06/10/16 Kim Ogg

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Kim Ogg, District Attorney candidate for Harris County (Houston TX) eviscerates the logic of the drug war + Okla report on cops draining credit cards on side of the highway

Audio file


JUNE 10, 2015


DEAN BECKER: [MUSIC] The insane are in charge of the asylum,
The fox in charge of grading the hens.
The cartels need drug war to make their billions,
And Obama says let's do the same thing again.

Oh what will it take to motivate
To examine this century of lies?
What will it take to motivate
You to speak of what's before your eyes?

Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: No more! Drug war! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War!

DEAN BECKER: My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Ah, hello my friends, welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. We will have one of the candidates running for district attorney of Harris County, Houston, with us today. We had with us last week Texas Senator Rodney Ellis, and before I begin the discussion here I just want to say this, that politicians locally, within the state, within the United States, and in fact around the world are beginning to challenge many of the aspects of our criminal justice system, with a specific focus on the mechanism of this drug war.

And with that, I want to welcome the Democratic candidate for district attorney of Harris County, Kim Ogg. Hello, Kim.

KIM OGG: Hello, Dean. Thanks for having me on the show.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Kim, would you agree with me that people everywhere are starting to re-evaluate what we've done with our criminal justice system?

KIM OGG: You know, it's the only topic that I can think of that both Rick Perry and I have agreed on, at least in part.


KIM OGG: Yes, it is true that both Republicans and Democrats seem to be finally getting the idea that the drug war is failing, that it's a waste of money, and more importantly, that the toll it's taking on human lives is real and destructive to our economy and our wellbeing.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you for that. I think you're aware a couple of months back I moderated a debate at the James A. Baker III Institute, which featured our current district attorney, Devon Anderson. And though, you know, we didn't, my questions, let's put it this way, my questions were ran through the professor and a couple of others there. We didn't get down into the heart of things like I really want to. But then again, you, if you were elected, or Devon, in office, you don't write the laws. You don't, you know --

KIM OGG: No. We, the district attorney is not part of the legislative branch. The district attorney is actually part of the executive branch. But that said, the district attorney possesses great discretion about who is and is not charged with a crime. And my position is very different from Ms. Anderson's position. She represents the status quo, which I think is a continuation of the drug war, a failed effort, a giant waste of people and money. And I present a completely new opportunity, and that is to focus our criminal justice resources on real crime, and to stop prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana cases as a way in part to fund that redirection of the money toward what it was originally intended to do, which was keep us safe.

So, I see the war on drugs as having commandeered a lot of the money in the system that was designed to protect the victims of violent crime, the victims of property crime, burglary, theft, identity crimes. So, I see the war on drugs as a double tragedy, almost insult to injury. And we have a very easy, there's a very easy solution, at least when it comes to marijuana. And that is, I intend to stop prosecuting. It is within my discretion as a prosecutor, if I'm elected, to select and to prioritize how we spend our money. So I wouldn't be legislating, I would simply be affirming what we already know. We can't afford the drug war in any way, not locally, not nationally, and especially that's true when it comes to marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly right, and I would submit that even internationally. I wear on my wrist a band I was given from the Caravan For Peace, Justice, And Dignity. we toured 7,000 miles across these United States in an effort to expose, or present, the fact these people are being butchered by the tens of thousands in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador. To allow this drug war to continue, to allow those shipments to be, to come north, and --

KIM OGG: I think law enforcement in this country has to acknowledge the black market, the power of demand, the absolute guarantee of supply where there's demand. And the idea that we're going to deter people's behavior, that we're going to change what they want to do by throwing them in jail, is having such collateral damage, it's creating so many problems in our country. It's the reason we have a labor force that doesn't, can't always keep up worldwide with the need. So, we're really shooting ourselves in the foot. But we're hurting a lot of people while we're doing it, and we're leaving victims of real crime unserved. So I just see it as a double tragedy, but there is a big difference between the current DA and what she is doing, and what could be done, the vision that I propose, a vision of a DA that really focuses on the crimes that matter to our citizens, not just blindly enforcing laws written by the legislature that police find simple to arrest for.

