Breaking Real Bad: Inside the Sam Hurd Drug Case

Today Sam Hurd is sitting in a federal detention center in Seagoville, Texas, awaiting sentencing after he pleaded guilty in April to a single count of conspiracy to traffic narcotics. The alleged amounts of cocaine and marijuana in his case are so massive, the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Department has recommended that Hurd—husband to his college sweetheart, father to their one-year-old girl, still unanimously loved by friends and former teammates throughout the NFL— be sentenced to life in prison without parole when he next appears in federal court, on Nov. 13. Had Hurd received the 50 kilos per week he suggested at Morton’s, he would have poured nearly three tons of cocaine onto Chicago’s streets each year.

But let’s go back to a time before things got hairy, before the disastrous decisions that placed Hurd in the crosshairs of federal law enforcement. And long before Hurd became entangled with the two men whose lies, he says, have pushed him to the brink of spending the rest of his days behind bars. Among the few things not in dispute as his sentencing approaches is that Sam Hurd played for the Cowboys from 2006 through ’10 and for the Bears in ’11. For the last three or four years of his NFL career he smoked high-grade California marijuana “all day, every day, and I didn’t want to hear anyone trying to tell me I had a problem,” he says. 

“Whatever was considered the loudest weed in California—I wanted a notch above that,” Hurd explains in a white cinder-block interview room in Seagoville, with only a hint of the pride he used to express on the subject. “I had educated myself on different strains and potencies and growing techniques. I was very selective. It was like wine.”

Most of the marijuana Hurd had shipped in from California, he says, he smoked himself or shared at cost with friends, including 20 to 25 teammates spanning his five years with the Cowboys. A two-year federal investigation into Hurd’s activities conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division has produced no evidence that Hurd made a profit selling this marijuana. “I was what you call love,” he explains, using the slang for those who provide marijuana to friends without keeping score. “I’m in the NFL, and I’m gonna ask people for a few hundred dollars on top of what I paid for it? Nah. Slide me what I got it for and take it. Enjoy it.”

sam-hurd-360-6
(Larry W. Smith/EPA)

Hurd’s is the voice of a postmodern NFL in which “at least half” of all players, by Hurd’s “conservative estimate,” smoke marijuana at some point during the season, and members of two teams, the Broncos and Seahawks, live and pay taxes in marijuana-legal states. Players smoke (or vaporize) cannabis for various reasons, according to interviews with NFL veterans: to get out of bed easier, to manage stress, to relax, to alleviate pain or simply to get high. Hurd began smoking heavily while rehabbing after ankle surgery in 2008. He never knew a day when his job wasn’t on the line, so once he got healthy again he smoked to reduce stress. But mainly he smoked to get high.

Early in his career Hurd had been entrusted with a secret known by only a few of Dallas’s veterans: Tests for marijuana occurred at roughly the same time each year. Hurd’s main concern was not getting caught as he imported two to 10 pounds at a time from California for himself and for friends, relatives and teammates. As the 2011 NFL lockout dragged on, he thought about flying to Los Angeles to buy a bit more. 

On July 1, 2011, Hurd flew from Dallas to L.A. with one of his best friends—former Cowboys safety Patrick Watkins—and a marijuana dealer he’d just met whom we will call Capri. Watkins had blown out his knee while playing for the Chargers in ’10 and was weighing a move to the CFL. (He’s currently a defensive captain for the defending Grey Cup champions, the Toronto Argonauts, and last week was named to the CFL East all-star team.) Capri, for his part, looked like a pro cornerback—shorter than the 6-3 Hurd and 6-5 Watkins, but lean and fit.

The three handsome black men emerged from the Burbank airport, where a friend of Hurd’s, a 27-year-old Armenian-American marijuana broker known as V, picked them up in a white Range Rover and drove them to a home in the San Fernando Valley. Soon, marijuana growers began rolling through the house like Tupperware salesmen, showing V’s wealthy guests some of the finest cannabis the Golden State had to offer. Hurd sampled various strains and negotiated poolside.

