Skip to comments.Student mistakenly held on drug charge settles with Phila.
Posted on 01/04/2007 4:58:32 AM PST by grjr21
A Bryn Mawr College student wrongly jailed for three weeks on drug charges by Philadelphia police has settled her civil-rights case for $180,000.
Janet H. Lee, now a senior, was arrested at Philadelphia International Airport in 2003 after screeners found three condoms filled with white powder in her carry-on and city police said field tests showed that the substances likely contained opium and cocaine.
Lee was held in lieu of $500,000 bond for 21 days, until further drug testing proved that her unlikely story - that the powder was just flour - was true.
As part of an exam ritual in her dorm, Lee had filled the condoms with flour to make a phallic toy that freshmen squeezed to reduce stress. She had found it so funny that she had packed them to take home to California to show friends after exams.
Lee's civil-rights case against the city had been scheduled for trial today in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.
"Everyone wants their day in court, so it was difficult" to settle, in part because she will never know why the flour initially tested positive for drugs, she said yesterday.
"It's like everyone was at fault, but no one was responsible," Lee said.
At least, she said, the settlement means she will not have to testify about what it is like to spend three weeks in a city jail for a crime she did not commit, particularly after spending much of the last three years working to heal herself psychologically.
"Part of going to trial would have meant that I have to acknowledge losses and admit that this had damaged me," she said. "I didn't want to have to admit that."
Lynne Sitarski, chief deputy of the city solicitor's civil-rights division, said the city "is not admitting wrongdoing or liability."
The settlement, the city lawyer said, was "in the best interests of the city."
Lee, now 21, was not physically injured while jailed, said her lawyer, Jeffrey Ibrahim.
One of the settlement provisions allows Lee to meet with city police to discuss what happened.
"Leadership is going to sit down and listen with her to see what went on," Ibrahim said.
Lee has heard criticism that carrying white substances onto an airplane was a foolhardy act. But, she said yesterday, she did not know at the time that drug dealers often carry drugs in condoms. "I was naive, really stupid," she said.
Nonetheless, her lawyer said, the police drug test should not have detected drugs.
"Under the circumstances, something went terribly wrong," Ibrahim said. "We're trying to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again."
Asked if others had successfully sued or settled claims involving false-positive drug tests in Philadelphia in the last two or three years, Sitarski said that no one had.
Lee, a comparative literature major, said she planned to use the settlement money to pay for graduate school, though she has not determined what kind of graduate work she will pursue. Law school is an unlikely option, she said.
"... Lee, a comparative literature major, said she planned to use the settlement money to pay for graduate school, though she has not determined what kind of graduate work she will pursue."
And what kind of career will she pursue? Teaching others comparative literature???
Oh well. I won't have to worry about interviewing/hiring her.
The police should have been able to determine what it was in far less time than 3 weeks.
And where were her parents? Why wasn't she out on bail the next day?
Yep, she learned that the Drug Warriors are tyrants who have the power to ingnore the Constitution and jail someone who broke no laws.
$500K bond... maybe her folks didn't have $50K to put down to get her out with a bondsman... Just a guess.
Generally they only needed 10% of the bail.
3 weeks is quite awhile...
She should go on to study for a degree in culinary arts. Maybe Emeril will hire her to massage a flour-filled condom on his show to add a little spice to it.
"Would you like fries with that?"
>>As part of an exam ritual in her dorm, Lee had filled the condoms with flour to make a phallic toy...
Bullfeathers. This was a setup. She wanted to sue the govt and get some attention.
When in college back in the '70's, my exam stress was usually incorporated into cold beer and dancing after hell week.
The drug "warriors" seem to have forgotten to control the southern border for decades.
You misunderstand the 10% thing.
If they PAY (non refundable) a bail bondsman 10% ($50,000 in this case), he will put up the 1/2 million. It gonna cost you $50,000 to get out of jail, and you ain't getting it back.
I think she was innocent. I've heard of those stress toys made from condoms. If it was a setup, then it was a successful one, as the police were apparently caught lying about the results of a drug field test.
Everyone knows that to really reduce stress you should fill 40-50 ziplock baggies with "2-fingers" worth of oregano... /sarc
Actually, drug dealers don't carry drugs in condoms, mules do when transporting drugs across borders, BUT THEY CARRY THE DRUG-FILLED CONDOMS IN THEIR STOMACHS.
The whole point of the condom thing is to be able to conceal the drugs inside of a person. The fact that she had them in plain view in her luggage should have raised doubt about their use for contraband transport in a drug enforcement agent of even minimal intellectual capacity.
Just proves my contention that drug cops are the same class of low-life they are supposedly protecting us from.
Gee: I hereby volunteer to go to Bryn Mawr to allow the girls to squeeze the real thing and release their stress.
Please explain how the HELL flour tests positive for opium and coke! Sure sounds like a setup; there had to be a trace of each sufficient to get a reading.
I'd like to know what type of field test they used to ID the substance. My guess is that the cops assumed it was drugs and any test result was changed to "yup, its drugs" becasue it fits a prejudiced opinion than a negative test result. Same type of thinking going on in Nifong's head in the Duke case. She's guilty no matter what the evidence says.
