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Atlanta police sentenced for death caused by paramilitary-style drug raid
February 24, 2009 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Three police officers were sentenced today for killing 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in a paramilitary-style raid. The officers shot Ms Johnson five or six times and then handcuffed her while they planted drugs in her basement. She bled to death on the floor of her own home. The Agitator covers the story through a single headline headline. The officers will receive Federal sentences of between five and ten years each as well as - a nice touch - being forced to pay for her funeral.
posted by Joe in Australia (64 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good.

Well, it's a start.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:42 PM on February 24, 2009


Do I comment here or here?
posted by tellurian at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2009


How is shit like this supposed to make people feel safe? Seriously. Fucking dirty cops.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:04 PM on February 24, 2009


5-10?

If she'd done the cops, it would have been the death penalty for her.
posted by eriko at 7:08 PM on February 24, 2009 [20 favorites]


Also, America your country is fucked up. 5-10 seems like a joke considering all the things they did.
posted by chunking express at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Jesus... FIVE to TEN???????? Are you shitting me? They'll be out in 2.., 3 years tops!
posted by LordSludge at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2009


Oh, come on. We have nothing to fear from our benevolent protectors in perpetuity. Now let's all be good, obedient citizens and turn in all our guns at the nearest government depository.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:15 PM on February 24, 2009


She should've plugged a couple of the fuckers instead of firing a warning shot.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:18 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Flag and move on, people. The comment, not the thread.

Move on to other bad jokes. Like, what do you call three crooked cops at the bottom of a jail cell?

A good start.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:19 PM on February 24, 2009


The first article says the federal prison they're going does not have parole, but does allow up to 15% of a sentence to be commuted with good behavior.
posted by Tacodog at 7:20 PM on February 24, 2009


Aaaaand...action!
posted by jckll at 7:21 PM on February 24, 2009


Also, America your country is fucked up. 5-10 seems like a joke considering all the things they did.

If you're talking in relation to other "crimes", yes. If you're talking in relation to us, it's probably no different.
posted by gman at 7:22 PM on February 24, 2009


Jesus... FIVE to TEN???????? Are you shitting me? They'll be out in 2.., 3 years tops!

No. "There is no parole in the federal system, but inmates can carve 15 percent off their time with good behavior."
posted by jckll at 7:22 PM on February 24, 2009


Ah, thanks for the correction, Tacodog. Still, 5-10 is awful.... somehow "light" doesn't seem the right word...
posted by LordSludge at 7:23 PM on February 24, 2009


Flag and move on, people. The comment, not the thread.

Yes and no. If the comment is pulled we'll just be here again next time. Maybe a good, near-unanimous shouting down might have a broader effect.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:23 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know when you are jaded enough to invoke a "throw down" on a 92 year old woman your police force is pretty fucked up. We are talking Serpico level stuff here.
posted by caddis at 7:25 PM on February 24, 2009


Jesus... FIVE to TEN???????? Are you shitting me? They'll be out in 2.., 3 years tops!

4.25 to 8.5 years, assuming they are perfect angels. Also: "Junnier and Smith are to be sentenced March 5 in Fulton County on state charges, including voluntary manslaughter. Those sentences are to run concurrently with the federal time".
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:28 PM on February 24, 2009


On the bright side...uh...I would imagine they are unlikely to find future jobs in law enforcement?

No, that's probably false. Nevermind.
posted by voltairemodern at 7:29 PM on February 24, 2009


Welcome non-BoingBoing readers.
posted by swift at 7:34 PM on February 24, 2009


I reckon they would have got away with it if the suspect had been a 19 year old black dude.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:36 PM on February 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


Welcome non-BoingBoing readers.

Boing Boing is no longer in my browsing after recent editing crises. They are disenvoweled, and then some.
posted by caddis at 7:39 PM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


[few comments removed - take shithead rape jokes elsewhere]
posted by jessamyn at 7:41 PM on February 24, 2009 [21 favorites]


thanks jessamyn
posted by NiteMayr at 7:49 PM on February 24, 2009


Five or ten years seems awfully short, given that they not only shot her, then they let her bleed out while in handcuffs while they planted false evidence. Had they called for an ambulance, she might still be alive. To me, that makes it arguably premeditated murder.
posted by orthogonality at 7:50 PM on February 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


The Atlanta Police Department is a wreck, and this is just one visible indication. In some areas of town, things are way out of hand, and citizens are starting to organize and protest.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 7:50 PM on February 24, 2009


Smith found dozens of bags of marijuana -- in baggies that were clear, blue or various other colors and packaged to sell. With no one connected to the pot, Smith stashed the bags in the trunk of the patrol car. A use was found for Smith's stash 90 minutes later: A phone tip led the three officers to a man in a "gold-colored jacket" who might be dealing. The man, identified as X in the documents but known as Fabian Sheats, spotted the cops and put something in his mouth. They found no drugs on Sheats, but came up with a use for the pot they found earlier.They wanted information or they would arrest Sheats for dealing.

