From a drug raid in Wilson, North Carolina.
From a drug raid in Wilson, North Carolina.
In light of this week’s milestone victories for common sense in Colorado and Washington, here’s Milton Friedman—one of my personal heroes—writing an open letter to Drug Czar William Bennett in the Wall Street Journal.
In Oliver Cromwell’s eloquent words, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken” about the course you and President Bush urge us to adopt to fight drugs. The path you propose of more police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish.
You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are tearing asunder our social fabric, ruining the lives of many young people, and imposing heavy costs on some of the most disadvantaged among us. You are not mistaken in believing that the majority of the public share your concerns. In short, you are not mistaken in the end you seek to achieve.
Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favor are a major source of the evils you deplore. Of course the problem is demand, but it is not only demand, it is demand that must operate through repressed and illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of law enforcement officials; illegality monopolizes the efforts of honest law forces so that they are starved for resources to fight the simpler crimes of robbery, theft and assault.
Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike. Our experience with the prohibition of drugs is a replay of our experience with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.
I append excerpts from a column that I wrote in 1972 on “Prohibition and Drugs.” The major problem then was heroin from Marseilles; today, it is cocaine from Latin America. Today, also, the problem is far more serious than it was 17 years ago: more addicts, more innocent victims; more drug pushers, more law enforcement officials; more money spent to enforce prohibition, more money spent to circumvent prohibition.
Had drugs been decriminalized 17 years ago, “crack” would never have been invented (it was invented because the high cost of illegal drugs made it profitable to provide a cheaper version) and there would today be far fewer addicts. The lives of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent victims would have been saved, and not only in the U.S. The ghettos of our major cities would not be drug-and-crime-infested no-man’s lands. Fewer people would be in jails, and fewer jails would have been built.
Columbia, Bolivia and Peru would not be suffering from narco-terror, and we would not be distorting our foreign policy because of narco-terror. Hell would not, in the words with which Billy Sunday welcomed Prohibition, “be forever for rent,” but it would be a lot emptier.
Decriminalizing drugs is even more urgent now than in 1972, but we must recognize that the harm done in the interim cannot be wiped out, certainly not immediately. Postponing decriminalization will only make matters worse, and make the problem appear even more intractable.
Alcohol and tobacco cause many more deaths in users than do drugs. Decriminalization would not prevent us from treating drugs as we now treat alcohol and tobacco: prohibiting sales of drugs to minors, outlawing the advertising of drugs and similar measures. Such measures could be enforced, while outright prohibition cannot be. Moreover, if even a small fraction of the money we now spend on trying to enforce drug prohibition were devoted to treatment and rehabilitation, in an atmosphere of compassion not punishment, the reduction in drug usage and in the harm done to the users could be dramatic.
This plea comes from the bottom of my heart. Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence. A country in which shooting down unidentified planes “on suspicion” can be seriously considered as a drug-war tactic is not the kind of United States that either you or I want to hand on to future generations.
Friedman wrote that 22 years ago.
In writing my book over the last several months, I’ve been waist-deep in the drug war propaganda of the early 1970s, and then of the 1980s and 1990s: the government dissemination of flat-out lies, the ceaseless efforts by politicians (ably abetted by a media always eager to pounce on sensationalism) to degrade and dehumanize drug offenders, the relentless martial rhetoric and calls to arms. There were the insane court decisions that shredded the Fourth Amendment. I’ve decided my favorite is United States v. Montoya de Herandez, in which the Supreme Court ruled that customs agents can seize someone coming in on an international flight, hold her incommunicado, then detain her until government agents can watch her defecate in front of them. There were the deeply cynical policies pushed by politicians, like the no-knock raid, which was never asked for police officials or recommended by criminologists, but was an idea dreamed up by Nelson Rockefeller aides (then later adopted by Nixon in the 1968 campaign) as a way to appeal white fears about black crime. There was a time when it was railed against on the floor of Congress (yes, really) and in the Supreme Court (yes, really) as a constitutional abomination, as an affront to the founding principles of the Castle Doctrine and the right to be let alone. When Congress first imposed the policy on Washington, D.C., the city’s police chief refused to use it (yes, really!). Today, it’s such an ingrained part of law enforcement, you’d be hard pressed to find a narcotics cop who could imagine ever doing his job without it. And of course, there are the scores and scores of heart-wrenching stories of death and destruction wrought by all of this madness.
Anyway, all of this was fresh in my head as I watched the election results come in Tuesday night. Whether or not Obama respects the wishes of voters in Washington and Colorado is really only relevant in the short term. I’m now convinced that we are finally winning the long game. I mean Jesus, medical marijuana just barely lost in Arkansas. I guess what I’m getting at here is that spending the last several months reading and writing about just how insane things were at the height of the drug war made me particularly aware of just how magnificent Tuesday night was. The tide is turning. It isn’t often easy to find reasons for optimism when you cover these issues day in and day out. Seeing outright legalization pass in two fairly large states—there’s no other way to interpret that as a sign that we are slowly returning to sanity. This would have been unthinkable 10 or 15 or 20 or 25 years ago.