One day earlier Hurd had withdrawn $55,000 in cash from two banks in Dallas, most of which he gave to V in exchange for roughly 20 pounds of the best of the best. The order included a couple pounds each of Hurd’s personal favorites: Louis XIII (aka Louie, his daily smoke, which he says allowed him to function and even “practice better and study film better”) and Mr. Nice Guy (a purplish hybrid that Hurd and his teammates found eased the headaches common among NFL players).

Two days after the deal Hurd flew home to Dallas and withdrew another $50,000, right out in the open, just like before. On July 5 he flew back to L.A. with Capri and ordered even more weed. Dozens of text messages between Hurd and V that summer provide a clear window into these events, which would tumble toward late July and the most pivotal days of Hurd’s life.

June 29, 2011

12:51 a.m.  Hurd (after receiving a photo from V): What kind is that.
12:57 a.m.  V: Louie

July 1 

3:47 p.m.  Hurd: We get in at 12:15 burbank . . . .

July 3

12:24 a.m. Hurd (upon flying back to Dallas): Made it tell [redacted name] and everyone merci. Great time beautiful can’t wait to c yall again.
12:25 a.m.  V: Coool
12:35 a.m.  Hurd: Hey tues we there and plz b ready …
12:36 a.m.  V: I got u

On July 13 a U-Haul box weighing 16 pounds was shipped from a North Hollywood address to a house in suburban Dallas where a teammate of Hurd’s had lived when he was with the Cowboys.

July 17

3:20 a.m.  V: Did u get the box

July 18

8:25 p.m.  Hurd: We good got a box . . . .

But V had even more marijuana to deliver and Hurd needed it yesterday. Word from the players’ union was that the lockout could end any minute. Hurd knew the drug tests administered during training camp weren’t for marijuana, so teammates would be looking to stock up on relaxation for the compressed post-lockout workdays ahead.

July 20 

3:04 p.m.  Hurd: Yall have to b here by tomorrow and not to late cause I have fb [football] starting up…

At 9:09 a.m. on July 25, police in Denton, Texas, responded to a complaint about marijuana smoke wafting from room 217 of a Courtyard by Marriott hotel. There, officers encountered a sleepy-eyed foursome, including a man with an Eastern European accent who was called V and seemed to be the group’s leader.

When Hurd learned the next morning that V and his friends had been jailed for marijuana possession, he persuaded a reluctant friend to make the half-hour drive from Dallas to Denton and bail them out. Hurd wanted to stay out of the picture, but Denton police had already begun gathering evidence that would place him at the center of it. Extracting data from the Californians’ cellphones, authorities had found incriminating texts sent to and from a phone with a 210 area code. 

San Antonio.

denton-hotel-evidence-800
Among the findings in the Denton hotel room where V and his friends were busted were cash, cocaine and traces of marijuana.
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257 comments
SukieSu
SukieSu

This is Tragic. Trouble shows up at everybody's door....and has no preference in choosing its victims. No one should talk big...or judge this situation.... Many similar occurrences have happened...drug related or nah....and its ultimately a matter of ur how u make your choices in the moment of temptation (money, drugs, sex, fame) that often may include destroying your entire life /career family love ones etc. Its critical; now more than ever in time to make decisions wise; always think of the outcome no matter how slick, smart, wise you think you are...negative actions that people get away with daily....make you feel untouchable and bcus u havent got caught up....all i can say is definitley be aware of the company you keep....and who's really your friends and loved ones. America is Insane. Our judicial system is so corrupted and backwards....anything is possible.... Even if its a mistake or u didn't mean to do it...Life is priceless. Be cautios and Think ahead.

foremanmills
foremanmills

He had a promising football career, why mess around? If he had not been involved in dealing drugs , we would not be having this conversation. Hurd was not stupid, he rolled the dice and hit snake-eyes. Too late to play victim. I don't care if it's a just or unjust system, don't play the game.Sometimes misguided ambition can backfire, as in this case. As the cliché goes, if you can't do the time , DON'T DO THE CRIME. You can't cry now. It's unfortunate , but a lot of guys would love to play in the NFL, with all the perks. He blew his shot.What a tragedy, and hopefully someone will use this knowledge and not participate.Sure you can say weed should be legalized, it's unfair, which is true, I agree , but it's not (federally) and it is unfair , but those are the cards that were dealt, and he knew what cards he held.

