Thursday, September 27, 2012

One night in Hudspeth County

Rusty Fleming wants all you budding country and rock stars to know that they don't much care for drugs down in the Valley in Hudspeth County.

Willie Nelson and Snoop Dog found that out. And now Fiona Apple knows.

But this isn't about celebs with pot in their tour buses being nabbed by those eagle-eyed officers of the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office. Nope, this is about that little thing we call the presumption of innocence.

Fiona Apple was performing in Houston the other night. While on stage she let the audience know what she thought of the hospitality she was shown down in Hudspeth County. Let's just say she wasn't altogether impressed with the accommodations.

That's where our friend, Mr. Fleming, comes in. He's not the sheriff. He's not the officer who took down the once famous pop star. Mr. Fleming is the public information officer for the department. He's a glorified P.R. man.

And he wasn't too happy with what Ms. Apple had to say the other night. He was so out of sorts he penned an e-mail to express his feelings.

First, Honey, I’m already more famous than you, I don't need your help. However, it would appear that you need mine.... 
Two weeks ago nobody in the country cared about what you had to say, -- now that you’ve been arrested it appears your entire career has been jump-started. Don’t worry Sweetie, I won't bill you... 
Next, have you ever heard of Snoop, Willie or Armand Hammer? Maybe if you would read something besides your own press releases, you would have known BEFORE you got here, that if you come to Texas with dope, the cops will take your DOPE away and put YOU in jail 
Even though you and I only met briefly in the hallway, I don't know you but I'm sure you're an awesome and talented young woman and even though I'm not a fan of yours, I am sure there are thousands of them out there, and I’m sure that they would just as soon you get this all behind you and let you go back to what you do best—so my last piece of advice is simple "just shut-up and sing." 
Rusty Fleming

Not so fast there, Mr. Fleming. Yes, Ms. Apple was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana (well, technically marihuana, since no one in the legislature knows how to spell) and hashish. Yes, the dope was found on her tour bus. But that's about all we know.

Ms. Apple is innocent unless the state can prove her guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. There are plenty of folks arrested for possession of marijuana every day in Texas that see their cases dismissed or hear two word verdicts from juries.

Besides, Mr. Fleming, the last time I checked we have this little thing called the First Amendment that protects our right to say anything we damn well please - no matter how much it pisses off those in authority. And so, if Ms. Apple wants to get up on stage every night and tell the audience what an awful experience she had in Hudspeth County, good for her.

Of course the one thing no one's talking about is the junk science surrounding drug-sniffing dogs. Their handlers will claim that the dog will alert them by sitting, barking, rolling, jumping and anything else a dog does on a regular basis. We all know that the handlers can make those dogs do whatever they want them to.

Ms. Apple's tour bus was stopped at a border crossing and the dogs were brought out to sniff around it. It was a drug dog's supposed "hit" that got the police entre into the bus where they found the goodies. And that raises another issue about the continued erosion of the Fourth Amendment.

Let's see, the police can't use a thermal imaging device to peek inside a home to see if someone's growing marijuana with the aid of heat lamps but they can run a dog around the outside of your car to see if the dog can "smell" some wacky tobacky. And when that dog scratches his back or licks his balls we'll call it probable cause to search the vehicle.

Hmm. Tour bus for a rock star? Do you supposed that there just might be something illicit in that coach? We'll just call out the dog and tug on his collar a bit. That ought to do it. No judge down here is going to question it.

Hudspeth County is but a microcosm of what's wrong with our criminal (in)justice system. And, just so no one thinks I'm picking on a rural county in the Valley - what happened down there the other day happens in every county across the country on a regular basis.

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