drugs

Drugs
9:45 am
Fri November 9, 2012

In Austin, 1 in 4 Pot Busts Doesn’t Lead to Arrest

Austin police have the discretion to ticket - instead of arrest - people for smaller amounts of pot possession.
flickr.com/fiverweed

Voters in Colorado and Washington state elected this week to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In Texas, the drug remains very much illegal. But a state law passed five years ago has resulted in thousands of people in Travis County avoiding arrest when they’re busted with small amounts of pot.

Back in 2007, State Representative Jerry Madden (R-Plano) authored a bill to give police officers the option to cite and release someone caught with less than four ounces of marijuana. 

“The reason for that was to save costs for some of our [police] departments, so that they had more people that would be available on the streets, instead of taking the time to bring very low-level offenders in and book them,” Madden said. “They were going to be released very shortly anyway.”

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Drugs
4:16 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

As Pot Initiatives Pass in Colorado and Washington, Mexico May Reconsider Drug Policy

Could legal U.S. pot – even in a few states – alter U.S.-Mexico relations?
flickr.com/stayfadedphotography

The head of incoming Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's transition team says that Mexico may re-evaluate its policies regarding marijuana export to the United States.

Currently, Mexico works with the United States to discourage the growing of pot within Mexico, and to prevent its shipment across the border to the United States.

But today Luis Videgaray, a top aid to Peña Nieto, characterized votes by Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana use and personal cultivation as a game changer.

The Washington Times reports that in remarks to a Mexico City radio station, Videgaray said that "obviously we can't handle a product that is illegal in Mexico, trying to stop its transfer to the United States, when in the United States, at least in part of the United States, it now has a different status."

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Austin
12:05 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

Yassine Brothers' Drug and Money Laundering Trial Begins

Jury selection in the trial of the Yassine brothers - Sixth Street club owners charged with money laundering and drug and firearm distribution - is underway.
flickr.com/kevharb

Jury selection begins today in the trial of three former downtown Austin nightclub operators.

The Yassine brothers – Hussein, Hadi and Mohammed Yassine – were among ten people arrested in March on drug, weapon and money laundering charges.  The Yassines, who operated several nightclubs including Spill, the pirate-themed bar Treasure Island, Kiss and Fly and more, have entered not guilty pleas.

The sensational nature of the charges – and the media attention they have attracted – are already a point of contention. The Austin American-Statesman, which notes that over 120 citizens were summoned to U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks’ courtroom to form the jury pool , writes:

Early questions focused on pre-trial publicity in the case, with Sparks asking prospective jurors if they’d been following coverage of the investigation, including a story that ran on the front page of today’s American-Statesman.

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Mexico
11:11 am
Wed August 15, 2012

Caravan From Mexico Seeks to Condemn U.S. Drug Policy

Mexican poet, Javier Sicilia, speaks before a crowd of supporters in Mexico City on May 8th, 2011.

Carrying the weight of his murdered son’s memory, a Mexican poet is leading a national caravan — with stops in Austin and several other Texas cities — to publicly condemn American drug policies.

Javier Sicilia and his Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, a group whose members have been affected by drug-related violence in Mexico — including several who have lost loved ones — will descend on the state Capitol on Aug. 25. The group aims to raise awareness of how it says U.S. drug policy, particularly the war on drugs, has affected Mexico.

“In order to protect the 23 million drug consumers in the United States, this nation initiated this war that has destroyed Colombia and which now in turn is destroying Mexico, Central America, and is also menacing to destroy in the medium term the United States itself,” Sicilia wrote on the movement’s website. “The burden we bear upon us contains the weight of our dead, of our missing ones, of those displaced, of our criminalized and humiliated immigrants.”

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Mexico
3:34 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Wave Of Violence Leaves Dozens Dead Across Mexico

Police officers and soldiers stand around a white van containing the dead bodies of several man while it is being hauled onto a tow truck in San Luis Potosi on Thursday.
Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 1:39 pm

While the exact number of dead seems to be in flux, there is no question that the last few days have been incredibly bloody across Mexico.