JeffPerdiue
JeffPerdiue

I didn't hear the word "cocaine" or drugs at all.....they could have been talking about Mangos or Panchos or something....

dougmc1
dougmc1

This is awful. Weed isn't bad. End the Drug War.

Ken1
Ken1

Sam Hurd is neither the first nor the last person to be snookered by the government in their effort to keep their drug-war machine well-oiled and well-financed. I am not saying Sam Hurd is innocent of all charges. Even he doesn't say that. I AM saying the government has made it clear by their efforts that they had no interest in the truth or justice or even of stopping the flow of drugs into this country. Their interest was in trying to get the guy with the biggest "name" sentenced to the longest term, facts be damned.

tb100786
tb100786

The fact of the matter is that the only real evidence they had was the kilo of coke and the 90k. To be convicted off a bunch of hearsay evidence is absurd, and makes me sick. 90 thousand is not enough to become a drug lord. One kilo of coke and an unexplained 90k to a first time offender would not be a 15 year sentence. But the prosecution doesnt care about the truth, all they care about is convictions.The war on drugs gives huge incentives to  people like Tyrone to lie and make up complete crap in order avoid a huge sentence. , tyrone is also a convicted felon who is facing 30 years to life in jail. By making up the stories about having Sam hurd's financial baking, the prosecution was able to paint the picture that Sam was a drug lord and tyrone was able to avoid life in jail.. and the legal system is downright pathetic. Think about it, Tyrone got got caught with 200lbs of weed and 5 kilos of coke and hurd gets caught with one kilo and 90k. Tyrone got 8 years even after multiple felonies and Hurd a first time offender gets 15 . When people say what the prosecution wants it make it a whole lot easier  to put more people in jail, and Hurd is a victim of this.  I am not saying hurd is innocent but he should of only got 1-2 years for the kilo of coke, instead the injustices of the legal system gave him 15.

Stephen45
Stephen45

That Toby guy was real dopey. By inference, Sam is also for trusting him.

Anyway, artificial restrictions on the supply of any good leads to higher prices, black markets and cartels. The war on drugs should be fought with free market economics.

Onemoretime
Onemoretime

It seems intuitive that the initial stop initiated by ICE was probably preceded by questionable wire taps as Snowden's  revelations have shown was done an unknown number of times.  Time frame fits and so on.  Just another interesting dimension to the story.  Probably won't help Hurd a whole lot.

EricFuhrer
EricFuhrer

Who the hell withdraws 90K cash to buy a house?  Nobody does, nobody except a drug dealer who isn't intending that cash to go towards a house.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

This case is ridiculous.  Sounds to me like these federal agents went well out of there way to entrap Hurd.  The first contact he had with the cocaine dealer (informant) was a call he RECEIVED from the informant.  The war on drugs is a gross waste of time, money, and human life.  The federal employees involved in this case ought to be ashamed of themselves and need to reevaluate what they're doing with their lives.  What a pathetic existence.  Hopefully Hurd appeals his sentence and is given even more "leniency" than has already been granted. 

As someone who already viewed the "justice" system as a joke, this only provides affirmation. 

helenhelena206
helenhelena206

Sam Hurd britone is not complicated so we thinking about the main point of the focused in feature. sign.............

JVee
JVee

Roger Goddell has to be livid about this. His "protect the shield" baloney is being exposed for what his league truly has become - gladiators who are trading longevity for instant gratification. Money, drugs, and women - in any order - is what the current NFL is about. Anyone who believes differently has drank the kool-aid. The most recent CTE revelations, and NFL denials of CTE for decades, was bad enough. The PBS Frontline documentary on CTE was terrifying. I will never again watch a football game at any level without considering what the players are doing to themselves. The fact is that none of us care about football players on any level. We will cheer them on the field, buy their jerseys, and lust after their autographs, but no one gives a damn about them in the end, including the NFL.