This is exactly where it goes wrong. These officers are crossing a line which leads to a lot of other lines getting crossed. It always leads to bad conseqences. It is really hard to continously lie like this. The DAs catch it and drop the cases like a hot potato. Where it can go wrong is when they don't report it. But it would be hell on them to do so.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:24 PM on February 24, 2009


Egregiously disgusting. Talk about bad cops.
posted by jock@law at 8:27 PM on February 24, 2009


For people griping about 5-10 years:

From the last link:

Junnier began cooperating truthfully with federal authorities shortly after the incident and provided valuable assistance in the investigation and prosecution of Smith and Tesler. Additionally, Junnier's cooperation led to guilty pleas by two additional APD officers to federal charges, including the sergeant who commanded the narcotics team involved in the shooting. Smith cooperated to a more limited extent. Both former officers provided information relevant to a broader FBI investigation of misconduct by APD narcotics and other officers, which culminated in a report provided by the FBI to APD Chief Richard Pennington in October 2008 for consideration of potential administrative discipline against other APD officers. As a result of their cooperation, the court reduced Junnier's sentence by 40 percent and Smith's sentence by 20 percent. Tesler did not provide substantial assistance in the investigation and received no sentence reduction on that ground, although his sentence was reduced based on his lesser role in the conspiracy.

So they deserved more, but due to their cooperation, their sentences were reduced.
posted by shen1138 at 8:44 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Should the chief of police be held responsible here?
posted by priested at 8:45 PM on February 24, 2009


Can you imagine surviving ninety-two years on this planet only to be murdered by crooked cops? Sending them to prison for five to ten years might be cathartic, but I don't know that it is justice.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 8:47 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Five or ten years seems awfully short, given that they not only shot her, then they let her bleed out while in handcuffs while they planted false evidence. Had they called for an ambulance, she might still be alive. To me, that makes it arguably premeditated murder.

The death penalty would have been too good for them.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:59 PM on February 24, 2009


Can you imagine surviving ninety-two years on this planet only to be murdered by crooked cops?

Of all the ways to go, this actually doesn't sound too bad, when you mention that she got off at least one shot of her own with a rusty 38.
posted by fatbird at 9:05 PM on February 24, 2009


I somehow imagine cops in prison don't get a lot of respect from the general population. Those are going to be long 5-10 years.
posted by Jilder at 9:11 PM on February 24, 2009


Sending them to prison for five to ten years might be cathartic, but I don't know that it is justice.

Shouldn't this be the other way around? If that? Seems like the problem most people are feeling about this is that it's not cathartic enough...people want to really punish these cops, let them know how badly they fucked up, and five years doesn't seem like enough time to do that.
posted by voltairemodern at 9:23 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's amazing they even got that sentence. 5-10 years for a cop == 1 life sentence with no parole for a white convict == death sentence for a black convict. So, you see, it really is fair. The BART cop who murdered an innocent man by "reaching for his taser" is going to get off completely even with an abundance video evidence.
posted by stavrogin at 9:36 PM on February 24, 2009


I somehow imagine cops in prison don't get a lot of respect from the general population. Those are going to be long 5-10 years.

Oh that's not the half of it. You know what the most common type of offense is in the federal pen?

That's right. Drugs.

These guys don't get to go in with murderers, common thugs, petty thiefs and small time dealers that you'd find in state prison. These guys are going in with the hardcore drug kingpins that would have had friends and associates killed by these crooked cops on no-knock raids.

They're fucked no matter what they do at this point. As much as it would satisfy our lust for vengeance, the amount of time really is arbitrary in this case.
posted by Talez at 9:40 PM on February 24, 2009


Shouldn't this be the other way around? If that? Seems like the problem most people are feeling about this is that it's not cathartic enough...people want to really punish these cops, let them know how badly they fucked up, and five years doesn't seem like enough time to do that.

Well, to put my comment into a little better context, I was trying to post in response to the now-deleted "at least they'll be raped in prison!" comments, which were brimming with cathartic joy, but I was having some issues with my wireless connection all of the sudden.