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1:07 pm
Wed June 27, 2012

Jovita's Hopes to Reopen, Defendants Say

Lead in text: 
The Austin American-Statesman reports that the proprietors of Jovita's Mexican Restaurant – currently at the center of an alleged heroin distribution ring – would like to reopen the popular South Austin eatery. (It's unclear how this would occur, since the restaurant was one of several assets seized last week.) Amanda Pardo, wife of alleged ringleader Amado “Mayo” Pardo, was released on bond at a hearing this morning.
The family that owns Jovita's restaurant and music venue, which has been closed since it was raided last week amid allegations that it was used as a hub for a major heroin trafficking ring, wants to reopen the well-known spot on South First Street for business, a lawyer said following a federal court hearing today.
Crime
4:38 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

APD: Jovita's Owner at Center of Heroin Ring; Sold Drugs in Restaurant

The 19 suspects in today's heroin bust, "Operation Muerte Negra."
Austin Police Department

Regional officials alleged today that Amado Pardo, the owner of Jovita’s Mexican Restaurant in South Austin, led a prison-gang connected heroin ring that moved between $3,400 and $6,250 worth of drugs daily.

Officials from the Austin Police, the FBI, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Office of the Inspector General and other agencies announced 18 arrests and the seizure of over $1.5 million in assets in a press conference this afternoon, “including a well-known restaurant on South First Street, Jovita’s,” said APD Assistant Chief Sean Mannix.  

Patrick Loll, an FBI assistant special agent for Central Texas, said Pardo lead a “heroin distribution network that has operated here for over a decade.”

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crime
4:50 pm
Fri June 15, 2012

Bye Bye Buddy: AISD's First Police Dog Retires

After a distinguished career with the Austin ISD Police Canine Unit, “Officer Buddy” is retiring.
aisdpolice.wordpress.com

After an 11 year career on the Austin ISD police force, Buddy’s career as a canine detective has concluded.   

The 13 year-old English Springer spaniel, who is trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and powder used in firearms, will now spend his days as a house dog.  But he leaves behind some big paw prints. 

“He has quite the resume,” says Detective Travis Pickford, Buddy’s handler. "Over the past 11 years, Buddy has located murder weapons and helped on numerous felony narcotics investigation." 

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Latin America
8:05 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Mexican Crime Reporters Risk Becoming the Story

A woman lights a candle during a tribute to slain Mexican journalists at the Monument of Independence in Mexico City on May 5. The vigil took place to protest violence against the press after the brutal murders of four journalists in Veracruz state.
Sashenka Gutierrez EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 8:37 am

Mexico is reeling from another round of brutal murders of journalists. Four journalists and photographers who covered the police beat have been killed in eastern Mexico's crime-ridden state of Veracruz.

There's a new call for the federal government to take measures to protect journalists in a country where more and more reporters censor themselves out of fear.

The ceremony to remember the most recent killings took place last weekend in Mexico City on the steps of the Monument of Independence between statues depicting peace and law.

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Crime
4:58 pm
Tue March 27, 2012

Reports: Yassine Enterprises Funds Channeled to Hezbollah

The properties owned by Yassine Enterprises; all but the Stack Burger Bar are currently closed.
Image courtesy yassineenterprises.com

The local drug and money laundering bust of Yassine Enterprises has taken an international turn, as authorities allege proceeds from the organization’s nightclubs, drugs, and money laundering operations went overseas to fund militant Lebanese group Hezbollah, an organization designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.

KEYE reports on the arraignment of the Yassine Enterprises defendants this morning:

During bond hearings in federal court in Austin Tuesday, an Internal Revenue Service investigator said Hussein "Mike" Ali Yassine and Mohammed "Steve Austin" Ali Yassine sent money in $2,500 increments to their uncle, Mohammed Ishmael in Lebanon.  Authorities say he is associated with Hezbollah, a militant group and political party in Lebanon. 

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Crime
3:47 pm
Tue March 27, 2012

Austin Police Show Off Seized Cash, Guns and 'A Tremendous Amount of Heroin'

The Austin Police Department seized nearly $8 million worth of drugs in three raids in March.
Photo by Divya Darsi for KUT News

Pounds of pot, kilos of cocaine and bundles of bills were on display at an Austin police station today.

