David Sobelman is twenty-three years young and expecting his first child with his girlfriend. Yet, thanks to the raging “war on drugs”, he won’t get to witness the birth because he’s currently in prison on a parole violation for possession of a controlled substance.
While on the surface Sobelman’s case seems pretty cut and dry – it’s not. There are some serious questions that arise when you look at the events that lead to his arrest, two of the charges being dropped, the remaining charge enhanced and his parole revoked.
In this post you’ll see how a harmless trip to the gas station turned into the fight of one man’s life and not because he was causing a disturbance or harming another. It happened because he was profiled by Thomas Quintana – a Columbia, MO Police employee.
Surveillance video shows Quintana stalk Sobelman from the moment he walks into the Petro Mart, claiming to have seen a baggie of marijuana in his hoodie, and waits to stop (or arrest) Sobelman until he’s outside (where cameras are unable to capture the interaction). Quintana states repeatedly, in his report and on his own body camera footage, that he’s heard of and/or knows about Sobelman, clearly indicating he was profiled.
I’ll talk about how the police officers are paid by the gas station as ‘off-duty’ officers, yet, target unsuspecting customers for ‘crimes’ that have nothing to do with, nor are against, the business. Lastly, I’ll talk about how the drug war encourages this police profiling, how enhanced sentences are merely leverage for interrogations and how this racket is ruining people’s lives.
David Sobelman currently faces 10 years to LIFE in prison because on February 28th, 2016 he was profiled by Quintana when he entered the Petro Mart gas station. You don’t have to take my word for it, Quintana states it in his report:
“On 2.28.2016, Sergeant Robert Fox and I were working off-duty in our department issued uniforms at 500 North College (Petro Mart convenience store). While doing so, I observed an individual who came into the gas station, identified as David Sobelman. I had previously received information from various street sources advising Sobelman had been involved in the distribution of controlled substances of marijuana and/or possibly cocaine.“
While Quintana will go on in his report to talk about a baggie in Sobelman’s pocket, claiming to have been able to identify that it was, in fact, marijuana, even though he’s more than 3 feet behind him, I question this. Even if Quintana saw ‘a’ baggie, it would have been difficult to positively identify the substance from Quintana’s location in the store. See video below.
The major factor, IMO, proving Quintana didn’t know what was in Sobelman’s right pocket – other than a baggie, at best – is that he didn’t arrest Sobelman immediately. I believe Quintana intended to stop Sobelman just outside the store because he wasn’t certain about the contents of the baggie.
What he did know is that no camera would record the interaction outside the front of the store (primarily gas pumps are recorded, not directly outside entrance). This way if Quintana was wrong, and the baggie didn’t’ have drugs, he could just let Sobelman go. If he stops him in the store and is wrong, the action is caught on video and a complaint could be filed.
For those thinking Quintana was doing good police work here, spare me. I don’t believe that Quintana ever saw a baggie in Sobelman’s pocket. The report was written after Sobelman was searched and arrested. During that search is when the drugs were found, it was over 2 minutes after Fox turned his body camera on that Quintana mentions seeing a baggie in his pocket. This is AFTER HE FOUND THE BAG IN HIS POCKET!
Before that Fox stated that “when a police officer tells you to stop you stop.” Sobelman says he was immediately grabbed upon leaving the store and told to “stop” but, at the same time and without notice, Fox leg sweeps him with both officers ending up on top of him. No conversation was had before the takedown to the ground happened, according to Sobelman. Quintana’s report would lead you to believe that an exchange happened stating:
As Sobelman exited the business, Sergeant Fox and I made contact with Sobelman. I told Sobelman that I needed to speak with him and he inquired as to why. I advised Sobelman that I wanted to speak with him in reference to the marijuana that was in his pocket. Sobelman began to BACK AWAY from us. Sergeant Fox and I grabbed Sobelman’s arms in order to take him into custody. As we did so, Sobelman began to tense up and pull away from our grasp. I used a join manipulation arm restraint while grabbing Sobelman’s arm in order to get him into custody. Sobelman continued to resist by pulling away and clenching. Sergeant Fox utilized a leg sweep as we took Sobelman to the ground. Sobelman continued to tense up, however, we were able to place him into handcuffs.
