In November 1997, police officers in the Manatee County, Florida Sheriff’s narcotics division known as Delta Division stopped a truck driven by 37-year-old Karen O’Dell who was driving home from her job as a construction worker.
They searched the truck for drugs, but found nothing.
About an hour later, the officers came to O’Dell’s Bradenton home. While two officers spoke with her at her door, two other officers went into her garage and came out with cocaine they said they found in the vehicle. They charged her with possession of cocaine, destruction of evidence and battery for allegedly hitting one of the officers with her truck during the stop on the way home. The truck was seized by the officers.
In March 1998, O’Dell, who had no criminal record, pled no contest and was sentenced to a year of probation and 50 hours of community service.
Prompted by complaints from O’Dell and others who had been arrested by members of the Delta Division, which had been touted for its crackdown on the drug trade in Manatee County, the FBI began investigating. Ultimately, five sheriff’s officers assigned to the unit were charged and convicted of planting drugs on people they suspected were involved in the drug trade.
One of the officers admitted that he had planted the drugs in O’Dell’s truck.
On February 15, 2000, O’Dell’s no contest plea was vacated and the charges were dismissed.
O’Dell later settled a civil lawsuit against Manatee County for an undisclosed amount.
– Maurice Possley