It just doesn't feel like an appropriate punishment for killing somebody and then trying to ruin their name and reputation by planting drugs in their home and making them look like they just had it coming. Not that justice is a very easy concept to quantify and define, but this ... isn't it. I don't know, this is one of those stories I need to not dwell on too much or it's going to eat me up inside.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 9:59 PM on February 24, 2009


The really really sad part is that these are the cops who got caught. Think about the 100's of others who've been executed or have had their lives ruined because of bad cops.
posted by doctorschlock at 10:46 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


From the last link...

But the real tragedy here is that had the cops found a stash of marijuana in her basement that actually did belong to her–say for pain treatment or nausea–her death would have faded quickly from the national news, these tactics would have been deemed by most to be wholly legitimate, and we probably wouldn’t still be talking about her today.

Spot on.
posted by setanor at 11:07 PM on February 24, 2009 [16 favorites]


I feel safer everyday living here in Atlanta
posted by Hands of Manos at 11:25 PM on February 24, 2009


Is the Supreme Court About to Kill Off the Exclusionary Rule?
posted by homunculus at 12:30 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


These guys don't get to go in with murderers, common thugs, petty thiefs and small time dealers that you'd find in state prison. These guys are going in with the hardcore drug kingpins that would have had friends and associates killed by these crooked cops on no-knock raids.

They'll be in special housing. Cops don't go to the main line.
posted by hamida2242 at 12:45 AM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now let's all be good, obedient citizens and turn in all our guns at the nearest government depository.

I'm in no way excusing what these bastards did, but look at it this way: if she didn't own a gun, she would probably still be alive today. So yes, there are too many guns out there. Fewer guns = fewer people killed by gunshot. It's really quite simple.
posted by sour cream at 1:04 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Perhaps they mistook her for a prostitute12 year old girl.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:08 AM on February 25, 2009


Could someone who knows about such things explain what it's like for former police officers in prison? In what ways, if any, are they treated differently than other prisoners in (presumably) protective custody are treated?
posted by pracowity at 1:59 AM on February 25, 2009


I was wondering if the folks at Make could cook something up that kicks these guys in the face, once a day, for the duration of their prison stays. Maybe one of those Herbie Hancock "Rockit" legs with a moonboot attached. We could even get The Frantics to revamp their classic tune, to be played by the face-kicking machine as it fires:

Police who get false warrants,
Cops who shot Grandma dead,
Pigs who plant false evidence,
Give them a boot to the head!

BOOT TO THE HEAD *whap* ... nah-nah


A few webcams attached, perhaps one even in the toe of the boot, so people can see precisely what's going on. Build a photo gallery, "Day 539 of Gregg Junnier being booted in the head for a frameup that led to a 92 year old woman bleeding to death in handcuffs. Day 540 of Jason Smith ..."

Cruel? Yes. Unusual? Hell yes. But ... oddly satisfying to contemplate. I gotta stay away from Inferno.
posted by adipocere at 3:27 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even with the shorter sentences, and special protection, their lives are still ruined. They'll lose at minimum 3 years, which is long enough for your life to be rudely interrupted. Their jobs are gone, and they won't even see work as security guards or mall cops as other disgraced cops might get. Unless they were excessively two-faced, their wives, families and probably friends will leave them, a perfect excuse to be done with men who were probably overly aggressive and insecure.

They've lost it all, and that seems as important as the length of the sentence. To a degree, though, it illustrates everything that's wrong with law enforcement in general in America. That police feel the need to protect others rather than protect their people or justice. That they're pressured so hard to get an arrest and conviction quickly rather than accurately. What they did was inexcusable, but the entire system needs to be reformed so that no cop would ever even be in a situation in which this could happen.
posted by explosion at 4:13 AM on February 25, 2009


I'm in no way excusing what these bastards did, but look at it this way: if she didn't own a gun, she would probably still be alive today. So yes, there are too many guns out there. Fewer guns = fewer people killed by gunshot. It's really quite simple.
posted by sour cream at 1:04 AM on February 25


No, she would probably be dead anyway. If it's not shooting 39 times, it's putting a suspect in a "stress position" and pretending you can't hear or see them unable to breathe. That's Joe Arpaio's preferred method of murdering prisoners or suspects.

Any contact you have with a police officer where you walk away alive at the end is a gift. I wish Johnston had killed those motherfuckers before they killed her.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:14 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Glad to see some follow-up on this story.

