Police incompetence coupled with the war on drugs is a dangerous mixture that all too often takes the lives of entirely innocent people and hurls them into turmoil and destruction. Not only does the war on drugs lay waste to the rights and lives of countless innocent people caught with substances deemed illegal by the state but many people who never possess these substances fall victim to drug warrior cops so hell bent on ruining lives that they will claim that powdered milk is cocaine.
After being held in jail for weeks, Cody Gregg, 26, pleaded guilty to trafficking drugs on Oct. 8 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison last week. The only thing is Gregg never trafficked cocaine and was instead in possession of powdered milk. He was forced to take the guilty plea just to get out of jail. Days later, after a lab tested the powdered milk, they confirmed it was not cocaine and the conviction was dismissed—only after Gregg’s life was thrown into utter chaos, however.
The nightmare began for Gregg when he was targeted by police for extortion in August for an alleged “traffic violation” while riding his bicycle. When police caught up to him, they discovered a bag of a white powdery substance. When the cops used their notoriously faulty field test kits, the powdered milk tested positive as cocaine.
As TFTP has reported on numerous occasions, tens of thousands have been convicted and served time for crimes they didn’t commit because the cases against them relied on horribly unreliable field drug test kits.
So prone to errors are the tests, courts won’t allow their submission as evidence. However, they are continued to be used by law enforcement, needlessly ruining thousands of lives. Gregg’s nightmare is evidence of this horrifically flawed system.
Police claimed Gregg was in possession of 45.91 grams of cocaine so he was charged with trafficking for having such a large amount. He was booked at the Oklahoma County Jail on Aug. 22 and held on $50,000 bond, court records show.
After spending months in jail, Gregg had no other option but to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, just so he could get released.
Luckily, however, after he took the plea, lab tests proved his innocence. As NBC reports, Gregg then requested to have his plea withdrawn, which Judge Mark McCormick granted Thursday in the “best interest of justice after negative lab reports,” the records said.
He told the judge that the powder in question was powdered milk he had gotten from a food pantry, according to The Oklahoman. He said he had pleaded guilty so he could get out of the Oklahoma County Jail after spending weeks there for a crime he didn’t commit.
Jason Lollman, a public defender in Tulsa, told NBC News that he’s accustomed to clients pleading guilty — even if they’re not — to get out of jail because otherwise they’re “forced to sit in and wait” before and during their trial.
“The cash bail system, posting cash bail, is a problem,” Lollman said. “If they can’t afford an attorney, they’re not going to be able to post bond to get out.”
There have often been “times where I’ve actively talked a client out of taking a plea bargain,” Lollman said. But “if the client wants to take that plea, I really can’t stand in the way of it.”
“Sometimes it’s like we, the attorneys, have more stamina than the clients do,” he added. “But that’s because we’re on the outside and they’re in jail.”
Jails are such a bad place to be that 90 percent of potentially innocent people in them end up take dubious plea deals just like Gregg—and this happens a lot.
Shockingly enough, according to the national litigation and public policy organization, the Innocence Project, at any given time there are an estimated 40,000 to 100,000 innocent people currently locked in a cage in U.S. prisons. But keep saying to yourself, “If you do nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”
As TFTP has reported, Gregg’s story is extremely common and happens every day throughout the US. The standard $2 field drug tests, manufactured by The Safariland Group, have been proven to be unreliable. And according to the manufacturer, should not be used as a stand-alone test for convictions related to drug possession. But cops continue to ruin lives with them.
Studies have shown how everyday foods, spices, and medicine tested positive in field drug tests. In one experiment, scientists even discovered that air could set off false positive for these tests.
According to Forensic Resources:
“The director of a lab recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police for forensic science excellence has called field drug testing kits “totally useless” due to the possibility of false positives. In laboratory experiments, at least two brands of field testing kits have been shown to produce false positives in tests of Mucinex, aspirin, chocolate, and oregano.”
Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, a Ph.D. chemist and former FBI lab supervisor, has also voiced objections, saying that he has “no confidence at all in those test kits.”
Over the years, The Free Thought Project has reported on countless stories of odd things creating false positives in field drug tests. We have seen people put behind bars for possession of things like drywall, glazed donuts, crackers, kitty litter, baking soda, cotton candy, bird sh*t, honey, and now milk.