The video from Officer Fox’s body camera proves this narrative as false. As you watch the video below, notice that Sobelman didn’t get very far out the door, that he’s face down, pointing away from the building and suffered an abrasion to his left cheek (which Fox states was from the concrete). These are facts that we can further base a course of events over.
Since Quintana’s report was written to fit his narrative we have to go by what is provable. Starting with the cut on Sobelman’s left cheek, the fact that he’s facing away from the gas station entrance and pointed at the gas pumps from the start of Fox’s body camera footage.
This means that Fox’s leg sweep happened with Sobelman’s back to the gas station and that the left side of his face hit the concrete. Quintana’s report stating that Sobelman “began to back away from us” is clearly false. In order to back away Sobelman would’ve had to been facing the officers, but we know that’s not possible because if he was, he would have been facing the gas station or had a cut on the back of his head after being taken to the ground.
The only way Sobelman gets a cut on his left cheek, still faces the gas pumps and is within feet of the front entrance is if what Quintana says is false. If the officers got in front of Sobelman he would have been “backed away” into the gas station entrance. If Sobelman turned to face the police after leaving the building he would have ‘backed away’ into the view of the gas station pump cameras but he didn’t. We also know he was leg swept forward and not backwards thanks to the cut the officers gave to his face.
The evidence supports Sobelman’s story that one officer said stop, as both officers grabbed him and simultaneously was taken to the ground. Once the drugs were found the report and arrest narrative were written to justify the profiling.
Yet, if that’s not enough to convince you there’s even more evidence that Sobelman was profiled by Quintana in his body camera footage taken at the police station. See video below.
It seems clear as day, once the layers are pulled back, that Sobelman was profiled by Quintana.
Especially since the resisting arrest and possession of marijuana charges were dropped. We all know the tide is turning on marijuana and excessive force is commonly talked about in mainstream news these days. By dropping those charges the state keeps the officers in good light, since the excessive force and marijuana won’t be brought up, and leaves the remaining possession charge (of approx.02 grams of cocaine). That charge not only is an easy sell to a jury but allows for the enhancement (which also expires in Jan 2017).
Furthermore, it seems reckless of Quintana if Sobelman were the ‘big bad drug dealer’ he claims he is that he’d arrest him on personal possession charges; risking the federal case he later claims is ‘no joke.’ Did Quintana think he could flip him? Maybe that with his parole and an enhancement charge he could cage the man he hears about without actually doing real police work? Or maybe he thought he’d get a promotion?
All of those are “possible”, I guess.
What’s also possible is that Quintana would benefit financially from his interaction with Sobelman. Quintana and Fox were working “off duty” but in fully uniform via a program through the police department. They are paid for by the business directly but have the ability to use their police powers. What I’d like to know is if these officers are double banking off these “off duty” gigs.
I filed a freedom of information request to see how many hours these officers logged that week with the CPD. The officers work the gas station from 10 pm – 3 am (ish) three days a week but are allowed to clock into regular duty for “report” time (and I’m sure any resulting court time). Without the hours worked, and to whom who pays for it, one can only assume that Columbia police might be incentivized to make arrest during these ‘off-duty’ shifts to log a few extra overtime hours on the regular paychecks?
Even if it’s not one of those shady, illegal, acts it most certainly is how the “war on drugs” operates. It preys on those who are in the system (probation/parole), relies on the word of people the police threaten and continually perpetuates its own existence. The war on drugs is nothing more than a revolving door that has big money tied to it.
No matter how you look at this case it’s a tragedy. Sobelman is most likely going to lose years of his life. There’s no getting him out of the parole violation no matter how unnecessary, illegal or wrong it was to stop Sobelman at the gas station. There’s no way Sobelman will get to see the birth of his child.
There’s only a slim legal hope that the possession of controlled substance charge is dropped. Otherwise, Sobelman faces 10 years to life in prison if he goes to trial. He can currently plea out the charge for 6 years in prison but doing so would put him in this exact same position. Waiting for the “war on drugs” to victimize him again.
This is how the war on drugs ruins lives.
Consider calling the Columbia, MO Police Department and Prosecutor’s office to let them know you don’t want to pay to lock up personal drug users and that police profiling is wrong!
Columbia, MO Police Department
Phone: (573) 442-6131
Boone County Prosecuting Attorney
Phone: (573) 886-4100