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March 3 2010 -- True/Slant (US)

Police Raid Never Get Busted HQ, Barry Cooper Arrested

By Stephen C. Webster

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive


Original post, Wednesday, March. 3, 4:22 p.m. (updates below): I've just been informed by Candi Cooper that the Williamson County Sheriff's Department raided the Never Get Busted headquarters in Travis County at approximately 6 p.m. on Tuesday night. Barry Cooper has been taken into custody.

Officers allegedly seized their computers, phones and other digital media. Barry is allegedly being charged with a misdemeanor offense. Candi claimed the charge is making a false report to a police officer, in relation to a sting operation her husband recently carried out against an officer in Liberty Hill, Texas.

In his sting operation against Liberty Hill Police Captain George Nassour, Cooper did make someone in Cooper's crew made anonymous phone calls regarding a suspicious package possibly containing drug paraphernalia, as a way of testing the officer to see if he would steal the money. Cooper alleges that Nassour did in fact steal $45 from the trap bag, thereby committing a felony by tampering with evidence. The Liberty Hill Police Chief confirmed that an investigation was underway following a confrontation with Cooper.

Candi claimed officers found a minuscule amount of marijuana in their home during the search. She said her husband would be bonded out and released later this evening.

Update 1: Just called the Williamson County jail. They confirmed Cooper was booked Tuesday night around 7:30 p.m. and is still in custody.

Update 2: Cooper is being represented by Austin attorney James Gill, who confirmed that the charges do stem from filing a false police report. He could not confirm what class of offense that would fall under, although Candi placed it as a Class A misdemeanor.

It is as yet unclear whether Williamson County police typically stage home invasions over misdemeanor offenses.

"At this point he's being charged with some type of filing of a false police report," Gill said in a brief telephone interview. "I don't know exactly on that yet."

Asked to confirm if the arrest is specifically linked to Cooper's sting operation in Liberty Hill, Gill said it was too early to confirm. "We're still doing some fact finding," he said. "It's certainly a possibility."

Update 3: Candi just told me that police have obtained a second warrant, out of Travis County, for the marijuana that was found in Cooper's house. She initially said police had found "a few roaches," but later revised her estimate to "maybe an eighth or something."

"I don't think he'll get released tonight," Candi said.

Update 4: A warrant for Candi's arrest has been issued for possession of marijuana. Her attorney has advised her to do a "walk through" with police tomorrow.

The Odessa American adds:

The former Odessa narcotics agent and producer of the promotional video series "Never Get Busted" was jailed Tuesday on multiple charges -- including possession of marijuana -- while conducting one of his notorious hoaxes on police in Florence, Texas, authorities said.

Williamson County Sheriff's Office Sgt. John Foster said Cooper called in a suspicious package about 5 p.m. Tuesday on the campus of the Florence Middle School. Foster said the package contained "a glass pipe that is normally used to smoke crack cocaine."

"Apparently, he was doing this to test us," Foster said. "When you do something like this on a school grounds, even though it's after school hours I'm sure the parents and faculty would probably have been quite alarmed to find a crack pipe on their campus."

I asked Candi about the portion highlighted in bold above and she specifically denied it, claiming no 'KopBusters' operations were afoot on Tuesday evening.

Barry is expected to be released sometime after midnight. Confirmation of his release will be posted here.

Update 5: Barry Cooper is free, and he's been expecting the arrest all along.

During his legal briefing before the Liberty Hill sting went down, he was specifically warned that police may try and charge him with a violation of Texas penal code § 42.06, which is a Class A misdemeanor. The law begins:

A person commits an offense if he knowingly initiates, communicates or circulates a report of a present, past, or future bombing, fire, offense, or other emergency that he knows is false or baseless

The reason for the charge now appears to be separate from Cooper's activities in Liberty Hill. As the Odessa American noted, police sought Cooper for an alleged sting operation in Florence, Texas, near a school grounds.

Cooper confessed to this reporter that a third attempted sting, staged in Florence over two months ago, backfired. He placed a lunchbox containing several assorted items, a fake drug ledger, $45 and imitation drug paraphernalia on a bench and reported a suspicious package, only to watch in horror as the police, operating after school hours, treated it like a potential bomb threat.

"They overreacted!" he protested over the phone. "They're making it look like I had drug paraphernalia on school grounds. It was just a glass tube, there was nothing illegal in the bag." Cooper further claimed that the operation went down late at night, after the Florence PD had gone off duty, and not at 5 p.m. as reported.

Just moments after his release, Cooper claimed his arresting officer was Sgt. Gary Haston, calling him "the f**cking head of narcotics," then suggesting the presence of a vendetta. "He thought I had plants growing in the house, or like several pounds of marijuana just sitting around," Cooper said. "I asked him, 'Have you lost your f**king mind?' They're real disappointed."

Cooper was pulled over and arrested on Tuesday night as he was en route to a speaking engagement before the University of Texas Libertarian Longhorns. Police entered his home after he'd surrendered the keys.

