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The War on Drugs - and the results of it A war against drugs, or against families?

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Old 02-22-2004, 12:15 PM
Leon'sSister Leon'sSister is offline
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I was honored to be invited to speak at the Florida District Unitarian Universalist Association's 9th Annual Social Justice Conference on February 21, 2004 in Orlando, Florida. I would like to share a copy of the speech I gave with other PTO members:

It is a pleasure to be here today to participate in such a necessary discussion regarding our system of justice. I am here to share with you an example of the abuses that are occurring in our criminal justice system that eliminates justice and renders it a criminal system.

Prior to becoming involved in my brother’s case, I lived under the assumption that the rights and freedoms I had learned about in school applied to all of us; and if we followed the laws and rules our society deemed appropriate, we would be safe and free. If I were falsely accused, justice would prevail. However, what I have learned over the past three years has shown me that this is simply not true. Today each of us runs a risk for being incarcerated for anything we may be accused of–whether or not we committed the crime.

My brother, Leon Combs, is currently serving 31.3 years in federal prison, due in large part not to a crime he committed, but for a crime confessed to by another person. This false application of justice was carried out to both further the war on drugs, especially relating to Oxycontin in Eastern Kentucky, and to protect the nephew of two Kentucky State Police Troopers at Post 13 in Hazard, Kentucky.

The initial fact of this case was: A nephew of two Kentucky State Police Troopers was brought to Post 13 headquarters at 7:00 PM on January 22, 2001 for questioning related to the theft of guns from his father and uncle. When interrogated, the nephew stated he had traded a Remington .270 on January 21, 2001 to Leon for one Oxycontin 40 mg. tablet. He further stated he had swallowed the Oxycontin tablet so there was no physical proof he was truthful.

Within a four hour block of time the nephew reportedly gave a taped confession, an affidavit for a search warrant was sworn, a search warrant was obtained, a raid was made on Leon’s property, and he was arrested at 10:30 p.m. Leon had some of the guns which he contends he bought from the nephew for cash. He also had on his person a pistol which testimony at trial supported he had purchased from a different person just minutes prior to the arrival of the police.

When arrested, Leon was charged with three counts of possession of controlled substances (Oxycontin 40, Oxycontin 20 and Dilaudid) and one count of possession of stolen property.

Why did Leon have Oxycontin?
Medical records and trial testimony support the fact Leon had been involved in a motorcycle accident in June 2000 and had been prescribed both Oxycontin 40 and Oxycontin 20.

Why did Leon have guns?
Our family has always owned guns. Hunting wildlife for food and sport, shooting matches and trading guns and knives have long been a part of the culture of southeastern Kentucky. Our father collected guns and knives. I am sure I could find old photos showing a number of guns standing in corners of various rooms of the home we grew up in. The footlocker our parents kept their important papers in also held a number of pistols and knives my father had either purchased, traded for, or that had been pawned to him by someone who needed money quickly. Leon’s hobby of collecting and trading guns was not all that unusual for that area. In fact, collecting and trading guns is as accepted in that area as collecting and trading stamps, coins, or sports cards would be in other areas.

However, the case proceeded and after presentation to the grand jury, Leon was formally indicted on five charges:

1. Possession with the intent to distribute and distribution of a measurable quantity of Oxycontin 40 mg. [This relates to an alleged incident in November 2000 where a police informant reportedly purchased Oxycontin from Leon; however, during the trial she denied she had ever purchased drugs from Leon.]

2. Possession with the intent to distribute a measurable quantity of Oxycontin and Dilaudid. [This relates to the drugs on Leon’s person at the time of his arrest; however, he was in his car on his property and the only other person there was his wife so there was no evidence that he intended to sell.]

3. During and in relation to a drug trafficking crime...did possess a .22 caliber Phoenix pistol [This was the pistol on him at the time of his arrest and there was no evidence that he was involved in any drug trafficking after obtaining this gun.]

4. In furtherance of a drug trafficking crime...did unlawfully possess firearms [I will discuss this charge further.]

5. Did knowingly possess stolen firearms...which had been shipped interstate commerce. [This was in reference to the guns reported by the Troopers’ family members to have been stolen and for which the nephew was implicated.]

In your packet of handouts you will find an article which appeared in the Lexington Herald Leader on December 7, 2003. It states that it is a common practice for Federal Prosecutors to add additional charges for leverage in plea bargaining with defendants. A practice which Gary Potter, criminal justice professor at Eastern Kentucky University, calls a gray shade of justice. Leon refused a plea bargain. On April 20, 2001 he was found Guilty of Counts 1-4 and Not Guilty of Count 5.