The on;ly thing I can think of is that they used a portable FT-IR spectrometer for field analysis. The specral libraries may contain examples of narcotics cut with flour. The sample spectrum from the condoms would correlate to the spectral signal of the flour used to dilute the drugs and a false positive would be obtained. The technician doing the field test only knows how to push the buttons and not visually inspect the spectra for consistency, nor does a confirmatory test on the material. The company, Smiths Detection, makes these instruments.
You scoff but if everyone went the IT/CPA/MBA/EE routes then we would soon have no culture. btw...I majored in Comp Lit and managed to earn enough to retire at fifty (never taught a day either). How are you doing?
Yeah, but back then the drinking age was reasonable. Today's alcohol regulators in the USA treat adults aged 18-20 like children.
The flour tested negative and the cops lied about the result.
"Please explain how the HELL flour tests positive for opium and coke! Sure sounds like a setup; there had to be a trace of each sufficient to get a reading."
The idea that drug tests are infallible is naive. All tests have some false positives. There is always the possibility of contamination by the person(s) or instrument(s) involved in the tests; and the assumption of guilt by an officer doing the field tests can bias the result with the well known placebo effect.
If there "were a trace" the later detailed testing would have reveled that and the city wouldn't be paying $180,000.
Or it didn't test positive at all.
I own and operate two companies that I started from scratch. One with investors, the other was boostrapped -- with one other manager as an LLC.
We enjoy a considerable net worth that is a private figure.
I have no intention of ever 'retiring'. It runs in the family. My dad left industry at 59, taught at NC State for 12 years, did consulting for 8 more, and now builds museum quality wooden ship models in a house we bought for them.
FWIW, my education was physiology in Marine Science ... which I enjoyed greatly but did NOTHING with. And I teach as well ;-)
I am glad you enjoyed your comparative literature. Remember it's captains of industry who accumulate wealth and make the Arts possible ... to extend 'culture'. Extending and enhancing culture is a valued enterprise on its own.
Why is this a civil rights case?
"The fact that she had them in plain view in her luggage should have raised doubt about their use for contraband transport in a drug enforcement agent of even minimal intellectual capacity."
Would someone of minimal intellectual capacity be able to understand that there are complete idiots who _have_ tried to bring drugs in essentially in plain sight?
"Just proves my contention that drug cops are the same class of low-life they are supposedly protecting us from."
You've got a frighteningly low standard of proof.
Well, the government certainly made it easy for her!
"If there "were a trace" the later detailed testing would have reveled that and the city wouldn't be paying $180,000."
You been living in the United States long?
Woops, woops, woops, I keep forgetting I'm on FR. Let me adjust my mindset:
Stupid f*cking pigs, this is just further proof that stupid f*cking pigs are just stupid f*cking pigs. Bring on more stories about stupid f*cking pigs getting killed by illegal aliens, at least that gives their lives some value.
There, I need to just create a couple of form replies to cut-and-paste into cop threads since that's where 99% of them go.
But, what the h$ll, they can still sign up with Uncle Sam and go to kill terrorists, handle explosives and all......but, "OH God NO!", not ever be responsible enough until 21 to consume alcohol. Go figure.
You can bet the city would rather go to court than pay $180,000 if there were actual traces of drugs in the flour. Traces of drugs would give them probable cause.
I am now an independent film maker and I (like the vast majority of indies) have never received a dime of public or corporate funding. I know scores of writers, artists, actors, musicians, photographers, poets, choreographers. I do not know even one whose efforts are subsidised in that fashion. We will all make it or not based on our own effort.
I am glad that you're doing well too.
Isn't that the way it always works?
You have no idea how bail works. The 10% is paid to a bondsman, and it is his to keep forever.
Are you really thinking that her parents should pay $50,000.00, which will never be returned, because of a police mistake?
In other words, she was Nifonged.
I didn't say it was a "civil rights case".
I do think the cops have a duty to determine if "drugs" are really flour as the person claimed a bit quicker than 3 weeks while she is held in jail with $500,000 bail.
That isn't reasonable.
Those test kits are 98.9% accurate when particular procedures are followed in their use.
I've always said that proper handling of the test kits can give false positives if LEO's are too careless with cross contamination from handling previous true positive samples.
This is an issue of training, but no way, this girl should have been arrested on the spot and jail until at least all 3 condoms were tested twice on the scene.
Ah. So the City of Philadelphia is then expected to pay for her ignorance? She bears no responsibility for what happened?
Oh. And how do we know this wasn't a dry run for smuggling real drugs?
The samples came to the lab from the Philly police, who wanted them to test positive for opium and coke. That's all it took.
Welcome to dealing with liberal bureaucracies, lil' darlin.
By all means she should be prosecuted under every law that prohibits the carrying of a rubber full of flour (three counts).
It's not against the law to point a squirt gun at a cop at night, either. Do you think that person bears no responsibility for what happens when they do?