Barry Cooper turned himself in to the Texas Rangers this Friday morning. Cooper is a former narcotics officer turned marijuana advocate. Over the past two years, he has been setting stings to catch corrupt cops breaking the law for a online reality show he calls “Kopbusters” (read the Observer feature here). The Texas Rangers came to his house earlier this week with a warrant for him and his wife for ‘filing a false report to a peace officer,’ a Class B misdemeanor, for a sting they did on the Odessa police over a year ago. They arrested Cooper’s wife Candi, after using a ruse to get her outside, but Cooper refused to come out. (This is the second time law enforcement has used heavy tactics to arrest Cooper for a misdemeanor, evidence that the agencies are taking his work personally.)
In true Cooper fashion, he invited a gaggle of friends and reporters along for the event this morning. At 8:30am, Cooper met his posse at the Starbucks on 10th and Congress in downtown Austin. Cooper had the words “Jury Nullification” written on his forehead in black marker, and a t-shirt that read “Constitutional Obedience.”
Cooper stepped out on the street, lit a cigarette and headed towards the steps of the capitol. However, when we got there, the capitol steps were off-limits – someone had called in a bomb threat earlier that morning. But the threat played to his advantage – the local TV news media were already there, and so Cooper’s press conference doubled in size. (One reporter asked Cooper’s lawyer if Cooper himself had called in the bomb threat to attract more press, the answer was ‘No.”)
Cooper stood and explained why he was going to jail. And then explained the term on his forehead: “We are calling on Americans to use a powerful weapon called jury nullification. A jury member can vote not guilty—even if there is evidence the defendant committed the crime— if one disagrees with the law. If it bothers your conscience, as a jury member you have more authority than judge . . .The jury is only true check on government power. So citizens of America, get on a jury and, for all non-violent drug crimes, vote not guilty.”
After that, his lawyer approached one of the State Troopers guarding the capital, and they handcuffed Cooper and took him to jail. He should be released in bail later today. If convicted, Cooper faces up to six months in jail.