Here’s a story about a DEA raid in Alpine, Texas, that should raise some serious concerns about the country we live in.
One agent, realizing they did not have a warrant for that address, directed other agents to leave the premises. Then, according to Branson, another agent, the one who allegedly choked Arielle Lipsen, told Branson he had to leave. At that point, Branson asked to see a warrant.
“He said, ’I don’t need to show you a F—–g warrant.’”
Branson said, “I need to see a warrant, based on the fourth amendment…”
“The agent answered ‘Oh you’re a F—–g lawyer now. We can do this the easy way or the hard way and put his finger on the trigger of his M16. That’s when I just backed up,” Branson said.
Then, the same officer approached the owner of the store the officers did have a search warrant for.
“The same guy who cussed me out comes walking up. He’s about my size in full tactical gear with an M16 strapped to his chest, with what looked like four extra clips. He comes walking up real aggressive and she starts to back off. He says, ‘You need to shut up.’
“She says, ‘What are you going to do, shoot me?’
“At that point the officer grabbed her by the neck. She flinched and said, ‘get your hands off me.’ The officer then said ‘that’s resisting.’
“He threw her to the ground.
“As she tried to get up, he grabbed her and threw her down again and her foot hit him. It wasn’t a kick. It is what happens when you get your legs kicked out from underneath you and get thrown to the ground.
“The officer said, ‘You just assaulted a police officer’ and then started choking her (with the butt of the gun). I saw it. I was standing right in front of the Purple Zone.”
As if the alleged actions by the DEA officers weren’t egregious enough, the Federal Magistrate handling the case made the (alleged) victims of the officers’ actions publicly retract her grievances as a condition of bail. These conditions are startling enough that the Washington Post weighed in on the case.
Here are the magistrate judge’s hand-written bail conditions in U.S. v. Lipsen (W.D. Tex. May 16, 2014). (I’ve checked the federal courts’ electronic records system and confirmed the document posted at the linked site is authentic):
[The defendant] will request Tom Cochran Retract his blog on Facebook. Will provide a letter of apology to both local newspapers in Alpine, TX, advising DEA had a legitimate reason to execute a warrant at her business. Will advise newspaper A warrant was not executed at her business because she was Jewish, owned Arabian horses, is of Turkish decent [sic], or because she visited Chinese websites. Will advise media (KWest 9 News) that he [sic] sister, arrielle lipsen was not beaten by agents carrying/using a M16 rifle, and her sister instigated/assaulted agents.
(See also this NewsWest9.com story, which reports: “The sisters posted photos of injuries they claimed Arielle received from the agents…. Prosecutors said they’ll give the sisters bond if they take those pictures down.”)
This seems to me clearly unconstitutional: It’s an order compelling speech, on threat of imprisonment, which would itself normally be a First Amendment violation; but on top of that, it was issued without a trial, and thus without any final factual findings supporting its validity.
Former El Paso attorney Rod Ponton is the District Attorney in Alpine. According to this story in the Big Bend Courier
Mr. Ponton asserts that Lipsen was not compelled nor coerced to recant her allegations, however, there is a document that seems to suggest otherwise. This document requires Ms. Lipsen to recant her previous statements, disavow statements made by Tom Cochran and apologize to federal agents as a condition of her release from custody.
There’s a whole shitstorm brewing in Alpine.