Hurd is just one more tragic NFL tale. Numerous mistakes, countless poor decisions, and typical disregard for the law has landed him where so many NFL players have landed and will land. Nobody cares though. As long as there are games on Sunday and a Super Bowl in February, we will just eat it up and raise our sons to take the field. Not mine.

Yomi
Yomi

This man is looked upon by some in the African American community, a community that experiences negative impact of drugs more than any other community in the country. He is making decent money playing football, greed and lack of concern for others led him to his action.He should be put away for nothing less than 50 years

ErikT
ErikT

Amazing article. Written very well.

LouveJonzing
LouveJonzing

Sam Hurd didnt get life. He received 15 years plus an additional 5yrs of supervision once he is released. Under Federal Law, you have to do 85% of your time so for same that is  12yrs & 9mos. So he'll be out somewhere 2026

MikeE2
MikeE2

It seems his whole reasoning for distributing was to get back the 88k ICE took, so my question is why didn't the authorities give him his money back.

andrewdavid
andrewdavid

Enjoyed reading this article.. Well done 

Schultz
Schultz

This is why i'm glad I DON'T live in TEXAS but Northern California, it's like a Mini Country an ya'll don't want to be a Black Man & Mess with Texas or your screwed. I mean if they put to DEATH a Afro American who was convicted of Murder but had the IQ of a "Special Needs" person they'll do anything. BUT

Sam Hurd does belong in Jail but not for LIFE, a Decade Plus would be adequate cause he did break the law an let the BS FED's Rope him into something but is he a DANGER TO SOCIETY If let out after 10 Year's??? I really don't think so, just another Black Man who made poor choices but is NOT A GD "KINGPIN" that's the stupidest Moniker you could use.

UncleJemima
UncleJemima

The VIA/Oliver North gave tacit approval of tons of cocaine shipped into the U.S.  Ricky Ross was the only one to do time (15 years).  Griswold Blanco received 20 years and she had nearly 250 people murdered at her behest.  Sam Hurd, no murders, dealing some weed to break even, and possession of one kilo of cocaine that was given to him by an informant, yet he may be looking at life in prison.  Great country the U.S. is becoming.  If someone with Hurd' s resources is getting steamrolled by the justice system, then most of us do not have a chance.   I fully understand that he engaged in illegal activities, but none of his crimes nor his past warrant anything close to a life sentence.

Robert35
Robert35

We can put this guy away for life yet our own government killed JFK and got away with it.

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

Can someone please explain how we (American society) benefit from cocaine being illegal?  

How does this war against it serve us, the people?

What evidence is there that anyone that wants some can not go out and get some right now, today?  

The legalization of alcohol (proven to be far more dangerous to society) has taken the making, distributing and selling of it out of the hands of gun toting criminals and into the hands of regulated businesses.  The legalization has allowed society to learn of the dangers of it's use and to regulate the dangers out of it's use more effectively. How can this not be done with other drugs people disapprove of?

When you support the government in over stepping it's authority in taking away other's freedoms and liberties, you are actively creating a government that one day will take away your freedoms and liberties.

 Be careful what you ask the government to stop others from doing because of your own personal disapproval.  

It is a frightening notion to consider that so many people have failed to come around on the notion that it is a basic principle of freedom and liberty to be able to grow a plant on your property and ingest it if you wish and it is no one else's dam business. 

Paul Revere
Paul Revere

I hope people read this tragedy and realize that weed is not harmless.

Weed affects decision making and that is something that all pro-weed advocates and users fail to recognize.  If Hurd hadn't been abusing weed his mind would not have been hijacked and he would still be a star.  Hurd's problem is the meeting at Morton's.  If he hadn't started talking like Tony Montana he would not be so jammed up. 

Still I have a lot of sympathy for the guy and how can conspiracy to commit drug dealing translate into life without parole?  That is wrong. I hope they sentence him reasonably, deduct time served and give him a life-time probation and one last chance.


