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Mar. 25 2010 - 2:36 pm | 15,771 views | 0 recommendations | 28 comments

‘KopBusters’ Couple Lose Son Over Misdemeanor Pot Charge

Update (May 3, 2010): Fox News quotes my reporting on Barry Cooper … And gets it wrong

Barry and Candi Cooper, a married duo well-known in the world of drug reform activism, have temporarily lost custody of Candi’s youngest child due to misdemeanor charges stemming from a recent “KopBusters” sting operation against a police officer in Williamson County, Texas.

Pot smoking moms and dads of America, pay attention: This could happen to you too. Although the Coopers’ case is a bit more unusual than most and not all Child Protective Services entanglements over marijuana will result in children being taken or custody being modified, it can and does happen.

Zachary Johnston, 7, has cerebral palsy and exhibits the intelligence of a four-year-old, according to Barry. He had been sent away for a brief visit with his father, David, when the embattled activists were paid a visit by Child Protective Services on Friday, March 18, they said.

Zachary Johnston, age 7 (courtesy photo, Candi Cooper).

“That’s when they told us,” Candi sobbed. “That’s when we knew.”

Because of Barry’s recent misdemeanor arrest over allegations of a false police report, Williamson County officers gained entry to the couple’s home and discovered a couple of marijuana cigarette butts during their search, for which both husband and wife were charged in Travis County. Police also took the Coopers’ electronics and digital media and managed to keep the former officer behind bars for over 48 hours.

Barry repeatedly insisted that Williamson County police reached out to ”instigate” the whole affair, tipping off Mr. Johnston’s lawyer to a potential opportunity for his client. I have not been able to confirm this particular statement and it is entirely possible — even likely — that Mr. Johnston or his attorney heard about the arrests from other sources.

I’ve known about this since the day it happened, but in the interest of fairness and considering my lack of access to Mr. Johnston, I waited until court documents became available before breaking this news. Finally released, their text is enough to make just about any liberal-minded parent cringe.

In the document, an affidavit in support of ex parte relief filed with a court in Upshur County, Texas, Mr. Johnston contends that because of Barry and Candi’s standing as nationally-known marijuana activists and their high (no pun intended) level of comfort with the drug, they pose a danger to Zachary. He cites articles on the duo’s exploits published by Cannabis Culture and Maxim, noting in particular that when Barry and Candi met, she was his “pot dealer.”

He also says: “The Coopers attend cannabis festivals and take Zachary with them and other children that live in their household.” Of course, they adamantly deny this.

Additionally, Mr. Johnston makes what appears to be a factual error on page three in claiming that “one of” the duo was arrested in Williamson County for marijuana possession. Those charges were filed Travis County, against both of them. Their offense rose to the level of a Class B misdemeanor and no evidence of trafficking was discovered.

The officers originally gained access to the family’s home by telling a judge that Barry’s voice could be heard in the background audio of a telephone report about a suspicious package — the same package Cooper was using as bait to test an officer to see if he would steal money or tamper with evidence. Barry claims Williamson County police repeatedly asked about a tent in his garage and suspects they anticipated discovering a large quantity of marijuana.

“This recent [arrest] crosses the line from advocacy to illicit drug abuse,” Mr. Johnston concludes. “I have tried to tolerate the Coopers and their lifestyle as long as I can. My son, Zachary, does not deserve to be raised in a household that uses illicit drugs, abuses drugs, and where they derive the majority of their income on the advocacy of how to engage in illegal conduct.”

And he’s got every right to make that claim, which will absolutely be taken seriously considering standing law. However …

“I smoked pot with that motherfucker eight months ago!” Cooper jeered over the phone. “I have a witness, his ex-girlfriend. And she’s gonna testify. We do that shit away from our kids, and everything we’ve ever used for our shows is a prop.”

The Coopers both go into greater detail about the whole matter in a video blog published late Wednesday.

Both Barry and Candi separately corroborated each others’ account of their visit with a CPS agent, whose report allegedly saved them both from a felony arrest for child endangerment.

“If that report had come back to the district attorney saying something’s going on, we would have both been arrested that day,” Cooper claimed. “But nothing was going on, so that’s what the report says.”

Barry called the agent an “angel from God.”

That document will be published here when it is made available. Meanwhile, the couple has a chance to reclaim Candi’s son during a court hearing on Tuesday, after which they hope to conduct the further custody battle in Travis County. As these things usually go, there is always a chance the Coopers will not succeed.

Further injuring their spirits: Zachary’s eighth birthday is on Sunday, March 28, but he will not be with his mother, who has retained custody of the boy since his birth. She and Mr. Johnston divorced in 2007, but had been separated since 2003.

“I’ve been crying every day since this happened,” Candi said, audibly holding back tears. “It’s hard for me to even talk about it. I’ve been there for him all his life, with his disability and all his difficulties. I’m going to get my son back.”

Mr. Johnston’s four-page affidavit in support of ex parte relief follows. The images were modified to erase handwriting added after being printed.

####


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  1. collapse expand

    Marijuana has NEVER killed anyone, all the Medical proof that is not paid for by the Government states that Marijuana is much safer then pills.

    Also I know these people and they have more love for that child then the State could ever know.

    Why are we doing this to people while the Government lies to us?

    Could it be so the pill makers can keep making $1.724.92 PER MONTH for ( 90 ) ” Marijuana pills ” that only has THC, the item the government say’s has no medical value and only cost $1.98 each to make?

    Plus let’s not forget how the Government grows Marijuana and Gives it out as Medicine.

