Tennessee vs. Josh Mason: Blatant, Legal Extortion
“I was sleeping in a little that day, around 8:30 a.m. I was awakened by a loud sound, like an explosion. Before I could even open my eyes, I was slammed on the floor and told not to move. The officer had his knee in my back. I was face down in dog urine (where they had scared my dog) so I tried to raise my head. At that moment I was hit in the back of the head with the barrel of an assault rifle, and told not to move. I was dazed. They kept screaming at me, ‘Where are the guns and pipe bombs?’”
“I was then cuffed and brought to my door, that was when I realized that these were cops. There, an officer met me and said they had a warrant and flashed a piece of paper. He then told me they were going to search the property.”
Josh Mason’s home was raided last March. Mason is being accused of planting a cannabis garden in the non-medical state of Tennessee; an accusation he understands carries significant risk in his state. Mason suffers from depression and anxiety, his wife is also very ill.
One of the fundamental rights citizens have in the American judicial system is the warrant. In order to obtain a warrant, officers of the law must prove to a judge they have “probable cause” by showing evidence of a crime. A warrantless search is unconstitutional, and details are important. A single flaw on a warrant can and most would argue, should, get a case thrown out.
Mason contends he has no idea how allegations were made against him and that the warrant was for the house two doors down, his sister’s house. He was not given the opportunity to review the warrant until well after the property was searched and he was sitting in the local jail.
His then 2-year-old daughter was present during the raid.
“My daughter saw it all and was very much hurt by all this. After seeing all this they told my wife, who was not charged, that they needed her to fill out some paperwork at the jail, that it was no big deal, so she had a friend take her and my little girl to the jail.”
“When she got there, a lady was there from Child [Protective] Services (CPS) and at that point my wife was already going crazy. The lady asked her to sign a piece of paper. My wife was then asked to take a drug test, she did, and they took my daughter away, and gave custody to my sister.”
Mason says he and his wife were only permitted to see their young daughter one hour per day and that she would cry and beg to come home at the end of each visit. The Masons had to reluctantly tell their daughter “no” at the end of each visit. CPS eventually returned the child to the Masons after four months.
Josh was arrested and taken to jail on charges of, in his words, “manufacturing, and in Tennessee that comes with intent to distribute. They also charged me with paraphernalia.”
He was released on bond the following day, after a bail bondsmen took compassion for his situation, causing an immediate reaction within the local judicial system. The judge assigned to the case assumed this meant he could afford a lawyer and denied him a Public Defender, even though he financially qualifies.
Mason retained counsel as soon as possible but when he did, a public defender came to him offering a deal. The public defender said the deal included a $500 fine and a misdemeanor, but he could otherwise remain free. Mason agreed but was never told what he would have to provide in exchange, he says he still doesn’t know. When the judge heard that Mason had retained paid counsel, the mystery deal was ripped off of the table. He still doesn’t know why a public defender even originally offered it.
The deal was put back on the table with his new lawyer, but with added stipulations. If he could pay $4,000 to the Lincoln County Drug Fund then he could still get the original deal. If he couldn’t pay the $4,000 then he would be taken to trial and would face the maximum sentence in the state for his crime, 15 years in prison.
Mason says he was offered his freedom in exchange for $4,500 and that if he couldn’t come up with the money he would face prison time.
He took to social media to explain that he needs help raising the money, calling it “extortion.” The prosecution was alerted to his fundraiser and it quickly went through the District Attorney’s office, to the judge and the entire police force. The deal was revoked, but his lawyers and the judge encouraged him to continue to find a way to come up with the money.
He was told using the term “extortion” was what got the deal revoked but if he could keep raising the $4,000 for the Drug Fund, and presented it at court on Jan. 6, perhaps the deal would be back on the table. His lawyer advised him to come up with the money, but not to call it “extortion.”
In the meantime, there is no warrant on file or presented to Mason with his actual address, justifying the raid that uncovered the garden. Mason was never given the discovery in his case, the evidence gathered to request a judge sign off on the warrant. Mason’s attorney has stated he would abandon the case if it is taken to trial, his next court date is Mar. 3, 2014.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Mason is seeking a pro-bono lawyer, or funding for a good lawyer in the area. Suggestions and referrals are welcome.
Donate to his legal fund: http://www.gofundme.com/6o9nzk