Update 6: In a voicemail left during the early hours of the morning, Cooper explained that officers only found a few joint roaches in the house; less than a gram total. That was apparently enough for Travis County to issue two arrest warrants -- one for Barry and one for his wife. That's on top of Williamson County's arrest warrant for the false police report. To get out, he posted a bond of $2,000. Candi's marijuana possession charge was a Class B misdemeanor and she she too paid a $2,000 bond. Her warrant was issued by Judge Herb Evans, a JP in Travis County's fifth precinct.

Every April, Austin is home to one of the largest reggae and marijuana festivals in the nation, where people smoke marijuana openly in front of police for days and arrests are rarely if ever made. The arrest warrants for Barry and Candi over less than a gram strikes this reporter as highly unusual for the most liberal county in Texas.

According to legal documents, the warrant to search Barry's home was issued with the approval of Judge Judy Schier Hobbs, a Justice of the Peace in Williamson County's fourth precinct.

While the county's biographical information on Hobbs lauds her as the Taylor Area Businesswoman Association's "Woman of the Year" for 1989, and the State of Texas Justice of Peace and Constables Association's "Judge of the Year" for 1998, a quick query of the State Bar of Texas reveals that she was not a lawyer before being appointed to the judicial branch, where she has served since 1982. Hobbs is a life-long Williamson County resident and her husband, the chief of police in the City of Taylor for over 30 years, once served a stint as Williamson County's interim sheriff.

One of Cooper's associates called judges like Hobbs a "judge in a box," always ready to assist police, even on something as rare as an alleged misdemeanor that makes police want to breach someone's home.

Update 7: Barry's arresting officer is an interesting fellow. I've come across a memo sent out by the Texas Narcotics Officers Association that details a training course conducted by Sgt. Gary Haston of the Williamson County Sheriff's Department. Below the course description, there's a bio for Sgt. Haston. It reads:

Sergeant Haston has been in law enforcement for seventeen (17) years with the past (13) thirteen years working in the field of narcotics. (5 years assigned to the Capitol Area Narcotics Task Force, 3 years to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Austin Resident Office and 5 years at the Williamson County Sheriff's Office Narcotic Unit) Sergeant Haston has investigated hundreds of narcotic crimes including undercover narcotic enforcement and criminal highway interdiction. Sergeant Haston has been an instructor for the Office of the Governor-Texas Narcotic Control Program, the Regional Counter-Drug Training Academy in Meridian, Mississippi, the Capital Area Police Training Academy in Austin, Texas and the Williamson County Sheriff's Office. Sergeant Haston is the 2008-2009 Texas Narcotic Officer's Association Vice President for the Texas Narcotic Officers Association Central Region.

Apparently, an alleged misdemeanor and less than a gram of pot was enough to get this guy's attention. Interesting

Update 8: Even as a reporter following Cooper's occasional escapades, I wasn't aware of his campaign Web site, harbored under the oddly auspicious name "Barry Bomb". I knew he was running as a libertarian candidate for attorney general of Texas, but my writing tends not to focus on that due to both the flamboyancy of his activism and his poor electoral showing against Rep. John Carter (R-TX) in 2008, where Cooper garnered just three percent of the vote.

Still, I've got to wonder if his candidacy has anything to do with all this drama.

Update 9: Solicited for legal advice, Maury D. Beaulier, an attorney in St. Louis Park, MN, said that home invasions on the basis of an alleged misdemeanor are rare in his experience.

"A search warrant may be issued if there is probable cause to support the belief that evidence of criminal activity may be found with the warrant," he wrote. "To be issued, a law enforcement officer must submit an affidavit seeking the warrant.

"In my 19 years of experience with criminal defense matters, a search warrant for a misdemeanor charge is certainly unusual. It indicates to me that this is a targeted investigation. It may be targeted because it is believed to be a part of a greater crime or conspiracy, or, perhaps, because there are political motivations at work."

Update 10: Barry is mad as hell. He explained that when he was pulled over on his way to the University of Texas, an officer inquired about the contents of his garage. After Cooper refused to talk, he claims he was placed under arrest for filing a false police report.

Several months ago, Cooper purchased a grow tent and stored it in his garage, expecting to grow tomatoes as legal way to teach the basics of indoor marijuana cultivation on one of his films. I've personally seen this tent. It has nothing in it, having been set aside and stored in his garage in favor of other projects.

"They have been doing surveillance on my house and when I opened my garage door, they saw that f**kin' tent," Cooper claimed. "When they pulled me over, they asked, 'what do you have in your garage?' And I'm like, holy shit, he thinks I'm growing pot!

"They really believed it, but they didn't do their f**kin' homework. If they really had enough evidence to raid me for pot, they would have got a search warrant for that. But they used this Liberty Hill thing to get into my house. I used to do the same shit when I was a cop."

If -- or, perhaps, when -- he loses his bid for Texas attorney general, Cooper said he plans on running for Travis County Justice of the Peace Precinct Five, against the very judge who issued arrest warrants for he and his wife over the marijuana roaches.

"No question, this is a targeted political thing and I'm glad it happened," he said. "I can handle this. My family and I can handle this. It's no sweat off our balls. But I saw so many people in jail whose families can't handle this kinda stuff. As soon as they get out of jail, they just pay their fines and keep their heads down, even if they've been mistreated by the police. My case in particular is sad because this proves that if you get into politics and you start exposing corruption, you will be f**ked with."

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