Exclusive: Cooper to release City of Odessa from $40 million civil suit
Barry Cooper, a former Texas police officer who turned against the drug war and executed a reverse-sting operation against the Odessa police department, will walk free on all related charges, an attorney for Ector County announced Tuesday.
Cooper, perhaps the nation's best-known drug war activist thanks to his "Never Get Busted" DVDs, set up a fake marijuana grow house in Odessa, wired it for sound and video, then used an anonymous letter to bait police into a Dec. 2008 raid.
The letter was delivered to a local church, which eventually turned it over to police. Not long after that officers came crashing through the door.
Cooper, his wife Candi and another individual who assisted their operation were all arrested two months ago on the Class B misdemeanor charge of Making a False Report to a Peace Officer in relation to the Odessa sting. Candi's arrest took place at the family's apartment in south Austin and Barry turned himself in days later at the Texas capitol building, with a typical showman's flare.
A detailed report on Cooper's arrest was featured by RAW STORY.
The decision against prosecuting Cooper was made by Ector County Attorney Cindy Weir-Nutter, who had not returned a phone call at time of publication.
"The statute in Texas requires that the false report be made during an investigation, and there was no ongoing investigation," she told The Odessa American. "You have to be able to prove all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt."
"The county attorney's office did not believe they had enough facts or evidence to convict Barry or Candi," James Gill, Cooper's Austin-based attorney, told RAW STORY. "In other words, they did not commit any crime."
"We're very excited that the county attorney's office has decided in this way," he added.
"We knew we were right," Cooper told RAW STORY. "We knew we designed that sting to where we weren't breaking any laws and we knew that when the Rangers came and tricked Candi and forced me to turn myself in ... We knew they were wrong too. We're thankful that a prosecutor had enough guts to say, 'This isn't right.'"
Cooper added that he would now drop the City of Odessa from a $40 million civil suit he filed against numerous entities and individuals, including the Williamson County Sheriff's Department, the Odessa Police Department and the Texas Rangers.
"[Odessa] decided not to prosecute us so there's no point in dragging them through this lawsuit, but we're going to turn it up on the Texas Rangers for false arrest and retaliation, because it's clear that's what they did."
"It's about time we had some good news," Candi Cooper said. "We have been through it lately. To hear this, it's very wonderful for our family."
Odessa resident Tammy Grimes, who was also charged for her supporting role in the sting, said she was "extremely excited" at the outcome.
"I'm very thankful for the good work that [Weir-Nutter] and her staff did," Grimes said. "I'm very happy and pleased."
The Texas Rangers may yet refile the charges in Odessa. The maximum penalty for Making a False Report to a Peace Officer in Texas is six months in prison.
Both Coopers are still being prosecuted by Williamson County for the same charge in a different case, where Barry claims to have caught a police officer stealing $45 from a reportedly suspicious package, as part of another "KopBusters" sting carried out in 2009.
That officer, Cpt. George Nassour, had Cooper served with civil suit papers on the evening of August 24, alleging slander and libel.
Updated from an original version.