Ken1
Ken1

I agree with you regarding the talkative dopiness of both Hurd and Toby. That alone should tell all involved including prosecutors that these were two very small fish, not innocent fish but small ones. If the government had any interest in stopping the flow of drugs into this country and onto our streets, they would not be wasting so many resources on the Sam Hurds of the world, rather they would be tracking down the kingpins. The problem, from the perspective of those "fighting the war on drugs" is that putting the real kingpins in jail might actually work and then they'd be out of a job. By focusing on Sam Hurd and people like him, they can maintain the perception that they are making progress while actually accomplishing nothing. That keeps both the flow of drugs AND the flow of government funding coming. That, in turn, keeps the government agents and prosecutors employed in cushy jobs where they only need catch the occasional bungling, wannabe

MikeJones1
MikeJones1

@EricFuhrer Floyd Mayweather keeps a million dollars cash in his drawer is he a drug kingpin too? If you are spending thousands of dollars cash a day why wouldn't you keep $100 k sitting around so you aren't constantly running to the bank. Him having $100 grand lying around is like the average person having $400 bucks in his wallet.

Ken1
Ken1

Yes, in your nice comfortable suburb, that is probably correct. When you are raised poor in a poor area, cash is the only way you can buy anything, whether a car or a home or, yes, drugs.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@EricFuhrer That's not really the point though is it?  He was sentenced to 15 years despite the fact that the only drugs he was caught in possession of were given to him by a federal employee after a federal informant initiated contact with Hurd, not visa versa.  Call me crazy but there's something seriously wrong with that.

MikeJones1
MikeJones1

@Ilovemesomeme We have allowed these cops to have absolute power and absolute power as we all know corrupts absolutely. They frame a big name like this and they get a raise and their department gets an even bigger budget next year. It's happening in every form of law enforcement in our country and the cases just get more and more ridiculous every year. Until we put a stop to this it's just going to get worse and worse. 

Josh222
Josh222

@JVee Nobody makes them make these decisions.  We are fans of the game.  Not fans of the lifestyle.  You don't see Brady, Manning, Brees, etc. involved in garbage like this.  It's all about choices.

Paulo_S
Paulo_S

@JVee Reading comprehension isn't your forte... 

Josh222
Josh222

@MikeE2 Or more importantly, where did the money go???

JVee
JVee

@Schultz Committing his crimes in the state of Texas has nothing to do with it. It is sad to see such misinformed opinions and myths about Texas still so prevalent in the black community. As a black man, I have lived in Texas for the past decade and have not had one problem with with racism. The most problems I had with that were when I lived in NY, go figure.

Hurd would not be in prison if he had not broken the law in Texas, Illinois, and California. He decided his own fate.

o0john0o
o0john0o

@Schultz Are you ignorant or just a race baiter?  This is a FEDERAL war on drugs and he was investigated, arrested, and is being prosecuted by FEDERAL agents.  It has nothing to do with Texas, California, or race.  All of these WARS on Americans that the feds are engaging in are just more ways for them to garner funding (tax dollars).  They buy up millions of rounds of ammunition, have rules of engagement that are less stringent than military members in the GWOT, and they have armored vehicles with machine guns to hunt down Americans possessing processed plants.  It's wrong and this War On Drugs has done NOTHING to better our society.  While I am not a drug user and I understand there is a lot of bad things that surround drug users, this WAR on America has become another tool for their mission of people control. 

But please, keep your partisan, race baiting fallacies to yourself.

o0john0o
o0john0o

@Robert35 I don't know about your conspiracy theory, but it is a FACT that our own government provided guns to the very cartels their informants in this case pretended to be affiliated with.  We have become a ruled people.  We are no longer free.

Willmac7496
Willmac7496

@randomdeletion Cocaine is a powerful and dangerous drug.  Notice that there is a battle for marijuana's legalization (whether you agree with it or not)  but nothing for cocaine as it is much more harmful and has much more serious effects  

PaulRosenberg
PaulRosenberg

@Paul Revere Big jump in logic that the weed hijacked Hurd's mind.  And if so, based on the 50% of NFL players doing weed, why aren't more of their minds hijacked?