Sad to see these criminals didn't get more time.
posted by Kikkoman at 4:40 AM on February 25, 2009


Murder AND planting evidence only gets you 5-10? They should have charged these guys with possession of the marijuana they were planting, they'd be in for life.
posted by DU at 4:44 AM on February 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


From homunculus's NYTimes link on the potential end of the exclusionary rule:

Justice Ruth Ginsburg, in dissent, was right to point out that in the modern age database errors can lead to many people’s rights being denied. The harm to a citizen who is arrested and searched on the street because a bureaucrat has made a computer error, she noted, is just the sort of invasion the founders worried about when they drafted the Fourth Amendment.

Ahem. It's not my fault that Buttle's heart condition didn't appear on Tuttle's file!
posted by nosila at 5:10 AM on February 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm in no way excusing what these bastards did, but look at it this way: if she didn't own a gun, she would probably still be alive today. So yes, there are too many guns out there. Fewer guns = fewer people killed by gunshot. It's really quite simple.
posted by sour cream at 1:04 AM on February 25

No, she would probably be dead anyway. If it's not shooting 39 times, it's putting a suspect in a "stress position" and pretending you can't hear or see them unable to breathe. That's Joe Arpaio's preferred method of murdering prisoners or suspects.

Any contact you have with a police officer where you walk away alive at the end is a gift. I wish Johnston had killed those motherfuckers before they killed her.

posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:14 AM on February 25 [+] [!]

I have to disagree. Killing her was in a response to her shooting at them. If there would have been no gun shots to begin with, they would have seen an old lady, said some "we are tough cops BS" and moved on. However this was not the case. From what I read Old lady fired shots at them and then police fired shots back. I know hind-sight is always 20/20 but looking back someone was firing a gun at the police. Now around here when someone takes shots at a police officer, the officers don' go "HOLY ASS CRACKERS! Let's get the fuck out of dodge!" No they shoot back at whoever or whatever is shooting at them. After smoke clears and they won the gun fight they then see what's going on. They did the correct response. Certain times you pull out your gun and start firing. When someone is shooting at you, they normally are trying to kill you. Shooting back is the correct choice of action. When you see the person who was shooting at you, you need to make sure they are not going to do that again. You handcuff them! Period! If you do not they could have another gun and kill you or your partner. In the academy they say, "You are not a doctor, you do not say that a suspect is dead, disabled, etc. You restrain them!" I'm going to take this out of a police view. Anyone remember Rambo 2 when he is freeing the POWs and right as they get in the helicopter a Russian who was down picks up an AK and shoots a dude in the back. Then of course Rambo mows him down with 30 cal? Same principle. If Russian dude would have been handcuffed a POW would not have died. Anyways back to our story.

When they (Moe, Larry, and Curly) saw who they had killed (after much finger pokes and slaps to the head) they thought that they could just plant drugs on her and make everything right. They fucked up..... no... they seriously, completely, and totally fucked up and tried to cover it. These officers are fucking stupid, I doubt they are cleaver enough to think up an elaborate plan that includes purposely framing some old lady as a drug dealer. They circle jerked to the Shield then went out, fucked up, tried to cover the original fuck up with a lame cover up fuck up, and now they are getting/going to be getting fucked. (sorry Jessamyn for the rape joke). I feel no sympathy for these dumb asses and I am glad that they are in federal prison for the next 10 years.

Lastly someone said afterwards they will go back to being police officers again. No they cannot. Once/If you are convicted of a felony you can never hold a policing position. Trust me they are done for good!
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:01 AM on February 25, 2009


but look at it this way: if she didn't own a gun, she would probably still be alive today. So yes, there are too many guns out there. Fewer guns = fewer people killed by gunshot. It's really quite simple.

Fewer crooked cops = fewer people killed by gunshot. It's really quite simple.

Are you really so naive to think that if the fiesty old lady had taken a swing with a Louisville Slugger, their response wouldn't have been exactly the same?
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:23 AM on February 25, 2009


They did the correct response. Certain times you pull out your gun and start firing. When someone is shooting at you, they normally are trying to kill you. Shooting back is the correct choice of action. When you see the person who was shooting at you, you need to make sure they are not going to do that again.

I call bullshit, Mastercheddaar, and here's why:

Carnes imposed the most severe sentence — 10 years — on Smith, 36, who obtained the illegal, no-knock search warrant allowing officers to batter down 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston’s door.

A terrified Johnston, thinking she was victimized by a home invasion, fired a warning shot through the door. Narcotics officers responded with a hail of gunfire, killing her.


