Barry Cooper’s arrest warrant
I have obtained a copy of Williamson County’s arrest warrant affidavit, concerning Barry Cooper’s allegedly false police report, placed in the process of trying to catch a police officer stealing money. Images of the first two pages are below this text; click them for larger versions. A PDF of all three pages is available here.
What Williamson County is saying in these documents is that Barry Cooper did not make the false report in his failed Florence, Texas sting operation — someone else did, but Cooper influenced it. According to the warrant, someone self-identified as “Ted Smith” made the report, but Barry’s voice was discernible in the background. Because of this, Barry was arrested and police invaded his home, taking his family’s computers, phones and other digital media — including their DVDs and his wife’s iPod.
Williamson County’s reasoning here is that if someone makes a false police report, police have the authority to arrest anyone whose voice they can identify in the background, AND search their home.
The report, however, would not appear to be false. At the bottom of page two police detail what was in the bag, noting a “glass pipe, outfitted to be used to smoke “crack” cocaine” and the $45, among other various objects.
However, there was not a crack pipe in that bag. A glass tube only becomes “outfitted to be used to smoke ‘crack’ cocaine” once “crack” cocaine is placed inside it and burned. There was nothing illegal in the bag, however suspicious it may have been. A report of a suspicious package would indeed seem to be accurate, whether the caller knew who put it there or not.
Cooper also claimed that the Florence police treated the bag as a bomb threat near a school zone. This all took place, according to the warrant, around November 10, 2009. The affidavit does not mention how the police treated the package, only that it was tested for fingerprints and Cooper’s were discovered.
The affidavit specifically says that the call was placed by a so-called “Ted Smith” and Cooper, from a number in the 817 area code. I called the number out of curiosity, as the affidavit says it is “fictitious.” It was not.
Instead, a man who identified himself as “Gary Brown,” a Florida resident, claimed he’d never heard of Cooper. When I told him how I got the number, he explained that he once lived in Texas but kept the number simply to forward calls to his cell phone.
Cooper also claimed that Williamson County had used the false report warrant as a way to gain access to his home, thinking he had a large quantity of marijuana. Instead, they found less than a gram, which Cooper and his wife Candi will likely plead guilty to in Travis County. Their penalty will likely be a small fine, akin to a traffic ticket. The warrant makes no mention of any ulterior motives for the search, but I would not be surprised to find out that Barry is right, given that Williamson County’s head of narcotics was the arresting officer.
The warrant also notes that Cooper had filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking police documents for the week of his failed sting. I’d imagine that kinda tipped them off, if they didn’t already know what was afoot. The warrant notes that the affiant (the officer giving the affidavit, in this case Sgt. Gary Haston) recognized Cooper’s voice in the background of the Florence police report audio from his appearances on YouTube and the Never Get Busted Web site. That would lead me to wonder if there may be something to Cooper’s claim of a “vendetta” between he and Sgt. Haston.
I’m still waiting for Cooper’s response to this arrest warrant (he was conferring with an attorney at the time I first published it), but from what I can tell he was not picked up for his sting on Cpt. Nassour in Liberty Hill. I would not be surprised if Nassour takes some kind of civil action against Cooper before this is all over, but he’d need to prove “actual malice” if he pursues a claim of defamation. As a public servant, that will be difficult and costly for him and success is not guaranteed.
After observing this strange series of events, my only conclusion is that Williamson County is going to incredible lengths to make a flamboyant, media savvy activist feel the pain — but fantastically harsh law enforcement is more or less what the county is known for.
Cooper swatted a bee hive and got the stinger. Let’s see how the rest plays out.