December 5, 2015

Update: Alleged police drug planting in Alabama questioned

A couple of days ago we cited the story below from the Henry County Report. It has been since been challenged by Slate and by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Leon Neyfakh, Slate -  None of this is to say that I think [author Jon] Carroll is necessarily wrong about the malfeasance he describes in Dothan. I just have no idea if he’s right, and neither do the thousands of people who shared his article yesterday as if it were a substantiated piece of journalism rather than what it actually is: a call for further investigation.

I called Carroll yesterday, and he told me he has more than 800 documents in his possession and will be releasing them slowly over time, in accordance with agreements he has made with his confidential sources. When I told him I didn’t think the documents he had posted so far provided enough evidence to base a story on, he told me he understood, but that his primary goal wasn’t to convince readers like me, but rather to get the Justice Department to investigate. This is fair enough; the Henry County Report is not really a traditional newspaper, as I and I imagine many others assumed it was. In fact, it’s a website with an intense focus on alleged police scandals that seems to have published fewer than 100 articles—including a video interview with Carroll himself about allegedly having drugs planted on him—since it was founded, Carroll told me, by him and several associates three or four years ago.

I contacted Keith Gray, the investigator who wrote the report on Magrino, but he told me he couldn’t comment because he has a pending discrimination suit against Dothan that prevents him from discussing the department. Magrino wouldn’t comment either, and referred me instead to an official statement issued by the Dothan Police Department, in which Chief Steven Parrish denied the allegations, and called on Carroll to “put his money where his mouth is and provide any evidence he has that police officers have planted evidence on anyone in the past 30 years.” 
Southern Poverty Law Center - We’ve removed tweets to a "Henry County Report" story about the Dothan, Ala. police department... Questions have arisen about the reporting and readers should not assume the claims are true until more information is provided.... The SPLC hasn't seen the referenced documents and cannot validate the claims made in the report.

Henry County Report, AL - The Alabama Justice Project has obtained documents that reveal a Dothan Police Department’s Internal Affairs investigation was covered up by the district attorney. A group of up to a dozen police officers on a specialized narcotics team were found to have planted drugs and weapons on young black men for years. They were supervised at the time by Lt. Steve Parrish, current Dothan Police Chief, and Sgt. Andy Hughes, current Asst. Director of Homeland Security for the State of Alabama. All of the officers reportedly were members of a Neoconfederate organization that .... has advocated for blacks to “return” to Africa, published that the civil rights movement is really a Jewish conspiracy, and that blacks have lower IQ’s .

The documents shared reveal that the internal affairs investigation was covered up to protect the aforementioned officers’ law enforcement careers and keep them from being criminally prosecuted.

Most of the young men were prosecuted, many sentenced to prison, and some are still in prison.  Many of the officers involved were subsequently promoted and are in leadership positions in law enforcement...

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