Marijuana Cases Dismissed In Michigan, More To Come
16 cases dismissed, more to come as Oakland County admits dispensary raider went rogue; gutless Bouchard makes McCabe take the heat, refuses to issue charges
Michigan has seen some bad press lately- ranked the 7th worst state for corruption and the Michigan State Police Crime Lab having their marijuana test results ruled to be not up to scientific snuff. The cannabis community has been abuzz with news that one of Oakland County’s drug warriors was fired by his superiors for lying to them, to prosecutors, to judges and to the people- and probably has been for years.
Former Detective Mark Ferguson, according to the January 29th Detroit Free Press, was fired from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department for breaking into a suspicious shipping container, discovering drugs, resealing the container and then swearing out a warrant to open it legally. During the trial, when he was under oath and directly asked if the container had been opened prior to obtaining the warrant, Ferguson denied it.
The Oakland Press revealed more details. “One of the witnesses said ‘The officer opened that package in my presence,'” Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said. A second witness confirmed this. “At one point, detective Ferguson (asked) my client ‘What do you got in the box, 78 pounds of marijuana?’ That was before the box was allegedly searched,” defense attorney James Gaylon said. ” I was convinced Detective Ferguson was lying on the stand. I was convinced he was lying in order to keep his case solid.”
Complicating this story is the complete absence of Sheriff Mike Bouchard. He seems to delegate the duty of addressing bad news to his unfortunate subordinate Undersheriff McCabe, who is left to explain why Ferguson will not be charged with any crime. Perjury, breaking and entering, filing a false police report, conspiracy- the potential number of crimes committed is staggering- but McCabe claims no charges will be filed because Ferguson could get his job back if he is acquitted of the charges. “We can’t take the chance that the jury will acquit,” McCabe is quoted as saying.
In 2010 and 2011, the Oakland County NET team raided medical marijuana distribution centers in the entire southeastern Michigan area. Accusations of misconduct surrounding those raids has circulated continuously since that time. Ferguson admitted to making a fake medical marijuana card using his police computer and used it to gain entry to dispensaries that had previously rejected other NET team members. I have firsthand knowledge of this, since I was at Big Daddy’s in January 2011 when Ferguson, his partner Derek Myers and the NET team raided the Oak Park establishment; that court case is still ongoing.
Oakland County Prosecutors supposedly learned of Ferguson’s corruption in September of 2012. The Free Press report says prosecutors quickly dismissed the drug trafficking charges involving Anastacio Payan of California and the 78 lbs of marijuana, then reevaluated 100 open drug cases. Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper elected to dismiss 16 of them due to potential misconduct by Ferguson.
The Free Press reports that in the Payan case Ferguson called other team members to the shipping yard, and then picked the lock on the container. Ferguson was the only person on the squad that reported an overpowering smell of cannabis coming from the container. These facts were revealed after prosecutors, preparing for the Payan case, interviewed the witnesses involved and discovered the officer’s criminality. Where is the disciplinary action against the other narcotics team members that knew of, but did nothing to stop, Ferguson’s criminal behavior?
Ferguson, and other members of the NET narcotics team, are notorious for playing outside the boundaries of the law. The article notes that charges were dropped in the Kelley case from 2011 after it was revealed that Ferguson and Myers conducted a raid on a Pontiac home then obtained a search warrant afterward. Court documents obtained by The Compassion Chronicles detail Ferguson’s rebuke by the Michigan Court of Appeals for the improper questioning of Sylvester Giles. Per the COA document: “Detective Ferguson’s question to defendant constituted an interrogation under Miranda,” and, “…defendant was not read his Miranda rights prior to this interchange.”
In the Clinical Relief case there was a question of appropriate use of police force; court transcripts show Myers was asked under oath about a long rifle being held to the head of a restrained suspect. Myer’s response: “I don’t remember.” Detective Myers was involved in a tax evasion case: his accountant, Mr. Redinger, “admitted to willfully assisting in the preparation of a false 2001 Federal income tax return for Derek Meyers… an OCSD deputy, by claiming false unreimbursed expenses as itemized deductions.” Redinger plead guilty to falsifying 34 tax returns.
Yet another case involves Ferguson and fellow officer McLaughlin. During a traffic stop the officers were accused of inappropriately searching a vehicle, inappropriately towing that vehicle, and threatening “to have other officers falsely pin a murder charge on (the accused) when he initially indicated that he wanted an attorney.” That threat coerced the accused into making a confession, per the court documents. There is no evidence that Ferguson was disciplined for any of these offenses.
Attorneys involved in these dispensary cases knew that there was something amiss all along. Thomas Loeb, one of nine attorneys hired to represent the Clinical Relief defendants, said, “I think Oakland County is trying to make a political point and they are doing it in the wrong way.”
The shipping yard involved in the Payan case is all-too familiar to medical marijuana advocates. It is this location where Ferguson in 2011 trapped Dryden dispensary operator Randy Crowell and a female associate when they came to pick up a container sent from out-of-state. According to the Free Press report, the same employee clued Ferguson in on both the Payan and Crowell raids. It is reasonable to assume Ferguson used the same dirty tricks to trap Crowell that he used with Payan. A lawsuit against the Oakland County Sheriff Department seems likely- and the unfortunate taxpayers of Oakland County will be footing the bill.
“Everything he did is now going to be subject to scrutiny, and at great administrative costs,” said constitutional law professor Peter Henning from Wayne State University to the Free Press, in reference to Ferguson. “Sure, getting a warrant is a hassle, it slows down police work, but you don’t cut corners. It’s one of the reasons we had a revolution. It is at the core of the Constitution.”
The Oakland County dispensary purge in 2010 raises questions of conduct and credibility regarding the raid team’s methodology. All charges against the Clinical Relief dispensary operators were dropped in 2012. The court documents detailing the undercover surveillance and surreptitious buys generated broad criticism in the media and the courts. Sheriff Bouchard held a press conference in which he told the world about an alligator being used to guard a medical marijuana grow room; the alligator, named Chubbs, was later revealed to be about eighteen inches long and living in a room separate from the plants. The fake medical marijuana cards and alligator story became news fodder for ABC, CBS, NBC and every cable/Internet news outlet.
When the NET team raided Big Daddy’s they did not know who was in charge, who were employees and who were patients. They did not even know we ran the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine from those offices. They swore out a search warrant for the home of the business owners- and then served it at the wrong house.
This Keystone Cops routine may not have been their fault. In January 2011, a new Attorney General was sworn in and he immediately agreed to share private and protected information with the DEA, information that his predecessor Mike Cox had refused to surrender. In response, the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers (MACC) hit the AG with a restraining order to halt the transfer of information. A few days later the Oakland County Raid Team was bursting into the offices of MACC- located in Big Daddy’s Oak Park facility, after what was obviously insufficient surveillance and investigation. The suggestion that the raid was ordered by Ferguson’s superiors- perhaps even from Lansing- has never been disproved, and these new revelations make it more likely that this was the case. Perhaps this is the real reason why Ferguson faces no criminal charges- is this final act of protectionism from Bouchard a desperate bid to buy his silence?
It’s not a crime to be used as a tool by people like Bouchard and the current Attorney General; it is a crime if you break the law to enforce the law. Convicted felons whose cases were made by Ferguson and the NET team are legitimately interested in suing the County and having their cases re-opened. Oakland County residents, prepare yourself for a long, expensive, embarrassing battle. I suggest you insist on your newly re-elected Sheriff to actually stand before a microphone and address you on the issue instead of watching Undersheriff McCabe do the denial dance.