Many issues are present in my brother’s case–such as the issuance of a search warrant based solely on information supplied by a suspect being questioned; inappropriate and prejudicial comments made by the judge during the legal proceedings such as asking my sister-in-law if Leon had traded guns for her; and inaccurate—dare I say perjured—testimony by a detective before the grand jury.

You are welcomed and encouraged to visit the web site where the transcripts have been posted to read and form your own opinions. (www.geocities.com/leoncombs2001)

The fourth charge of possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime was invalid. This charge relates to the nephew’s testimony that he traded a gun to Leon for one Oxycontin 40mg tablet. In your handouts there are several cases cited that indicate passively accepting a gun for drugs does not meet the “use” prong in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Bartering or trading a gun for drugs does!

Throughout the trial and sentencing, the prosecutor and judge referred to Leon as “Trading a gun for Oxycontin.” All testimony indicates the nephew, not Leon, traded a gun for Oxycontin. Therefore, Leon was tried and convicted of a crime that, if it was indeed committed, was committed and confessed to by the nephew of two Kentucky State Police Troopers. The nephew was never charged, never tried and has not spent one day in jail. In court his family members stated they would not say the guns were stolen because they did not want a blemish on his name because he was ‘family’ and the judge instructed the jury that he had been granted ‘some agreed immunity’ and ‘some agreed leniency.’

A complete reading of the transcripts supports only two things: Leon had drugs on his person at the time of arrest — whether or not they were legally prescribed was never considered. Leon was in possession of guns which he acknowledges he acquired from the nephew—whether this was for drugs or money varies with who is telling the story.

The Constitution gives us the right to bear arms which means Leon had the right to own and carry guns on his own property. No evidence was ever produced in court to support his “using” or “possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.” Yet his life was destroyed when two Kentucky State Police Troopers went to find their family members’ possessions; and rather than punish the nephew for stealing, they decided to punish someone else.

Leon’s case is now on appeal in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Government has conceded error to both the gun charges. Count 3 failed to charge an offense and Count 4 was ‘constructively amended’ during instruction to the jury. Petitions for immediate release based upon this concession were denied and my brother continues to waste away in prison because of trumped up charges, arrogant refusal to accept responsibility for mistakes made by the Court, and an over-burdened appeal process brought on in part by the injustices of the war on drugs.

Leon’s case is not unique. The war on drugs and an over zealous legal system has probably destroyed more lives than it has saved. More importantly, the criminal justice system appears to be more interested in crime than in justice. Throughout the system, checks-and-balances are rendered useless as policemen misrepresent information to grand juries to obtain indictments; prosecutors, more focused on winning a case than seeking justice, present the information to get guilty verdicts while truth does not play in the equation; judges, either in ignorance or apathy, fail to know or apply the law appropriately to cases; and lives are destroyed. Not just the lives of the imprisoned, but the lives of their spouses, children, parents, and siblings are altered forever.

Like many of you here today, three years ago I would not have thought this could happen, especially to me! It did and it can happen to any of us. My goal today is to try to increase awareness of this problem and inspire you to learn more—not only about the problem but about how to protect yourself if it happens to you or your family member.

In closing. I reiterate—the Criminal Justice System lacking justice merely becomes a criminal system which victimizes all Americans.

Thank you.
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Old 02-22-2004, 01:46 PM
tearfulclown tearfulclown is offline
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that's a great speech! i'm impressed with you, and i'm sure the people at the conference were impressed as well! keep up the good work!
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Old 02-22-2004, 02:57 PM
witchlinblue witchlinblue is offline
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Wow, Im so glad you posted your speech here and the link to your web page. I am also happy that you got to do your speech and continue your fight for your husband. Please keep us informed of any news regarding this, and I hope that there will be some hope for the two of you and that there will be either another trial or he will be released soon. My prayers are with you both. Hang in there, and hopefully there will be an answer to all this some day soon.

