Finding the courage to do the right thing
I recognized the Texas number ringing on my cellphone. My old South Dakota buddy, Beegs Branson, was on the line. This was no big surprise as we usually keep in phone contact every few months. This, however, turned out to be far from a routine call.
"Wick!" Beegs yelled into the phone. "Nick made national news. The DEA raided his apartment by mistake!"
This also turned out to be far from a simple mistake. Nick Branson is the son of Beegs and Mary, old college buddies of mine from the University of South Dakota. Nick is currently living in Alpine, Texas, where he is attending college as a geology student. On May 7 this year, law enforcement agencies around the country raided businesses accused of selling fake marijuana and other so-called designer drugs made to imitate illegal drugs by using legal ingredients.
On the day Beegs called me about his son Nick, law enforcement in Minnesota charged five teenagers with third-degree murder for their involvement in the death of a young girl who died as a result from ingesting fake LSD. This emphasizes the severity of passing off legal substances as a safe alternative to their illegal counterparts.
I fully support the effort to rid the country of these dangerous knock-off drugs that are killing our kids.
With the efforts of a program called Synergy Phase II, raids on businesses selling these products began January 14 of this year and for the most part have gone off without a hitch. What happened in Alpine, Texas, during the May raids has been referred to by media sources, including the Washington Post, as "a botched DEA raid." Unfortunately for Nick Branson and the United States Constitution, what happened was far worse than a simple botched raid.
Nick's nightmare began as he was returning to his apartment on Tuesday morning of May 7 only to find his place crawling with DEA, Border Patrol, FBI, Texas Rangers, county sheriffs, city police and possibly Deputy Barney Fife. If only the malfeasance mimicked Deputy Fife's humor.
I called Nick to hear the real story. On May 7, a warrant was executed for the Purple Lounge, a tobacco shop at an address of 705 E Ave. East. Nick lives in a separate apartment with a separate mailbox and a separate entrance at 705 1/2 E Ave. East. When Nick asked to see a warrant authorizing a raid on his home, the Barney Fife with no sense of humor replied, "We don't need a (expletive) warrant!" He then put his hand on the trigger of his gun and said, "Oh, you want to do this the hard way!"
Nick, a lifelong Texan said, "I grew up in a gun culture. I remembered rule No. 3. If you put your finger on the trigger, you better be ready to use it. I backed off and shut up."
Unfortunately that was barely the beginning of the violations (illegal search and seizure) to the Constitution. Incredibly, a "retroactive" warrant was issued at 11:58 a.m. to search apartment 705 1/2, which police already thoroughly ransacked beginning at 10 a.m.
By this time, the sister to the owner of the Purple Lounge had been taken to the ground for talking, ("What are you going to do, shoot me?") by the same officer who confronted Nick and as she fell to the sidewalk, her foot grazed his shin. The agent quoted, "You just assaulted a federal officer." Yes, she was charged with this felony.
He proceeded to hold her on the ground with the butt of his M-16 rifle pressing her head into the pavement. Later photos revealed a large bruise on her cheek. Nick saw every bit of this drama unfold. Businessman Tom Cochran arrived on the scene and began taking photos. His Facebook posts went viral. The whole country saw justice, Texas style. The Washington Post wrote a scathing editorial about the brutality, the illegal search, the retroactive warrant and (get this) the forced recantation of police misconduct as a condition of bail.
The shop's owner and her sister were both hauled off to jail and as a condition of bond, the sister was required by the county prosecutor and a county judge that she sign a letter stating that none of the events just described ever happened. She wrote the letter as the only way for her to get out of jail on bail.
Several days later, ignoring the advice of his attorney to remain silent, Nicholas Branson stood up for his country and the United States Constitution by declaring all of the said events had indeed occurred and he could not just stand by and let evil corruption win out.
It needs to be acknowledged that the other law enforcement personnel on the scene did not engage in the horrendous actions of the rogue officer. There were no other reports of misconduct in any of the other nationwide raids that day.
Later that day, Nick even stopped by the local police station to thank one of the officers who had told Nick, "I can understand why you're upset."
I asked Nick why he would come out and state the truth at such a risk to himself. Didn't he see how far these corrupt officials were willing to bend constitutional rights in order to mete out their brand of Texas justice?
Alpine, Texas is a small, quiet town like Moose Lake. Can you imagine Police Chief Bogie acting like this? Or a local judge or county attorney? I think not.
An exasperated Nick stated,"I totally expect to be arrested. I just had to do the right thing."
Nick is a very courageous young man who is risking his freedom to just do the right thing.