It may be, it may look simple at the front end, but it certainly is complicating things at the back end. Ask any parent of a young person, we fear our children's -- we fear for our children's safety. We fear that if they're pulled over and if they're not using the best judgment, that they're going to basically get a life sentence for a small mistake, that life sentence being a criminal conviction for drug possession or, you know, or worse. So, any parent out there, I think, Republican or Democrat, should be concerned about our children and what we're doing to their futures. And the people we arrest are somebody's children. They may not be ours, but they're somebody's and so, we have to look out for each other, and that's why I'm running for DA.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Again, folks, we are speaking with Kim Ogg, the Democratic candidate for district attorney in Harris County, Houston, Texas. Kim, I wanted to, I don't know, just talk about some of the complications. You know, you're talking about that lifetime label as a drug user, but there are many other contributing factors that keep people in jail, like Senator Ellis last week was talking about why do we charge such high bail, or many times, why do we even charge bail at all for many of these minor charges. Your response, Kim.

KIM OGG: Well, the reason is because the people in charge, the district attorney, chooses to charge them. You know, police arrest folks all day, every day, for a variety of crimes. But what many people don't know is that police officers really can't keep someone in jail without the express permission by the DA. And that permission is called a criminal case filing. So it's actually the district attorney who decides who goes to jail, how long they stay, what they're charged with, and ultimately what the offer or plea bargain may be in such a case. So, holding people who simply can't afford to make bail, for any kind of case, is unconstitutional. We are absolutely violating their rights and that has to stop.

But when we do so for nonviolent drug crimes, like marijuana, we put people in jail for an average of five days in Harris County for a joint. Five days. At a tremendous cost to taxpayers, and that is, that's crazy. And what happens is, when they're in for an average of five days, because they can't afford bail, they plead guilty. And they plead guilty to get out of jail, they can't make bail, and so the only way out is generally to plead guilty. And so what we've got are people pleading guilty whether they are or not to get out of jail. This is wrong, this is crazy.

And then they end up with probation, or convictions, that stick with them on their criminal records through every job interview they have for the rest of their life, because with information technology improving and increasing at the rate we see it, every employer now has access, not for expensive background checks but something as simple as publicdata.com or the Harris County District Court's website. They can look it up, find out if you've ever been charged and received any kind of, if you had a case pending, or whether you've been convicted, probation, etc. The old deferred adjudication, where it was supposed to keep your record clean and prevent, you know, allow you to pay your debt to society and then continue working, because it would be wiped from your record, is all a myth. That ended long ago.

But unfortunately, there's a lot of people, either because their lawyers have told them so, or the urban myths, the former truth that, you know, that used to keep your record clean, they don't know that. And they end up paying for small crimes, convictions or probation for small crimes, forever. And if you're professional, a lawyer, a doctor, a nurse, it's, you have to deal with the licensing agencies if you have something like that on your record. Worse yet, trades. Air conditioning, plumbing, professions that require you to go into people's houses. Even something small like a possession of marijuana conviction, or even probation, deferred adjudication, can keep people from getting licensed for years. That's crazy.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Kim --

KIM OGG: So, we have to stop that. We can do it easily, the DA has the power to do it today.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and --

KIM OGG: And, if elected, I'm going to do it on January First, 2017.

DEAN BECKER: I like the sound of that, and it's for a personal reason. Back in 1970, '71, some friends stole some drugs out of an Eckerd's, I think it was. They were hitchhiking. I picked them up. I got stopped within less than a block. I was charged with robbing that drug store. I pled guilty, because it was the offer they gave me. They said it would be deferred adjudication, however you say it, but I went to Canada a few years back and it's still on my record. They almost didn't let me in the country. They told me to get that fixed before I come back to their country.

