Houston, TX — Ross LeBeau, of Houston, was recently cleared of drug charges after he was arrested for possession of Methamphetamine. It turns out that LeBeau was actually in possession of kitty litter, not meth. However, this made no difference to the cops who kidnapped and caged him for it.
Considering that there was nearly a half pound of the substance in his vehicle, the police thought that they had conducted the bust of the century. They even put out a press release with LeBeau’s mugshot to brag about the bust, after two faulty field tests determined that the substance was crystal meth. While LeBeau spent 3 days in jail, the kitty litter was sent to a forensics lab for further testing, and it was ultimately discovered that the substance was not meth.
“They thought they had the biggest bust in Harris County. This was the bust of the year for them,” LeBeau said.
“I was wrongly accused. I’m going to do everything in my power to clear my name,” he added.
Attorney George Reul pointed out that the department’s entire field testing system may be compromised.
“Ultimately it might be bad testing equipment that they need to re-evaluate,” attorney George Reul said.
Cases like this are nothing new, in fact, we report on them on a regular basis.
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 cages in U.S. prisons.
Couple this staggering number with the number of people locked up for non-violent drug possession and the United States looks more like the Gulag of the 1930’s than the Land of the Free.
But how can so many innocent people be locked up, how does the state present evidence, that it doesn’t have, to get a conviction? Well, the folks at the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the U.S., Marijuana Policy Project, made a short video that explains just how easy it is for police to turn an entirely innocent person into a criminal.
During the short video below, the researchers demonstrate how easy it is for police to generate a false positive during a field test for drugs.
The group tests over the counter Tylenol PM in a police test kit for cocaine — the test kit says the Tylenol is cocaine.
The group also tests the most popular chocolate in the world, Hershey’s chocolate, for marijuana, it also tests positive.
Perhaps the most disturbing test was when the group put absolutely nothing into the field test kit, and they received a positive result.
The implications associated with wrongfully accusing and then claiming to have evidence of an individual in possession of an illegal substance are formidable — to say the least. Most people are simply unaware of the fact that police test kits are a crapshoot.
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, chocolate, aspirin, chocolate, and oregano.
In spite of these recommendations and multiple examples of innocent people being incarcerated for their error, police departments across the country continue to employ the use of these “totally useless” kits.
On May 8 of this year, Gale Griffin and her husband Wendall Harvey, who’ve been driving trucks together for the last seven years were wrongfully charged with possession of cocaine. They were targeted by incompetent cops who used criminally ineffective drug test kits on a white powdery substance found inside the couple’s truck. The kit identified the substance as cocaine. But it was not cocaine. It was baking soda Griffin used for stomach problems. However, they were caged for months while the reckless cops ignored their pleas of innocence.
Also this year, Alexander Bernstein of Brooklyn was jailed and had his life ruined after cops mistook soap for cocaine.
Wenonah resident John Cokos recently settled a lawsuit against the Gloucester County police department for $35,000. The lawsuit comes after an arrest for drug possession because the officer claimed that his crackers were crack rocks.
In October, college student John Harrington was thrown in prison after police, with one of these field drug test kits, tested sugar, and came up with a false positive for cocaine.
“Really, I’m really in jail right now for powdered sugar, ” John Harrington thought after it happened.
We’ve also seen the case in which police mistook Jolly Ranchers for meth and jailed an innocent man. Love Olatunijojo, 25, and an unidentified friend purchased Jolly Ranchers at the It’Sugar candy emporium in Coney Island in June of 2013. Several blocks away, cops stopped and searched the friends and mistook the candies for crystal meth. Olatunijojo was then thrown in jail.
In August, we reported on the story of a man who was held in prison for over four months because police falsely identified salt as crystal meth.
And the list goes on…
What does it say about police departments across the country who knowingly use test kits that will implicate innocent people in a crime that they did not commit that will land them in jail?
It is bad enough that the state will kidnap, cage and kill people when they possess a substance deemed illegal by the state. But, when they kidnap, cage and kill people because of their own negligence involved in testing someone’s personal items — they stoop to an entirely new low.