    In closing one other thing to note is the Federal Law as we all know that trumps State Law, and in speaking of that here is a note.

    Under the Federal Controlled Substance Act; Schedule 1 drugs MUST meet this to be in this level;

    21 USC Sec. 812 01/22/02

    TITLE 21 – FOOD AND DRUGS CHAPTER 13 – DRUG ABUSE PREVENTION AND CONTROL SUBCHAPTER I – CONTROL AND ENFORCEMENT Part B – Authority To Control; Standards and Schedules

    Sec. 812. Schedules of controlled substances;

    (B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

    So as it was written by Congress Marijuana should NOT be a Class 1 drug with the Federal Government growing this and 14 States with Doctors wanting this to be used over that of pills.

    If you are not mad about this lie from the Government then sit by and allow your State to go broke.

  2. collapse expand

    Using needy children as pawns in custody battles and other divorce-related proceedings is unconscionable. The law enforcement officers, social workers and everybody else involved in the case described by Stephen C. Webster should be ashamed of themselves.

    I have never used marijuana or any other illegal substance, so my anger has nothing to do with that aspect of the case. And that’s the real point here–the custody of a child should not revolve around who does or does not smoke marijuana.

  3. collapse expand

    Anyone watching television has to admit that our government is quite comfortable with exposing our children to deadly drugs all the time. Can you even watch the news without hearing of the benefits of some deadly drug being offered to cure imaginary diseases? I guess the difference is that it’s hard to make as obscene a profit if you can just grow it in your backyard. And so the state destroys another family in it’s quest to impose it’s sick definition of “family values” upon the rest of us. Patriotism is loving your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. I think it’s been a very long time since our government has deserved it, this bogus charge is a good example of why I think that’s the case.

  4. collapse expand

    If your in a custody battle I would advise you to clean your act up. Custody battles are notoriously ugly and dirty situations. That being said, IF you advocate for something that is still illegal in this country and your participate in said illegal activity while in the midst of a custody battle your an idiot. On top of the that if you are the outspoken advocate for a still illegal activity in the midst of a custody battle and you live in Texas your completely insane.

  5. collapse expand

    The Coopers are now facing the reality of supervised visits due to their drug reform activism.

    Make no mistake, they’ve been hurt badly by this. But this tale isn’t just about them. No matter the tone of truth of his argument, Zachary’s father likely feels that same pain.

    That’s why I was hesitant to write about this: it’s personal and involves people who are not public figures. Everyone this drama touches (sans police) holds points of sympathy, from my perspective. This is not a one-sided story by any means.

    I’ll have more — including the CPS document — on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

  6. collapse expand

    Whom does Child Protective Services protect? Our children? No way! They protect themselves and their thirst for power. I have dealt with members of CPS. They are ruthless and abusive. The more families they destroy, the happier they are. Sound familiar? It is common among drug warriors. As we all know, the drug war has caused more harm to more people, including children, than any of the illegal drugs ever have or ever will. The increasing power of CPS is taking us in the wrong direction.

    If a pack of Marlboros or a bottle of Jack Daniels were found by CPS these drugs would be overlooked. Why? The usual! They are legal.
    Those who wish to “protect our children” always ignore the addictive and toxic effects of these narcotics. They also seem to forget that alcohol induces violent behavior, spousal and child abuse. Cannabis induces calm and peace.

    We do not need CPS to protect us from harmless materials like cannabis. Raising children should be left to parents, not the government. The CPS should do as its name implies. Protect our children! Instead, our children need to be protected from the CPS.

    If CPS and all of the other drug warriors truly cared about the well-being of our children, they would prioritize ridding families of alcohol and tobacco, not cannabis.

  7. collapse expand

    Can they move to California? In good old CA pot may be legal by November. Texas, I fear, will always remain in the Dark Ages.

    The knotty problem is that, whatever you may feel about marijuana personally, it is still illegal. If the Coopers were not pot smokers but, for example, shoplifters or drunk drivers, a custody problem would arise for them in precisely the same way. Illegal activity is not beautiful in the eyes of Family Court judges.

    I agree that the law should be changed, but they have to act like adults and clean up their act, at least as far as their public activities are concerned, if they want to keep their son. And it is not that I don’t agree wholeheartedly with thous pointing out the evils of alcohol and prescription drugs. But the sad truth is, there is still a double standard for marijuana in the eyes of the legal system.

  8. collapse expand

    thank you willamson county for saving us from sin

  9. collapse expand

    Chris Rock has some good advice that applies to this situation. A little common sense here people! We all need to give up some of the things we like to do in order to be good parents (IMHO).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOx6OM01M5M

  10. collapse expand

    How many “parents” hurt or injure their children when they drink? and then say “I’m sorry” and get away with it because it’s legal.

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    About Me

    My name is Stephen. I am a News Junkie and an assistant editor at RawStory.com. My work has appeared in publications both printed and online, including The Dallas Business Journal, the cover of Fort Worth Weekly and in the pages of The Dallas Morning News, Austin Monthly, Envy Magazine and others. I also covered the rebirth of the U.S. peace movement first-hand for The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, starting with the city's first public screening of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' all the way through the end of Cindy Sheehan's stay. I've seen my reporting discussed in publications such as Time, Wired, Reason, The Washington Post, D Magazine, The Guardian UK, Media Matters, ThinkProgress, Alternet, Cannabis Culture, 1-UP, Destructoid, Kotaku, GameSpot, G4TV and many others. I am currently open for freelance assignments and actively seeking a literary agent. You can follow me on Twitter @StephenCWebster, or from Facebook.com/StephenCWebster.

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