KIM OGG: You know, since 9/11, Homeland Security, many, many, many old convictions, probations, deferreds, you know, they are popping up. They're in the national database. You are known to Big Brother, brother Dean. So, it's a problem. And just imagine being, maybe English not being your first language, maybe not having enough money or education really to know how to deal with officials at borders. It's a tremendous problem. So, it's something that we can easily fix. It's all within the discretion of the district attorney, not to decide which laws are right and wrong, but how to spend the limited resources that we have. And until somebody puts some common sense into the mix, we're going to continue to fill up our jails to beyond capacity, so full that we send people to other states to be, I guess, held in their jails, all while awaiting trial, all while they're supposed to be presumed innocent.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and I, we're going to take our midpoint break here, but when we come back, I want to talk about what they've done in other locales, Oakland, and Seattle, and elsewhere, to deal with the marijuana situation. But we'll be back here in just a few seconds.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Breast enlargement, impotence, corneal opacity, deafness, anaphylactic shock, pseudomembranous colitis, bloody diarrhea, rectal hemorrhage, myocardial infarction, and death. Time's up! From Bristol Myers Squibb, the answer, weirdly, is Aciphex, for heartburn and obviously not for your ass-effects. By the way, the number of potential complications is more than one hundred.

All right, again, we're speaking with Kim Ogg, the Democratic candidate running for district attorney of Harris County, Houston, Texas. Kim, I don't know if you got to hear that, but every week we talk about all these drugs with dangerous and deadly side effects that get sold over the counter or on the grocer's shelf.

KIM OGG: Yeah, that sounded horrifying. I don't want to do that.

DEAN BECKER: Well, but if you listen, we, I think last week we did Belsomra, which is a sleep aid, but you might wake up in the middle of the night, go driving, have sex, gamble, come home, and not remember it. You know, but you shouldn't --

KIM OGG: Now, I've represented a few people who may, may have suggested similar defenses. Just kidding. That's just horrible. No, we need to get people off opiates. I'm certainly not suggesting that anybody use illegal drugs. But there is something to be said. Veterans are really needing it. There are people who want marijuana for medical reasons who probably deserve and need marijuana for medical reasons, and there's no reason our state shouldn't be heading in that direction. I think by ending the prosecution of marijuana at a misdemeanor level in the fourth biggest city in the country, third biggest county, we will begin for real the process in Texas of, toward, toward making marijuana legal first for people who need it for medical purposes, and then we'll see what the future holds in terms of legalization for recreational purposes.

But, it's important. It's important to our veterans, it's important to our aging communities, to have access to every resource they can, and we are seeing the horrors of opiates and other types of drugs that are being pushed on us by that for-profit community. And meanwhile, it's only the gangsters and the cartels who are making money, at least in Texas, off of marijuana, and that's terrible. We are feeding the beast, so --

DEAN BECKER: Indeed we are.

KIM OGG: I am for trying to end that.

DEAN BECKER: I'm with you, Kim. Okeh, now, I want to shift gears here a little bit. In the early part of the show we talked about how the attitude is changing, state, locally, nationally, on and on. But there are still those recalcitrant bastards, I don't know what else to call them, that are still trying to increase the mechanism of the drug war. I think at the federal level they're trying to come up with a new compounded look at fentanyl, so say that, used to be it was a 100 grams or a hundred pills, now we want to make it five pills will get you five years behind bars. And they're also going after the synthetics, which, the synthetics exist because of this prohibition, and it's ever-changing. But, your thought there. We don't need to escalate this even further, we need to look at it smarter, don't we?

KIM OGG: We do, we do. I hate the synthetics. We read horrible stories about people having reactions to them, and really crossing over being out of their minds and terrible things happening. So I hate the synthetics, and I think the synthetics are pure result of prohibition, and of this black market economy that makes it scary and dangerous for regular people who really just want to engage in some activity. It's illegal here to smoke marijuana or use marijuana, but they're being driven to that because of the fear of either the illegal trade of drugs, or the legal consequences of using such drugs. So, we're creating monsters, unintentionally. Entire industries and products that never existed before and probably wouldn't exist but for the demand, and the unfortunate way the supply is provided.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, exactly right. And one more recalcitrant story. This is coming from Fox out of Oklahoma, it's just about a minute. I want to get your response to this, Kim.

