No-Knock Numb

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Yesterday afternoon I spoke with Charles Noel, husband of Cheryl Lynn Noel, the Sunday school teacher and government worker who was shot dead by Baltimore police on a no-knock drug raid last year. Police found about a half an ounce of marijuana, enough to charge Mr. Noel with a misdemeanor. Nevertheless, prosecutors are apparently pushing for the maximum sentence for Mr. Noel, which would be a year in prison (Noel, incidentally, is charged only with “constructive possession,” in that the marijuana was found in the house he owned). Apparently, killing the guy’s wife wasn’t punishment enough for a pissant amount of marijuana. They want to thrown him in prison too.

Noel was devastated, said he’s lost 60 pounds in the last year, and is nearly suicidal. Since the raid in January of last year, Noel says he’s been pulled over about a half-dozen times in his neighborhood, each time with 4-5 police cars coming out of nowhere, and up to ten cops emerging from them with their guns drawn. Each time, they ask for his license and registration, then send him on his way.

I’ll have more on the Noel case.

Then, yesterday evening, I spoke with the owner and manager of a bar in Manassas Park, Virginia. In 2004, their business was raided by 90 — yes ninety — police in paramilitary gear. The police raided under the guise of — are you ready for this? — an Alcohol Beverage Control inspection. The advantage of raiding under an ABC warrant is that its a regualtory inspection not a criminal investigation, which means that the police didn’t need to get a warrant before going in. The owners have video of the raid captured by their security cameras. I’ll be posting it here once they condense it and send it to me.

For the last three hours, I sat with the two men while they went over detail after excruciating detail of the Manassas Park police departments endless efforts to entrap them, bait them, and run them out of business. The manager has no criminal record. Neither does the owner, his father, who’s a business owner and a practicing lawyer for 40 years. The manager’s brother is the income president of the Fairfax Bar Association.

Before 2004, the bar had a spotless ABC record. Not a single violation.

Despite the fact that police raided the bar under the facade of an ABC inspection, it was at heart a drug raid. Police made three arrests. One was an undercover cop. The other two were men who have all the markings of paid informants. Meaning the only drug dealing going on in the pool hall was likely being done by police operatives.

The raid netted no charges, no crimes, and two extremely minor and mundane ABC violations. Apparently, police found two bottles of warm beer left by a distributor for sampling that weren’t clearly marked “SAMPLE.”

After the raid, the manager — still obviously frazzled — had to make a deposit to the electric company. He asked a local police detective with whom he was friendly to accompany him. The detective told him he had nothing to worry about, but the man insisted. So the detective came along. As the guy pulled in to make the deposit, two more police cars screeched into the parking lot, cut off his car, and four officers jumped out with their guns drawn. When they saw and recognized the detective with him, they apologized, and drove off.

Since the raid, police have continued to attempt to frame or entrap the bar and its manager. The manager showed me surveillance of two men openly doing cocaine at one of the bar’s pool tables. When he called the police, they came in, took the two men outside, and let them go. No pat down, no search, no arrests. There’s surveilance footage of the men walking away, too. Police didn’t even want to see the straw the waiter took from the men with cocaine residue inside.

That’s really only scratching the surface of the mind-blowing stuff these guys showed me and told me about. This is really a case a local reporter needs to look into. Indcidentally, the same narcotics force conducted a paramilitary raid in a Manassas shopping center earlier this year. The raid ended with a flury of shots fired in the open lot, even as customers were shopping, and going to and from their cars.

The Manassas area is notorious around the Beltway for corruption. But the Manassas Park Police Department is out of control.

I’ve seen the video.

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