Barry Cooper’s conversion from dogged narcotics agent to outspoken pot advocate may seem stranger than fiction.
But Cooper’s story — including his no-holds-barred, if sometimes quixotic quest to unearth police corruption in the Lone Star State — could be headed for the big screen.
Given Cooper’s penchant for attention, it’s perhaps no surprise that he announced his newly inked movie deal as something of an aside in a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Austin. In the lawsuit, Cooper, who has twice been arrested this year on charges stemming from his infamous sting operations, accuses lawmen around the state of conspiring to retaliate against him and his family.
The 30-page civil petition, which Cooper filed without an attorney, demands $40 million in compensation for a litany of civil rights violations. Cooper said he will drop the suit “if all the officers involved are fired.” He also promised to use any damages he is awarded to fund his next attorney general campaign “and create a program that feeds the hungry prisoners of this nation.”
“It’s not about money,” Cooper said in a phone interview Monday. “I’m filing this lawsuit because it’s my only recourse. I can’t go punch these cops in the nose. I don’t have a jail to put them in.”
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a Texas Rangers investigation that landed Cooper and his wife Candi behind bars on misdemeanor charges. Both were charged last month with one count of false report to a police officer in connection with a hoax the Coopers carried out against the Odessa Police Department in December 2008. Cooper is accused of filing a false complaint to lure police officers to a faux marijuana grow house.
“The Odessa Police Department conspired with the Texas Rangers to illegally arrest and falsely imprison Barry and Candi because Barry and Candi embarrassed the Odessa Police Department by exposing their corruption,” Cooper claims in the suit. “The conspirators include several judges, many law enforcement officers and agencies, several lawyers and many civilians.”
A Texas Rangers spokeswoman declined to comment. Cpl. Sherrie Carruth of the Odessa Police Department referred questions to city spokeswoman Andrea Goodson, who declined to comment. The city of Odessa is also named as a defendant in the suit.
Cooper also was charged this spring with filing a false report in connection with a separate police hoax in Williamson County.
After several years of locking up drug users, Cooper has advocated for the legalization of marijuana, contending that jails are full of nonviolent criminals. He has spoken openly of his own marijuana use and gained national attention with the release of his DVD series “Never Get Busted,” a video designed to help viewers conceal their drugs, avoid profiling and fool canines searching for narcotics.
In Odessa, Cooper is known for his role in KopBusters, which advocated the release of Yolanda Jean Madden, an Odessa woman who recently pleaded guilty to methamphetamine charges after she was granted a new trial and released from federal prison. Madden, who spent nearly four years behind bars before her release, is expected to be sentenced to time served at a hearing Wednesday.
Cooper maintains Odessa police planted drugs on Madden in an effort to frame her.
“She pled guilty out of necessity, not because she’s guilty,” Cooper insisted Monday when asked whether Madden’s guilty plea vindicated Odessa police investigators. “If the government had such a good case on her to put her in prison the first time, then why would they offer her a plea this time?”
Despite the pending criminal charges, Cooper said he is excited about his movie deal. Cooper said he signed a contract with Hollywood directors Franck Khalfoun and Brett Ratner, a filmmaker known for his work on “Rush Hour 3” as well as “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Ratner also was the executive producer on 81 episodes of the TV series “Prison Break,” according to the Internet Movie Database.
“This caught the interest of lots and lots of people,” Cooper said of his switch from drug sleuth to pot advocate. “There’s never been a story quite like it.”
Khalfoun, in a phone interview Monday, said Cooper “personifies what the country is slowly coming to.”
“The journey he’s taken to get there, I think, is a fascinating testament to how things can change,” Khalfoun said.
Khalfoun said he hopes to have a script finished within the next few months. It’s not yet clear who will portray Cooper, though A-list names have been thrown around.
“The timing is right,” Khalfoun said. “Public opinion about the subject — legalization of marijuana — is in the forefront. This movie, I think, will be ready at the right time.”
By Jim Mustian