AMANDA TAYLOR: Aaron Brilbeck joins us live with this story. Aaron.

AARON BRILBECK: Yeah, you may have heard of civil asset forfeiture. That's where police can seize your property and cash without first proving that you've committed a crime, without a warrant, and without arresting you, as long as they suspect that property was used in a crime. Now the Oklahoma Highway Patrol has a device that also allows them to seize money in your bank account or on prepaid cards.

It's called an E-RAD, electronic recovery and access to data machine, and state police began using 16 of them last month. Here's how it works. If a trooper suspects you may have money tied to some type of a crime, the highway patrol can scan any cards you have and seize the money.

LT. JOHN VINCENT: We're going to look for different factors in the way that you're acting, and we're going to look for different, if you know, there's a difference in your story, if there's some way that we can prove that you're basically falsifying information to us about your business.

AARON BRILBECK: As for any money seized:

LT. JOHN VINCENT: If you can prove that you have a legitimate reason to have that money, it will be given back to you.

AARON BRILBECK: Now as for the cost, we did obtain a copy of the contract that the state has signed. It shows that the state is paying E-RAD $5,000 for the software scanners, and then another 7.7 percent of all the cash the highway patrol seizes. Live in the newsroom, Aaron Brilbeck.

DEAN BECKER: All right, once again, we're speaking with Kim Ogg, DA candidate here in Harris County. Kim, you were able to hear that? Kim?

KIM OGG: I was. Let me say, Dean, that revenue based criminal investigation, seizure, and activity is wrong. The purpose of our justice system is to keep us safe, not to make money for our government, and certainly not to make money for the contractors, like the company in this case providing the software, getting a cut, a percentage of all the seized money that then we, who are presumed innocent, have a burden of proof to show there's a legitimate reason for having it. This is crazy. This is Big Brother stuff. We're seeing some movement among lawyers in the legal community to end and change, to rebuff the trends we've seen in civil forfeiture, which are really frightening.

We had a case, we had a situation in San Jacinto County, just up in east Texas, where anybody who was a minority who was driving through the town was basically stopped, any cash they had was seized, and to get it -- and it was done under this drug forfeiture pretext, and basically, people were then, if they had children, they were told if they didn't just go ahead and give up their cash, that their children would be taken to CPS and they'd be jailed. And I mean, this is basically highway robbery that's state sanctioned. Unfortunately, the state prosecutors never, this DA was never investigated or prosecuted. It made 60 Minutes. It just shows the lack of oversight and accountability that prosecutors have, all over the country but especially in Texas.

And so, by winning the district attorney's seat in November, starting in January of 2017, I want to bring, not just a new transparency, but I want to push us forward so that we ensure every policy and every act that the district attorney takes is to protect people's safety, not to get into their pocketbooks so that we can fund county government. That's repulsive, it's unconstitutional, and it's got to stop. We need to lead by example, that's why I want to be the DA.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and again, Kim, I want to touch on part of my discussion last week with Senator Rodney Ellis. He was talking about this situation with the court appointed attorneys, that it's, the judge gets to decide and in essence, he's one and a half -- 75 percent of the equation, by selecting that defense attorney. Your thoughts in that regard.

KIM OGG: The DA's getting a pass here. Yes, the judge's responsibility is to set bail in a case, and we have a lot of judges down there who are just denying people pretrial bonds, simply because the people are too poor to make a cash bond or a surety bond, they stay in jail. And the same bondsman that they pay, or can't pay, are the ones who are donating to judges and to the district attorney. But the DA's kind of gotten a pass on this topic, and I want to explain what a critical, what a vital role the DA plays.