The department’s organized crime division was showing off what it obtained from three major drug seizures over the past month. APD Assistant Chief Sean Mannix said officers also captured more than six-and-a-half pounds of tar heroin.

"In talking to the other officers and detectives, supervisors in the room, none of us in our memories can remember a seizure of heroin that large in the city of Austin,” said Assistant Chief Mannix. “It’s a tremendous amount of heroin."

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AM Update
9:36 am
Fri March 23, 2012

AM Update: Federal Drug, Money Laundering Charges for Sixth St. Club Owner

The owner of several Sixth Street bars is accused of operating a drug and money laundering syndicate
Photo courtesy flickr.com/ kevharb

Sweeping Drug Bust Targets Nightclub Owner, Family

Ten individuals connected to a downtown Austin club circuit were arrested yesterday on drug trafficking, money laundering, and firearms charges. 

Yassine Enterprises, which owns Pure, Spill, Kiss & Fly, Stack Burger Bar, Treasure Island, Hyde, Fuel, Malaia and Roial, is at the center of a coordinated effort between Austin police, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the FBI, IRS, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The investigation dates to 2007, and those taken into custody yesterday include Yassine Enterprises owner and President Hussein Ali "Mike" Yassine, his brothers Hadi Ali Yassine and Mohammed Ali Yassine, their assistant Marisse Marthe Ruales and six others.  Cocaine distribution and over $200,000 in money-laundered cash are two charges in the investigation, and authorities suspect the clubs involved were fronts for these and other illegal activities.

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Austin
2:19 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Alleged Austin Cocaine Ring Accused of Distributing Five Kilos a Week

U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman serves the Western District of Texas depicted above.

14 Central Texans are facing federal charges, after being arrested for suspected involvement in what authorities describe as an Austin area cocaine distribution network. At least 6 others are facing state charges in connection with the distribution ring.

“The evidence will suggest that there was over 150 kilos of cocaine involved in the conspiracy and, as such, these individuals were charged at the highest level,” says Robert Pitman, U.S. Attorney with the Department of Justice’s Western District of Texas.

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Austin
8:54 am
Wed February 22, 2012

AM Update 2/22/12: Cost of Boardwalk Rises, Juárez Bullet Strikes El Pasoan, Meth Seizures at Border

A rendering of the proposed Lady Bird Lake boardwalk.
Image courtesy courtesy of the Trail Foundation, townlaketrail.org

Mounting Expense for Lady Bird Boardwalk 

In 2010, City of Austin voters ushered in Proposition 1, a project to construct a boardwalk trail over and along Lady Bird Lake. Back then, the estimated cost of the project was $17.4 million, but as of today, the lowest bid (of eight) is $20.7 million. That's a 19% jump.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the cost increase can be attributed to two main factors: Oil prices (no surprise there) and a construction industry still trying to correct itself post-recession. Builders are finally doing things they put off during those lean years, like replacing old equipment, and that's made government building projects more costly. Still, city officials aren't worried about coming up with the extra money. 

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Politics
8:35 am
Mon February 20, 2012

Female Candidate Battles Machismo In Mexico

Josefina Vazquez Mota celebrates her selection as the presidential candidate of the National Action Party in Mexico City on Feb. 5. She's the first woman to run for president in Mexico on a major party ticket.
Alfredo Estrella AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 10:15 am

Earlier this month, the National Action Party of Mexico nominated the country's first ever female presidential candidate, economist Josefina Vazquez Mota. As Vazquez Mota accepted the nomination, she vowed to be the first woman to become the Mexican head of state.

The PAN, as the conservative party is known in Spanish, is Mexico's current ruling party. It has also put forth a woman, Isabel Miranda de Wallace, in Mexico City's mayoral race. Both elections take place on July 1.

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Politics
4:52 pm
Fri April 29, 2011

Senate Approves "Bath Salts" Ban

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman

Don’t trust the name “bath salts,” warned state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls.

“Bath salts has nothing to do with taking a bath and has nothing to do with salt,” Estes said. “Bath salts” are a drug that can have effects similar to cocaine or amphetamines and can be bought legally online or in smoke shops.

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