(bolding is mine)

Maybe if the dumbasses hadn't tried to batter down her door without, say, announcing they were the police, she wouldn't have had to fire a warning shot. When you act like crazed South American druglords from a particularly bad episode of Miami Vice, hell yes you deserve to get shot at, I'm just sorry she didn't manage to take any of these idiots out. And I note your comment: When you see the person who was shooting at you, you need to make sure they are not going to do that again.

THEY COULDN'T SEE HER. BECAUSE THEY WERE BUSY BREAKING DOWN HER DAMN DOOR INSTEAD OF KNOCKING AT IT WITH A WARRANT LIKE THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN. Fuck them.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:04 AM on February 25, 2009 [10 favorites]


(And by the way, what kind of nonsense is this no-knock warrant shit anyway? Had they not, say, done a stakeout to see who was going in and out of the house first in order to justify seeking such a warrant? And if so, and they spotted a 92-year-old going in and out, heading to the salon for her weekly set, going to get groceries, etc.......what, they think she's the main squeeze of a bunch of 25-year-old druglords? Jesus wept).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:08 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now around here when someone takes shots at a police officer, the officers don' go "HOLY ASS CRACKERS! Let's get the fuck out of dodge!" No they shoot back at whoever or whatever is shooting at them. After smoke clears and they won the gun fight they then see what's going on.

Certainly, this is what you do if your firearms training consisted of, you know, just watching movies and shit.
posted by flashboy at 7:46 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone remember Rambo 2 when he is freeing the POWs and right as they get in the helicopter a Russian who was down picks up an AK and shoots a dude in the back. Then of course Rambo mows him down with 30 cal? Same principle. If Russian dude would have been handcuffed a POW would not have died.

Dude, totally. I hope they turned her over to make sure the Joker didn't sew a bomb into her abdominal cavity, too.

Is there nothing movies can't teach us about law enforcement?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:50 AM on February 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nowhere near long enough sentences. Let them fuckers rot!

BTW...That's NOLA's old Chief Of PO-PO. He was well liked when he was here If I remember correctly?
posted by winks007 at 8:49 AM on February 25, 2009


Had they not, say, done a stakeout to see who was going in and out of the house first in order to justify seeking such a warrant?

No. Their information was provided by a snitch, and that was apparently enough for them to justify the use of a no-knock warrant.

Sorry, I meant to say a snitch who was looking to trade the charges being laid against him with walking in exchange for providing some information.

I am a little confused though, there seems to be differences between what is being reported now and what we discussed at the time. According to the original story, she shot more than once and actually wounded the officers.
posted by quin at 9:27 AM on February 25, 2009


explosion: Even with the shorter sentences, and special protection, their lives are still ruined. They'll lose at minimum 3 years, which is long enough for your life to be rudely interrupted. Their jobs are gone, and they won't even see work as security guards or mall cops as other disgraced cops might get.

Hmm. Life ruined, vs. being dead. Go on, tell me which is worse.

Of course I'm expecting the follow up argument to be that the woman was old, probably sickly, barely alive even. Really, the cops were doing her a favor for putting her out of her misery.


They've lost it all, and that seems as important as the length of the sentence.

No, they haven't lost it all. Far from it. Their hearts are still beating.
Besides, they'll always have a chance to go on right-wing talk radio shows as the "law and order" guests.
posted by happyroach at 2:06 PM on February 25, 2009


And there is always work as "Civilian Contractors" to be had in foreign lands.
posted by Tenuki at 2:15 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


they were "prying off the burglar bars and using a ram to burst through the elderly woman's front door" - holy sh*t, no wonder she got her gun.
posted by dabitch at 2:48 PM on February 25, 2009


According to the original story, she shot more than once and actually wounded the officers.

The last story I linked to says that Three officers, including Junnier, were injured by shots fired by other officers, or resulting shrapnel or debris, but all were released from the hospital by the following morning. Perhaps they thought they had been shot by her or perhaps they merely claimed to have been shot by her. I say this because it would fit in with their other actions in the case.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:58 PM on February 25, 2009


Oh yes - and here's the second comment from the story covered in 2006:
Maybe the reason that old lady got so many shots off is because those cops REALLY did not want to shoot her. Maybe they gave her every benefit of the doubt. How many other people are dead because of the drugs sold out of that place? What kind of a neighborhood is it anyway that an old lady thinks she needs a gun? Most old people are interested in where they are going to find their teeth in the morning, not a gun!
We now know that she only fired one shot and that she was not a drug trafficker. I think this should teach us all to be more critical of accounts that come from only one of two parties. It's not just that her reputation was sullied by the false account: the reported facts disguised a pattern of corruption amongst Atlanta police.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:04 PM on February 25, 2009


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