Friedman’s was always the voice of reason on this issue. But 22 years ago it was a relatively lonely voice, particularly on the right (William Buckley was good on pot). That’s no longer the case. Yes, some of the most obstinate opposition still comes form the right, although as you’ve seen on this site, it also comes from left-of-center paternalists and editorial boards. And most politicians of all stripes are, typically, a good 10 years behind the public on all of this. But the culture warriors are dying off. The coalition for sensible drug policy is broad, diverse, and has been gathering strength and momentum with each election.
The public is turning. Tuesday was historic. Enjoy it.
I’ve been neglecting you. But just think, in the spring you’ll have your own portable collection of groin-punching, blood-pressure raising stories to pull down off your bookshelf—any time you like!
I do have some thoughts about the election. I just don’t have time to put them into a more substantive post at the moment. And they’re more about the various ballot measures than the election itself. Summary: I think that for the most part, there’s lots of reason for optimism in Tuesday night’s results. Even on the GOP side, the one Republican senator who managed to win a competitive Senate seat this week was Jeff Flake, a devoted fiscal conservative and principled advocate for limited government who also happens to be pro-immigration, pro-internet gambling, favors ending the sanctions with Cuba, and who generally avoids the culture wars. He’s a huge improvement over his predecessor. And he won in a state filled with Latinos and rock-ribbed conservatives. He’s a template for the rest of the party.
On to the links:
Montana SWAT team drops a flash grenade through a window into a bedroom where two children are sleeping. No arrests. No alleged meth lab.
A 12-year-old girl suffered burns to one side of her body when a flash grenade went off next to her as a police SWAT team raided a West End home Tuesday morning.
“She has first- and second-degree burns down the left side of her body and on her arms,” said the girl’s mother, Jackie Fasching. “She’s got severe pain. Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes.”
Medical staff at the scene tended to the girl afterward and then her mother drove her to the hospital, where she was treated and released later that day.
A photo of the girl provided by Fasching to The Gazette shows red and black burns on her side.
Police Chief Rich St. John said the 6 a.m. raid at 2128 Custer Ave., was to execute a search warrant as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation by the City-County Special Investigations Unit . . .
“It was totally unforeseen, totally unplanned and extremely regrettable,” St. John said. “We certainly did not want a juvenile, or anyone else for that matter, to get injured.”
Well, I’ll give him unplanned. Though I don’t think he meant it in the way I mean it. Sorry, but when you’re blindly shoving a flash grenade attached to a boomstick through a window, and you clearly have no idea who or what is in that room where you’re detonating, the possibility that an innocence person might get burned is not “totally unforeseen.” It’s only unforeseen when you’re so caught up in your drug war that you can’t be bothered to take the time to consider the possible collateral damage your actions may cause.
On Thursday, Fasching took her daughter back to the hospital to have her wounds treated.
She questioned why police would take such actions with children in the home and why it needed a SWAT team.
“A simple knock on the door and I would’ve let them in,” she said. “They said their intel told them there was a meth lab at our house. If they would’ve checked, they would’ve known there’s not.”
She and her two daughters and her husband were home at the time of the raid. She said her husband, who suffers from congenital heart disease and liver failure, told officers he would open the front door as the raid began and was opening it as they knocked it down.
When the grenade went off in the room, it left a large bowl-shaped dent in the wall and “blew the nails out of the drywall,” Fasching said.
St. John said investigators did plenty of homework on the residence before deciding to launch the raid but didn’t know children were inside.
“The information that we had did not have any juveniles in the house and did not have any juveniles in the room,” he said. “We generally do not introduce these disorienting devices when they’re present.”
I’ve probably read about more than a thousand of these raids by now. The cognitive dissonance still astounds me. No, Chief St. John, if you did not know there were two children in the home, if you did not know that you were dropping a flash grenade into a child’s bedroom, you pretty clearly did not do “plenty” of goddamned “homework.”
Investigators consider dozens of items such as residents’ past criminal convictions, other criminal history, mental illness and previous interactions with law enforcement.
Each item is assigned a point value and if the total exceeds a certain threshold, SWAT is requested. Then a commander approves or rejects the request.
In Tuesday’s raid, the points exceeded the threshold and investigators called in SWAT.
“Every bit of information and intelligence that we have comes together and we determine what kind of risk is there,” St. John said. “The warrant was based on some hard evidence and everything we knew at the time.”
Sounds awfully professional, doesn’t it? Except that they were looking for a meth lab, and pretty clearly didn’t find it. I mean, unless the Faschings recently had their house fumigated by Vamonos Pest Control, a meth lab isn’t something you can easily pick up and move.
“If we’re wrong or made a mistake, then we’re going to take care of it,” he said. “But if it determines we’re not, then we’ll go with that. When we do this, we want to ensure the safety of not only the officers, but the residents inside.”
The last four words are self-evidently complete and utter crap. And sure. Let’s go ahead and entrust the same department that just carried out this debacle after doing “plenty of homework” to investigate itself to determine if it did anything wrong. That sounds like a perfectly fair, impartial way to treat the Faschings.