Ryan59
Ryan59

@Paul Revere You're completely missing the point of weed advocates.  Nobody's advocating that it's harmless. Of course there are negative side effects to abuse, any drug is bad if abused.  Fast food is bad if abused. Why is that so hard for people to understand? The fact is that moderate consumption of it is far less harmful than say alcohol.... Yet you can be put in prison for minimal amounts of weed.  It's ridiculous, and it's disappointing that may people share your perspective. 

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

@Paul Revere Wow.  You are suggesting you know what pro-weed advocates and users fail to understand about the effects of weed?  Let me guess.  You have never smoked and never will smoke weed, but you know more about it's effects than anyone that has ever tried it?  Right?  It is monumentally unbelievable people like you take the stance you do and take yourselves seriously.  It is more harmful to our society as a whole when people take a position they have been told to take, rather than from personal experience and first hand knowledge.  

In my experience you are correct that weed does effect decision making, when you are the least bit hungry do not smoke any and then go to the grocery story, you will come home with a crap load of junk food that you shouldn't be gorging on. That is about the extent of the effect on decision making I have seen.  Never seen anyone smoke any and say "you know what I want to be a Kingpin drug dealer".  But go ahead, keep kidding yourself so that you can feel better about who you are and how much better you are than other people.  

rusty60101
rusty60101

@Paul Revere Haha. You think weed affects your mind to the extent that you would involve yourself in drug traffiking that could put you away for life? If anything, it would make you more paranoid about such activity. Easily the funniest thing I've seen all day.  

Ken1
Ken1

Like Sam Hurd to maintain their paychecks without actually working hard or taking any real risks.

rsrobinson
rsrobinson

@Ilovemesomeme @EricFuhrer   The feds didn't just contact him out of the blue.  By his own admission, Hurd gave his pal $88k that he knew was probably going to be used to buy and distribute drugs which is what got him involved with the feds in the first place.

 Anyway his story is outlandish.  He just happened to have $90k lying around that he was going to use to buy a house and then just spontaneously lent it to his mechanic for a purpose not disclosed to him?  And then later played the part of a drug kingpin just to help him out again?   Rubbish.  Hurd was knee deep in it all along.

DeAntonyCollins
DeAntonyCollins

@Josh222 @JVee The truly sad thing is that you have indirectly/covertly made this a different issue by only naming white players that don't get "involved in garbage like this". First I agree that it's ridiculous to waste a once in a lifetime career, but there are plenty of white players throughout NFL history to be convicted of crimes - harsh crimes that carry big sentences. Since you named 3, I'll respond in kind. Billy Cannon - Convicted of Counterfeiting. Eric Naposki - Murder. Art Schlicter - Fraud/theft. 

This list could continue.. The nature of the crime may be different but I think we can agree that sometimes "power" creates a culture of criminality. Next time try and be a bit more diverse when naming players.. There are plently of them. And you are right- It's all about choices!

tb100786
tb100786

@rsrobinson @Ilovemesomeme @EricFuhrer The fact of the matter is that the only real evidence they had was the kilo of coke and the 90k. To be convicted off a bunch of hearsay evidence is absurd, and makes me sick. 90 thousand is not enough to become a drug lord. One kilo of coke and an unexplained 90k to a first time offender would not be a 15 year sentence. But the prosecution doesnt care about the truth, all they care about is convictions.The war on drugs gives huge incentives to  people like Tyrone to lie and make up complete crap in order avoid a huge sentence. , tyrone is also a convicted felon who is facing 30 years to life in jail. By making up the stories about having Sam hurd's financial baking, the prosecution was able to paint the picture that Sam was a drug lord and tyrone was able to avoid life in jail.. and the legal system is downright pathetic. Think about it, Tyrone got got caught with 200lbs of weed and 5 kilos of coke and hurd gets caught with one kilo and 90k. Tyrone got 8 years even after multiple felonies and Hurd a first time offender gets 15 . When people say what the prosecution wants it make it a whole lot easier  to put more people in jail, and Hurd is a victim of this.  I am not saying hurd is innocent but he should of only got 1-2 years for the kilo of coke, instead the injustices of the legal system gave him 15.

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