On December 5, 2017, two men claiming to be ATF agents stopped Zeke Flatten, a former undercover officer, just north of Frog Woman Rock south of Hopland, and robbed him of three pounds of Humboldt County marijuana. Yesterday, one of the men alleged to have been involved, a former Rohnert Park police officer, Joseph Huffaker, was back in court facing new federal charges that could add up to over 90 years in prison.
Flatten told Redheaded Blackbelt in January of 2018, just a month after he was robbed, that, at the time he was stopped, he first thought the men were pretending to be officers but were actually criminals and he worried that his life might be in danger. “For probably the first 30 seconds I wondered, ‘Do I need to break out and run on foot,’” he explained. “I knew it wasn’t right. There was not any kind of identification.”
But then he saw something that he said reassured him. “…I saw their license [plate] was California Exempt,” he explained. “I felt relief. These are cops.”
He said he could tell the plate was authentic. “I never once doubted the plate,” he said. “I knew that it was real. It wasn’t paper. It wasn’t cardboard. It had screws…It was on a police [type] car…I think my nervousness or anxiety decreased when I knew that at least one of them was a legitimate cop.”
Having been an undercover investigator in Texas for several years when he was in his twenties, Flatten said he instinctively trusted law enforcement and believed that at the worse he was facing paying an attorney because he was operating in a legal gray area.
But, the officers acted oddly. “They never ran my name to see if I was wanted nor did they search any other part of the vehicle, or my person,” he told us at the time.
That stop, Redheaded Blackbelt‘s subsequent articles, and the attempted coverup that followed have already led to one officer, Sgt. Jacy Tatum, former Rohnert Park officer of the year and head of a drug interdiction team, pleading guilty to tax evasion, making a false report to a federal investigator, and conspiracy to commit extortion under the color of law.
Huffaker, however, continues to plead innocent to all the charges against him. (See here for the most recent indictment from the FBI.) In the indictment, the US Attorney explains to the Court, “After the publication on February 11, 2018, of two articles [by Redheaded Blackbelt]…Tatum, in the presence of HUFFAKER, contacted his and HUFFAKER’S supervisor to get approval to issue a press release… .” The Attorney alleges that Tatum then issued the press release which contained information about another person carrying Humboldt County cannabis south who was also stopped by Tatum and Huffaker and seized “at least 23 pounds of marijuana…while failing to provide a citation or any other
documentation related to the stop… .” and they falsely alleged it to belong to Zeke Flatten in the press release in an effort to cover their theft of Flatten’s cannabis. (Read more in this detailed account of how Redheaded Blackbelt uncovered the falsifications in their story here.)
Flatten told Redheaded Blackbelt in an interview yesterday that though he understands that Huffaker is entitled to the presumption of innocence, he’s frustrated that the former officer is costing the taxpayers so much money.
“He’s switched attorneys four times,” Flatten stated. He said he was disgusted that a former officer who “took an oath to protect the people” would continue to slow the process down as much as possible. Flatten said that he respected former Sgt. Tatum for at least standing up in court “with a straight back” and accepting responsibility for his crimes.
The new charges and the extended sentences faced by Huffaker are an indication of how bad the crimes he committed are, Flatten alleged. “He’s a pretty hardcore criminal,” Flatten said. “Not many people face 93 years in federal prison.”
The entire charges and possible sentences against Huffaker are listed in this screenshot of the indictment below:
Redheaded Blackbelt’s Extensive Coverage of the Cover Up
- Former Undercover Officer Involved in Developing Cannabis Products Accuses Hopland Tribal Police Chief of Theft, Corruption, and Civil Rights Violations
- Outraged: One Man’s Two Month Quest From the FBI to the ATF to Expose What He Says Are Corrupt Police Officers in Mendocino County
- Rohnert Park Police Officers Being Investigated Following Two Incidents Where Humboldt County Cannabis Was Seized Under Suspicious Circumstances
- ‘Highway Robbery’: Drivers Allege Rohnert Park Police Illegally Seized Cannabis, Cash
- What Happened to 800 Pounds of Marijuana Seized by Rohnert Park Police?
- City of Rohnert Park Hires Police Practices Expert to Address Corruption Allegations
- Former Rohnert Park Police Sergeant Faces Credibility Questions as He Testifies in Court This Week
- Rohnert Park Police Officer Accused of Misconduct in Case Involving Pounds of Humboldt County Marijuana Agrees to Resign for $75,000
- City of Rohnert Park Settles for $415,000 in Lawsuit Alleging Its Officers Stole Cannabis From Travelers Just After a Second Suit Alleging More Corruption Was Filed
- Another Settlement in Case First Reported Here of Rohnert Park Officers Illegally Seizing Cash and Cannabis
- Two Rohnert Park Police Officers Named in the Case Involving Theft of Humboldt County Marijuana Indicted in Federal Court This Morning
- US Attorney’s Office Brings Charges Against Two Rohnert Park Police Officers in Story We Broke Here
- Former Sergeant and Head of a Drug Interdiction Team Pleads Guilty to Charges Resulting From Law Enforcement Officers Stealing Humboldt CO. Cannabis
- Lawsuit Alleges Members of CDFW and Mendocino County Sheriff’s Dept Conspired to Steal Marijuana, Guns, and Cash
- Cash, Guns and Cannabis Highlighted in Civil Case Amended Against Top Law Enforcement Officials in Mendocino County Last Week