Nine drivers transporting cannabis through a popular freeway corridor in California have corroborating stories about local police who have allegedly seized cannabis and cash illegally, possibly to the profit of the city.
Several of the drivers who have had their assets seized on the 101 in Sonoma County have come forward with stories describing events like being pulled over illegally and having their cannabis and/or cash seized with no charges filed.
Blackbelt Redhead writer Kym Kemp first broke the story earlier this year by reporting several articles surrounding a seizure and consequent police statements following the event. After the initial articles, KQED reported on the illegal seizures collaborating with the North Coast Journal and independent reporter Kym Kemp for a large expose written last week.
In February, Kent reported on the December incident when Zeke Flatten was allegedly pulled over by two officers without identification or badges in a unmarked black Ford Police Interceptor. The three pounds of cannabis he was carrying was set aside for testing in Santa Rosa. The two officers, who stated they were with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, took the cannabis and left Flatten without a citation or an arrest. Two weeks later, 30 pounds of cannabis was listed as evidence by Public Safety Officer Joseph Huffaker, and an incident report was filed by Rohnert Park officer, Sgt. Jacy Tatum that largely departs from Flatten’s story, including mentioning a large amount of concentrated hash that was never included as evidence.
Another incident of an allegedly illegal seizure of cannabis from Rohnert Park officers was in December 2016, when Huedell Freeman was transporting 47 pounds of cannabis from his farm in Mendocino County to a dispensary in Los Angeles. He was accused of touching the white line, and officers asked if he was carrying cannabis in his car. Even with the proper paperwork to show, Officer Huffaker and his partner seized the cannabis, but Freeman was never prosecuted.
As the stories of illegal seizures were rolling out, Tatum’s history of seizing cash and cannabis from licensed farmers came into the light.
“When I say highway robbery, I really mean it,” said Sonoma County defense attorney Izaak Schwaiger. “Officer Tatum has been involved in dozens of questionable traffic stops both above and below the Mendocino-Sonoma County line, where he has seized marijuana farmers’ product and/or their cash and given them no receipt and no criminal charges were ever brought.”
The ATF has stated they had no part in the December incident. Both officers mentioned have been placed on leave and are being investigated by the city. The issues have yet to be resolved.