‘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.
“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.