Feds require owner of Purple Zone to change statements made to press before granting release; FBI continues investigation into abuse by DEA

Bryon Garrison
Feds require owner of Purple Zone to change statements made to press before granting release; FBI continues investigation into abuse by DEA

Ilana Lipsen, owner of the Purple Zone, was recently arrested and charged with purchasing ammunition while under indictment for a felony. Federal law prohibits the sale of ammunition to a person who is under indictment for a crime punishable by more than one year imprisonment. To date, Lipsen has been charged with possessing synthetic drugs, but denies these charges and she has not been convicted of any crime. Even if Lipsen is found not guilty of the drug charges, she can still be prosecuted for violating the federal ammunition law. Remember, Lipsen is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Lipsen was recently released from custody following the raid on her business, but as a condition of her release, the District Court required her to make a written public statement, changing a number of allegations she made previously regarding the actions of federal agents during the search of her business and seizure of property on May 7th, 2014. She was also required to apologize to agents.

The Brewster County Sheriff’s Department released the following statement:

“The following letter was written by Purple Zone Owner, Ilana Lipsen, no portion of this letter has been changed or edited in any way. Due to the incredible amount of disinformation being spread through the internet we have decided to publish this letter. We hope this answers some of the questions citizens may have regarding the DEA and all law enforcement in Brewster County.” (See letter, pictured above.) The Sheriff’s Department does not elaborate on what “incredible amount of disinformation” has been spread, but lets the letter speak for itself.

In Lipsen's letter, she was compelled to state that she was not present when agents entered her business and did not witness an assault on her sister, Arielle Lipsen, and that she was not present could not possibly know why her business was entered by force. She was further compelled to state that she was present when her sister was arrested and that no weapon was used by agents during the arrest.  She speculated that the mark on her sister's neck was not caused by the butt of a gun but the bruise could have been caused by scraping a tree or by debris in the yard or something else.

She was not required to state that she saw her sister assault the officer. Also as a condition of her release, Lipsen disavowed statements by local business owner,Tom Cochran, and disputed his account of the incident, distancing herself from his opinions, stating that they were entirely inaccurate.

How is it that Lipsen, who said she did not witness what transpired during the raid, unequivocally state that Tom Cochran's account on his Facebook page is totally inaccurate? And why does the Sheriff's Department care what a private citizen writes on their private Facebook page? Don't American citizens have the right to express their opinion, even if it is unflattering to law enforcement agents, and do so without fear of retribution by those agents? Why is Tom Cochran, a reputable local businessman, even mentioned in a federal bond hearing?

In addition, if Lipsen was not present during the alleged assault on her sister, how can she be certain that it did not, in fact, occur? If threatened with prison, the ruination of your business, and flagrant assaults on your family you might agree to say almost anything.

Bruise allegedly caused by a rectangular bush, tree trunk or fense shaped like a gun butt. (Photo:Tom Cochran)
Bruise allegedly caused by a rectangular bush, tree trunk or fense shaped like a gun butt. (Photo:Tom Cochran)

The recent raid on the Purple Zone was undertaken in order to confiscate computers and search for evidence of drug trafficking on the hard drive. Agents had a search warrant and their visit to the business was lawful. So, why did officers turn off the surveillance cameras? If their actions were within the law, their behavior appropriate, why was it necessary to hide their actions?

Is it because if there is no camera, then there is no evidence, except for the gun-butt-shaped bruise on Arielle Lipsen's neck? Agents that took part in the raid deny the allegations of abusive behavior, so let's leave that to the FBI to investigate and decide.  

This newspaper recently reported on the purchase of wearable cameras for local law enforcement officers, to protect them from specious charges of abuse as well as to protect citizens from being abused by rogue law enforcement officers. If the raid on the Purple Zone was done under the direction of the court, with a valid search warrant, and if the actions of the DEA and other officers at the scene were appropriate, and within the law, why would they need to disconnect, or redirect, surveillance cameras?

Video footage would have provided the evidence needed to refute any charges of abusive behavior. That is, unless the allegations of heavy handed behavior just might have some truth to them. 

Which they might. Two FBI agents conducted part of their investigation into the DEA's alleged abuse in the lobby of the office of the Big Bend Courier.

See related article here.   

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