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Police Thought Cotton Candy Was Meth. She Spent 3 Months in Jail for Their Mistake.

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A Georgia woman spent more than three months in jail on drug charges after sheriff’s deputies mistook congealed cotton candy they found in a car she was riding in for methamphetamine.

A state crime lab eventually showed that they were wrong. Now, she’s suing.

In the lawsuit, filed this month, Dasha Fincher alleges that she was wrongfully arrested and incarcerated in December 2016, when she and her boyfriend were pulled over by Monroe County sheriff’s deputies. The deputies found a blue, crystal-like substance in a bag on a floorboard in the car and evaluated it using a roadside test kit, which seemed to confirm that it was methamphetamine.

Ms. Fincher said it was most likely two-day-old cotton candy discarded by the children of her friend, from whom she had borrowed the car. The next thing Ms. Fincher remembers, she was in handcuffs.

“I knew it was cotton candy, and for him to come back and say it was meth, I really didn’t know what to say,” she said in an interview on Wednesday. “I kept thinking, ‘This is crazy, I’ll get out tomorrow.’ Then when I wasn’t out by Sunday, I said, ‘It’s a holiday weekend, I’ll be home Monday.’ Then every day turned into ‘I’ll be out tomorrow.’”

Ms. Fincher joins a number of others who have claimed wrongful arrests after innocuous objects have tested positive for drugs — a list that includes chocolate chip cookies, tortilla dough and breath mints, according to The Washington Post[1].

A 2016 investigation[2] by ProPublica and The New York Times found that field test kits — the kind officers use during traffic stops — are often unreliable, yet many prosecutors accept guilty pleas based solely on evidence from the kits.

Ms. Fincher is suing the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, three deputies and the manufacturer of the roadside drug test, Sirchie.

Monroe County and its sheriff’s office both referred questions to a lawyer, Benjamin A. Vaughn. Mr. Vaughn did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. Sirchie also did not respond to questions on Wednesday.

It was Dec. 31, 2016, when Ms. Fincher and her boyfriend set out to run a few errands, she said, including picking up a pawn ticket for a friend and antiques from Ms. Fincher’s aunt. They were heading to the friend’s neighborhood near Forsyth when they were pulled over by two deputies who saw a car with “very dark window tint,” according to the incident report.

The deputies checked both Ms. Fincher’s and her boyfriend’s driver’s licenses, which were both suspended, and asked to search the car, which Ms. Fincher agreed to.

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Dasha Fincher, 41, is suing Monroe County for what she says was a wrongful arrest.

In the report, one of the deputies said that Ms. Fincher and her boyfriend were “nervous” and that they “started to shake” when he asked them to step out of the car. Ms. Fincher disputes both claims.

Then, a deputy pulled out the plastic bag with the blue substance in it, put it on the hood of his car and tested it, Ms. Fincher said.

“He just said, ‘Could you all tell me why this has tested positive for methamphetamines?’” Ms. Fincher said. “We were like, ‘It shouldn’t be, it’s just cotton candy.’”

She was arrested around 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and taken to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Jail, where she was held until April of last year. She said she told jailers, inmates and deputies that she had been wrongfully arrested. She could not afford the $1 million bail that was set.

While she was in jail, Ms. Fincher missed the birth of her grandsons and hurt her hand when she punched a concrete wall in frustration, she said.

Nobody believed her story, Ms. Fincher said.

She also said that while she was behind bars, her daughter had a miscarriage.

“It seemed like everything was going on and I wasn’t there,” she said. “I wasn’t there for my family when they needed me.”

On March 22, a state crime lab found that there was no methamphetamine in the bag, vindicating Ms. Fincher, according to the lawsuit.

For reasons that are not clear, Ms. Fincher was held in jail until she was released on April 4, according to the lawsuit. On April 18, the charges were dropped.

The district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Ms. Fincher said she was not represented by a lawyer for much of her time in jail, and eventually a public defender took the case. The public defender’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

But the arrest is still on her record, Ms. Fincher said.

“It’s made me not trust law enforcement,” she said. “I’ve never really had a problem with that. I get kind of, like, paranoid-scared, like butterflies in my stomach, when a police officer gets behind. I’ve never been like that.”

References

  1. ^ The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
  2. ^ 2016 investigation (www.nytimes.com)

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster

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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

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Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”

References

  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (www.nytimes.com)

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake

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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.

References

  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (akleg.gov)

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes

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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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