By Jon Christian Ryter
August 8, 2008
Prince George's County, Maryland police officers did not get the "no knock" warrant they sought from Circuit Court Judge Albert W. Northrup but they broke down the door of Berwyn Heights, Maryland Mayor Cheye Calvo's home on July 29 anyway. The police were looking for 32 lb. of marijuana. Adding trauma to injury, when they entered the home, the cops shot the mayor's black Labrador Retrievers. Neither dog was trying to attack them. In fact the younger dog, 4-year old Chase, was shot by officers as he tried to escape into the kitchen of the home. Seven-year old Payton was shot by the police the moment they entered the house. Police officers said the large dogs "intimidated them," and without being threatened by either docile pet, cops shot both of them.
At that point, the case starts to get bizarre. The Prince George's County SWAT team, together with Sheriff's Dept. narcotics enforcement officers had good reason to suspect that the mayor and his wife had a large stash of marijuana in their possession because they—the cops—delivered the package containing 32 lb. of marijuana to the mayor's house (posing as courier deliverymen). The box was addressed to the mayor's wife, Trinity Tomsic. Police placed the package on Calvo's porch and waited until the mayor came home, saw the package, and carried it into his house. This was one of those evenings that Calvo's wife, Trinity, the Director of the Maryland Dept. of Human Resources, worked late. She was not home when the SWAT team crashed through the door, shot the household pets and "captured" the contraband and handcuffed her husband and mother. In addition to serving as mayor of Berwyn Heights, Calvo is also the Director of the SEED Foundation. The Calvos were not your typical "drug dealers." In point of fact, they weren't drug dealers at all. And the police, who saw arrresting a mayor and his state official wife for drugs was the type of career-boosting arrest that could land a Sheriff or police chief in a berth as head of the police department in a major US city—with a major six-digit income—knew it. This appeared to be one of those law enforcement opportunities without an apparent downside. Calvo's lawyer, however, appears to have found one.
Several State and county law enforcement agencies acaross the United States began the interstate tracking of the package after a police dog in a parcel shipping facility in Arizona detected the presence of drugs in the container. The package was addressed to Trinity Tomsic at her home in Berwyn Heights. Believing that a woman named Tomsic had purchased 32 lb. of marijuana from a grower in Arizona, police confiscated the drugs and, posing as drivers for the parcel service, delivered the illicit cargo themselves thinking they may have nabbed the big fish in what appeared to be a local drug pond.
Cheye Calvo unwittingly brought the drugs into his house. All he knew was that someone delivered a parcel addressed to his wife. In light of what happened to the Calvos, that is a scary thought because you know you would have done the same thing. A package arrives addressed to your spouse. What do you do? You do what anyone would do—you bring the box, heavy as it was, into the house. And, since it was addressed to his wife and not him, Calvo did not open it. He left it for his wife, believing what was in the box was something she had ordered. (A woman would have opened the box. Men just aren't that curious.)
The raid was a joint effort between the Prince George's County police narcotics squad and the County Sheriff's SWAT team who unlawfully entered the mayor's home after being denied a "no knock" warrant by Judge Northrup. Tomsic was not the intended recipient of the drug package. Police were already investigating the possibility that the intended recipient of the drugs was an independent contractor working parttime as a deliveryman for the parcel delivery company in the Prince George's County area.
When Calvo brought the package into his house cops followed a few minutes later, shooting his Labrador Retrievers and handcuffing the mayor and hs mother-in-law, who saw the SWAT team just before they hit the door. She screamed. Cops said this indicated to them that the old woman was warning other drug gang members the cops were on their way in. It never seems to dawn on the police that when you break into the home of a law abiding citizen, screaming and fear is a normal reaction to burley men with guns kicking in your door.