Hugs,
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Old 02-22-2004, 03:07 PM
haswtch haswtch is offline
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That is absolutely breathtaking. and that is a heck of a case you guys have. Never, ever, ever give up until the right person hears you or God changes somebody's heart. I will keep you guys in my prayers. We too are casualties of the state troopers' arrogance- totally different state, but boy, when they're wrong they're wrong and they really act like ten-cent tyrants in too many cases.
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Old 02-22-2004, 06:35 PM
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4MyJoe 4MyJoe is offline
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Whew! Very Compelling, American has to wake up, this system is completely out of control.
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Old 02-22-2004, 08:09 PM
Leon'sSister Leon'sSister is offline
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Thanks to all who have read my speech and wrote such kind words of appreciation and sent their prayers. Not only do I plan to continue my involvement because I, too, think that eventually someone will listen and will help Leon and I to make a difference -- not only for him -- but for so many others who are in the same circumstances; but I encourage each and every one of you to likewise to become involved in your communities by following my lead. Perhaps you wonder how I found such an open door to walk through---God sent it!!! Here is how it went for me, my brother sent me an article he had read in a publication at the prison which was written by Joseph D. McNamara regarding corrupt police. I noted it was published in THE RAZOR WIRE so I immediately went to my computer and researched the publication to learn that it is a tool of THE NOVEMBER COALITION. When I did this I learned I had just missed Nora Callahan's visit to my community the previous week! Bad timing but she put me in touch with John Chase, the regional leader in my area who happened to be meeting with a group at the UU Church in Vero Beach that very evening. I said, "John, I'll see you there." Not only did I meet John that night, but he asked me to speak. I did! He and I have kept in contact every since and about six weeks ago he contacted me to inquire as to whether or not I would be willing to speak again. Oh, without a doubt! This time though I had time to prepare and also involved my brother as well as other siblings. So I cannot accept all the wonderful words of praise as my own---it was indeed a family effort. I am so pleased that it has touched so many. If there is not a regional leader for the November Coalition in your area, consider becoming one. When you have two wonderful forums such as PTO and November Coalition working with you, you can do nothing but succeed.

My thanks to FED-X for PTO and Nora and her brother for THE NOVEMBER COALITION.

Please take time to write my brother a note of encouragement. He has been through some rough weeks of late and his health is not all that great. A cheery hello from people who understand would certainly help him to feel better and regain his fighting spirit.

Love and Prayers to all,
Leon's Sister
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Old 02-22-2004, 08:25 PM
witchlinblue witchlinblue is offline
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In case anyone missed how you can write a letter of encouragement to Leon, here is the address (maybe a joint effort on all who believe in justice could drop him a line of encouragement, I certainly will):

CORRESPONDENCE can be sent to Leon Combs
07917-032 Clay A
FCI
P O Box 4000
Manchester, KY 40962-4000
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Old 02-23-2004, 07:46 AM
Leon'sSister Leon'sSister is offline
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Witchlinblue, Thanks for posting the mailing address for Leon. Thanks also for your willingness to send him a note of cheer.
Leon'sSister
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Old 02-27-2004, 07:11 PM
Dannysmom Dannysmom is offline
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Leons sister,
hang in there and hang tough . Thank you so much for that moving speech. I agree with you there is a need to improve the judical system. One of the ladies on here calls it the unjudical system. It is very much out of control. I will be glad to send a letter to encourage your brother.
dannysmom
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Old 02-27-2004, 09:16 PM
Leon'sSister Leon'sSister is offline
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Dannysmom,
Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. It certainly is an unjust judicial system and we must join hands and effort to take our country back from those who want to make it a "just us" system.
Leon'sSister
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Old 10-20-2017, 09:29 AM
Leon'sSister Leon'sSister is offline
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Oh, it has been so many years since I last posted to this site! Each year at my birthday I am reminded that I have friends and supporters that I have failed to make contact with far too long. However, much has taken place during all these years besides Leon and I growing older. There have been many transfers from one prison to another, and he is now at Texarkana, deaths in our family which Leon had to grieve alone, births of grandchildren which he has not had the opportunity to meet, graduations, weddings, etc. etc. etc. Recently he petitioned the United States Supreme Court and a conference was held on September 25, 2017 and he has received a one word response, "denied." He has written a motion for reconsideration but he nor I look for anything to become of that. I am now in the process of setting up internet sites to share his story with the world. Having just begun this process a few days ago, the success rate based on the number of people reached and their locations is considered by me to be very remarkable. You can share in this process by visiting https://www.facebook.com/search/top/...20leon%20combs. There is a FB Page as well as a FB Group and both are public but should you have any difficulty getting into either, please feel free to contact me for assistance. Thanks so much for being behind me all these years as I try to assist my brother, Leon Combs!
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