort to save $10 off of a $300 item. Now that just plain doesn’t make sense because $10 is $10. I see the same phenomenon in people who claim that the cost of the war on (some) drugs is minimal. A few weeks back I wrote a post noting that since 2007 the State of California has pocketed more than half a billion dollars in sales tax collected by the State’s authorized medicinal cannabis vendors. My post was in response to the utterly brain dead theory that there won’t be any tax revenue if cannabis for enjoyment is re-legalized. Some dimwit tried to explain the error of my ways by asserting that $500,000,000 is a “drop in the bucket” relative to the gross revenue of California. It really is precious how these people predict zero revenue but when confronted with reality have no problem dismissing 1/2 a billion dollars as if it were nothing.

    Several months ago one person actually asserted in a response to a similar post that it’s easier to collect sales tax on something that’s illegal. Paging Mr. Darwin paging Mr. Charles Darwin…you got some ‘splainin’ to do Chuck old boy.

    What is a drop in the bucket is the revenue reported to the Board of Equalization. In California all sales tax collected by medicinal cannabis vendors is by and large voluntary. To get to $1.5 billion in REPORTED retail sales means that in California alone the real gross revenue from retail sales of cannabis is mind boggling. And I mean mind boggling to me and I knew there were substantial retail sales going in. Based on reported revenue my SWAG estimate is that there’s at least $20 billion in gross revenue from retail cannabis sales in California alone.

    Hey will someone tell me what the heck they were thinking when they decided to call the tax collector the Board of Equalization? It sounds positively communist to me.

    • allan says:

      comparative trickery… and CA has been closing state parks right and left. And what happens in CA in great (and lesser) wildlands? Them fur’ners be growing weed. And to think it used to be just entrepreneurial hippies.

      While not a great percentage of CA’s total budget, something like ganja tax income would help cover a few of CA’s expenses (like state parks) currently going unfunded.

      I’m sure glad I grew up in CA in the ’50s and ’60s… it was a very cool place.

  21. allan says:

    No Profit In Pot Start-Ups, Says Expert, Kleiman


    once growing pot becomes legal, most of the profit will be let out of the bag. “Marijuana is a $35 billion a year industry at retail. But 99% of that value is the price of buying an illegal substance. Once pot becomes legal, it becomes a $350 million a year industry based on the estimated farmgate price — a commodity with thin margins that are akin to selling tea bags.”

    If marijuana were legal, Kleiman’s colleague, Jonathan Caulkins, computed that simply producing the THC — an active ingredient in marijuana — consumed by Americans annually from pot would require only “35,000 acres on 35 farms in Iowa,” explained Kleiman.


    • Duncan20903 says:


      Gosh allan, I hope you wore some vinyl gloves when you carried that mess of Kleiman doo-doo in…but yes, that’s a good example of the prohibitionist bull shit that I was talking about above. It’s a slightly different variety though. That particular variety of crapola is based on the stupidity that a bud is a bud is a bud.

      It’s also a great example of why Prof. Kleiman gives me gas. His hypocrisy is precious as he ignores reality and demands that we believe his preferred “facts”. There’s not a chance in heck that cannabis growers would produce a product like Johnny Walker Blue Label, now is there. Nah, it’s all going to be Mad Dog 20/20. The really, really sad thing is that there are others even worse than him. I used to have a lot of (misplaced) respect for the Kennedy’s. And then along came SAM…these people are truly disgusting, total assholes.

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