Calvo, who remained shackled throughout the ordeal, was interrogated for hours as police, who were in his residence illegally, violated his home (since a sitting judge had already denied them the method of entry they chose to use) by illegally searching it, looking for other drugs, contraband, money and customer lists and/or drug source data, which they were convinced they would find. The only contraband in the home was the unopened package which the police delivered and, of course, took with them when they left. Police did not arrest Calvo or his wife when she arrived home from work. (Maybe, if they think about it for a while, the Prince George's County, drug enforcement officials might think they've discovered a new and effective method to gain access into suspected drug houses. Deliver the drugs to the door like they did in Berwyn Heights, kick in the door, and arrest the drug dealers after they accept the Cannabis Trojan Horse by bringing the narcotics into their home. That will simplify law enforcement in chronic drug-infested areas in the Maryland suburbs north of DC.)
A Prince George's County law enforcement source now admits the Calvos were not the intended recipients of the marijuana. On Wednesday, August 6, Prince George's County Police arrested an independent contractor hired by a local parcel service as a deliveryman and one other man in connection to a string of drug parcel deliveries containing a reported 417 lb. of marijuana to residences over the past month. As police investigated the deliveryman and his accomplice, they also uncovered a parallel scheme to send marijuana through what appears to be another package delivery system, or at least, from another location. They seized an additional 100 lb. of marijuana. As of 10 a.m., Thursday, August 7 police had not released the names of the two men who were apprehended in the Berwyn Heights incident nor in the other incidents as well.
While the police now clearly know that none of the residents in the Prince George's County area who received drug parcels were involved in the drug trafficking scheme, Timothy Maloney, the attorney for Calvo and Tomsic said the arrests confirm that Tomsic was "...a random victim of identity theft at the hands of major drug traffickers. This crime,:" he added, "was compounded by law enforcement when it illegally invaded the Calvo home, tied up the mayor and his mother-in-law, and killed the family dogs. The Calvo family is still waiting for an explanation from law enforcement as to how this could possibly have happened."
Prince George's County police had been involved in the other aspects of this case for some weeks and they already had a parcel service deliveryman under surveillance. Which means, police should have realized none of the people who received strange deliveries that were almost immediately picked back up by the deliveryman, were involved.
Understanding the breathe of the County's liability, Prince George's County Police Chief Melvin C. High refused to rule out that the mayor and his wife were involved in the drug scheme because of the violation of their rights by police, and because police officers killed family pets who had not shown any aggression towards the police officers. While he later admitted that "...[m]ost likely [the Calvos] were innocent victims," High's initial ploy was to tar the Calvos as best he could under the circumstances by suggesting there were still unanswered questions that caused him to hesitate—condemnation by inference of wrongdoing. He told the media that "...From all indications at the moment, they had an unlikely involvement, but we don't want to draw that definite conclusion at the moment."Yet, neither High nor County Sheriff Michael A. Jackson apologized to the Calvos for the raid that resulted in the destruction of their dogs. Jackson specifically defended the shooting of the dogs by his deputies claiming that his deputies were "engaged" by the dogs. Deputies claimed they were attacked by the first dog when they entered the house and the other dog (Chase, who was fleeing from the gunshot) when they made their way into the other rooms of the house. Calvo insists his dogs were peaceful and the deputies had no provocation from either pet. Maloney said it was demonstrably false to suggest the dogs were threatening the officers, adding that the statement of the deputies was defensive and outrageous. In addition, deputies signed a sworn statement at the conclusion of the incident stating they provided Calvo with a copy of the warrant authorizing the search of his home. It didn't happen. Sheriff's deputies brought the warrant to Calvo several days after the incident.
It is not enough that the Cheye Calvo and Trinity Tomsic have grounds to sue Prince George's County for the illegal breaking and entry of their home, the unlawful warrantless search of their home, the shooting of two household pets and the trauma the ordeal placed on Calvo, his wife and her mother. Every member of the task force that that participated in that unconstitutional raid needs to be fired, and those in charge of the raid—and the officer or officers who killed the pets—must face charges and jail time. And if the State of Maryland chooses not to pursue criminal charges against those officers, the people of State of Maryland—who must understand the next warrantless, no-knock entry might be at their house—must take it upon themselves to rid the State of the bureaucrats who believe police officers have the right to abrogate the Bill of Rights when it is convenient for them to do so.
© 2008 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights Reserved