KIM OGG: Every time there's a hearing, the prosecutor and the judge are there. Now, remember, these defendants in Harris County at the bail hearing are unrepresented by counsel. That's a big problem right there. But the even -- to add insult to injury, when the judge asks the prosecutor whether or not they oppose the pretrial bond, even if it's recommended -- a pretrial bond is a PR bond. The prosecutors in our county, we have a policy under Devon Anderson, if -- they have a policy that they oppose every pretrial bond, without specific evidence as to why, they simply disregard the entire risk assessment, that costs taxpayers a bunch of money, and oppose the bond. And then the judges deny the pretrial bond, set a cash bond based off the schedule, that many of our fellow Houstonians can't afford.

So they sit in jail until they plead guilty and get out. And then we've got the whole conviction problem that makes them difficult to employ, house, educate. So it is a self-defeating system that is being driven not just by judges and bondsmen, but by the district attorney. And I'm not going to give her a pass on it any longer.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you for that, Kim. I think about it, you know. We talk about the complications, you can't get a job, housing, etc. And the only, well, maybe not the only, but one of the very few organizations willing to hire a person with a record is the black market, and we wonder why people keep going back to that. But ofttimes, it's their only option, or nearly so. Your response, Kim.

KIM OGG: Well, that's why, that is why prohibition failed when it came to alcohol, and I think we're seeing the same thing, that it creates a monster, that trying to temper people's desires and demands, it's basically un-American, where those desires and demands are not hurting other people. We are in fact creating our own crime problem, black market and the entrepreneurs of the black market, who we used to call gangsters, and now we call them the cartel.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Exactly. Now, we've got just a couple of minutes left and I want to come back to my hope. You know, in the past couple of years, I've made good friends, had great interviews, with Mayor Parker, even Sheriff Garcia. Chief McClelland made international news calling the drug war a miserable failure. And I was hoping to put together a coalition. They have these ideas, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, and I'm not personally for diversion for most drug users, but it's better than what we have. But it takes a conglomeration of local officials to put together a LEAD program. What's your thought in that regard, Kim Ogg?

KIM OGG: Well, we need more diversion for lots of crimes, not just nonviolent low-level drug crimes. I'm for preempting diversion when it comes to marijuana and simply closing the door on putting people in jail. Whether we put them into a work program or an education program, I think there's plenty of resources out in the community, they can do that if they want to. We need to save our tax dollars down at the courthouse, stop people, especially crimes that we're seeing committed by the mentally ill, like this young child over, you know, in the near north side of Sway, stabbed by a local homeless resident out of the, I think, Salvation Army. Tragic case, but it took weeks to find the killer. Wouldn't it have been great to spend more money on that case and get that fellow off the streets, keep that neighborhood out of danger, protect children? And instead, business as usual happens at the Harris County Courthouse.

We fill up our jail with nonviolent drug users every night, along with other people. So, more diversion, more diversion, more bails, let's come up with ways to repay society for crimes that don't do a good deal of harm without giving people convictions that equate to life sentences. And so, diversion to me looks like voluntary work programs, and I'm for what I call greening criminal justice. I want folks who are charged with low-level crimes out on the bayou, picking up litter, pulling out invasive species, helping beautify our city, away from highways, away from kids, churches, schools. Let them pay their debt for these small crimes, and go about their business. Let our city gain from their bad judgment and send them on their way. We do not have to create a conviction factory. I want to end it. More diversion, and let me tell you, for the rapist and the robbers and the folks who are endangering our families, it's going to be a sad day when I'm elected because that's who we're going after next. That's who we should be going after now, and that's who I will go after in January.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Kim, ten seconds, please tell folks where they can learn more about you, perhaps your website.

KIM OGG: KimOgg.com. I'm running for Harris County District Attorney. I'm the Democratic nominee, pushing for no prosecution for misdemeanor marijuana, and let's take that money and direct it at cleaning up our city, testing all of our backlog of rape kits, and going after the really dangerous criminals. They live among us, and we have to protect our families, especially in these days and times.

DEAN BECKER: All right. That's it, folks. We've got to close out now. I want to thank Kim Ogg. Please go to KimOgg.com. And as always I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, please be careful.