Bonnie Jonas-Boggioni and Giorgio Boggioni – 65-year-old and 66-year-old husband and wife from Plano, TX – are Ohio State Buckeye fans. They were driving through Tennessee, returning from the funeral of Jonas-Boggioni’s mother.
As they were driving along I-40, about 40 miles east of Memphis, police spotted a sticker on the Boggioni’s car. It was of a leaf, the same leaf that Ohio State Buckeye football players wear on their helmets. It’s a leaf from a buckeye tree.
The police pulled them over, thinking the leaf was a marijuana leaf. But that wasn’t all. Next thing the couple knew, two black SUVs containing officers wearing “body armor and guns” pulled up behind them. From USA Today:
“What are you doing with a marijuana sticker on your bumper?” one of the officers asked.
That led Jonas-Boggioni and her husband to explain the meaning of the Ohio State sticker, which is given as a reward to OSU players. To help the puzzled officers connect the dots, Boggioni stepped out of the car to show his 2002 national-championship sweatshirt, one “complete with a Buckeye leaf,” Blundo wrote.
Chagrined, the officers excused the unwarranted stop by explaining that an officer in another jurisdiction had called in a report of the Boggionis’ sticker – believing the older couple to be at the forefront of some sort of massive marijuana ring, it seems.
“Police hunting drugs should know that a Buckeye leaf – which has five leaflets – doesn’t look much like a marijuana leaf, which typically has seven leaflets and a narrower shape,” Jones-Boggioni told Blundo. Well, duh.
There are approximately 1.5 million people who are currently serving time for drug related offenses. More than 4 million are on probation. Of those serving, more than one in 10 are serving time for marijuana or hashish.
For some police agencies in Tennessee, the drug war gives cops a reason to legally steal from innocent drivers under the pretense that cash or valuables in the car might be drug related. In 2011, Nashville’s Channel 5 ran an investigative report which said that I-40, the same highway on which the Boggionis were stopped, has become notorious for unwarranted searches and seizures.
State law allows police to seize valuables if there’s simply suspicion that they were acquired through drug trafficking. They target out of state vehicles in west-bound lanes under the assumption that drugs that come from Mexico are traveling the east-bound lanes. They aren’t interested in seizing the drugs, only the drug money. In fact, 10 times as many stops are made in the west-bound lanes. A portion of the money seized is then turned over to the District Attorney’s office to fund the drug task force. Police even risk their jobs if they don’t seize enough cash, causing turf wars between various police agencies.
Even if the driver is innocent, it is up to him to take legal action to get the valuables back.
Here’s the shocking video:
The Boggionis were lucky. Their vehicle wasn’t searched nor were their belongings stolen by the police.