Paul Brown was working on his computer in his north suburban home when police smashed in the front door, pointed guns at and handcuffed him and other family members, and ransacked the house in a search for drugs.
The authorities had burst in immediately after a postal worker delivered a package to the home that they said contained marijuana. But a search of the house found no further contraband, and officers left without making an arrest.
Brown, outraged, said he was sure the cops had the wrong house. Police maintained they had the right place, but the target of their investigation wasn’t there at the time.
Brown, a 58-year-old who works in building design, said he supports law enforcement in general. But he said innocent bystanders shouldn’t be subject to such dangerous and damaging searches without any compensation.
“I was scared to death,” he said. “I really felt like a hostage. These guys are supposed to be on my side.”
The package delivered to the home in a middle-class neighborhood on Adelphi Avenue was addressed to someone named Oscar, who Brown said has never lived there and is unknown to him.
Brown would have liked police to pay for the $3,000 leaded-and-stained-glass door, lock and frame they broke, to clean up the mess they made, and to apologize. Police say that won’t happen.
Well of course that isn’t going to happen. Because the police aren’t on your side, Mr. Brown. They’re fighting a war. And you got in the way.
Sullivan did not release the complaint that states the evidence upon which the warrant was based, citing the ongoing investigation. But, he said, “we had a valid warrant, and it was a good search.”
After another member of the household accepted the package outside as he arrived home, officers knocked on the door and announced themselves, and waited an unspecified “reasonable” amount of time, as required by law before breaching the door, Sullivan said.
Brown disputed that, saying his 77-year-old mother-in-law was about 15 feet from the door but did not hear anything, and his two small dogs, who always bark when someone knocks, were silent.
Brown said the people who conducted the raid were dressed in SWAT-style clothing with black sweaters that said “police,” though at first he didn’t even realize who they were. He said they handcuffed and questioned him, along with his son-in-law, who had accepted the package but never opened it, and his son-in-law’s brother, who live in the house along with Brown’s daughter, wife and mother-in-law.
Notice how rarely the victims of these raids actually hear the knock-and-announce the police claim to have given? Going back to English common law, the entire point of the knock-and-announce requirement was to preserve the sanctity of the home—to give the occupants an opportunity to avoid the violence of a forced entry. Over the last 25 years or so, its purpose has changed to protect the police. Today, they announce themselves only so you won’t attempt to shoot them when they break down your door seconds later. The Supreme Court has ruled that as few as eight seconds between knocking and entering is sufficient. That’s hardly enough time for someone who is, say, sleeping to wake up and answer the door. And even if you could, the courts have also ruled that police can break down your door without waiting if they hear movement or see a light go on inside the house. The fear is that these could be indications that someone inside is arming themselves. Because the safety of police is more important than the safety of the rest of us, the fact that movement or light in the house could mean someone is merely trying to answer the door doesn’t really matter.
All of which means the centuries-old principle that the knock-and-announce requirement is necessary to preserve the home as a man’s castle and place of sanctuary . . . is as dead as Kathryn Johnston.
Sullivan said police have to enter such raids in a rush with overwhelming force, to prevent people from flushing or destroying evidence, and to prevent anyone from attacking police. Though Lake County MEG personnel have never been shot during such a raid, officers elsewhere have, and MEG officers have found guns next to dangerous criminals in the past, Sullivan said, making it a potentially dangerous mission.
Got that? Preserving a quantity of illicit drugs small enough to be quickly flushed down the toilet so the person in possession can later be prosecuted is a higher priority than not subjecting innocent people to having their doors torn down, physical abuse, and the terror of having guns pointed at their heads. Oh, and officer safety. Officer safety takes priority over everything else. Everything. Better a 77-year-old woman get rush, knock to the floor, and handcuffed than a single cop wearing Kevlar, holding an assault weapon, and carrying a ballistics shield be “attacked.”
He acknowledged that Brown might not be aware of any illegal activity by anyone in the house but said, “some people have secrets.” He added that police still expected to close the case with an arrest. As of Friday, Sullivan said there were no new developments in the case to report, and court records in Lake County showed no criminal charges filed in the case against members of Brown’s household.
Again, it’s about the priorities on display, here. Because one guy who may or may not be a relative of acquaintance of these people may have committed a marijuana offense, Sullivan sees nothing wrong to subjecting the entire family to the terror, violence, and danger of a tactical police raid.
“I understand when you walk away (without an arrest), that brings up a lot of questions,” Sullivan said. “But there’s a series of checks and balances … to make sure we’re doing everything right. We are concerned about the public as much as they are about themselves.”
So how did those checks and balances work out for Brown, his wife, his brother-in-law, and his mother-in-law? Let’s be clear, here. The “checks and balances” Sullivan is referring to here could better be called “formalities.” And when you tear down a man’s door, scare the hell out of him and his family, acknowledge they all may well be innocent, then refuse to repair the damage you’ve caused or apologize for what you subjected them to, “We are concerned about the public as much as they are about themselves” is so transparently false, I can’t help but wonder if Sullivan was smirking when he said it.
From the Facebook page of the Kennebec County, Maine Sheriff’s Office.
Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and the Augusta Police Department have been working collaboratively by combining resources such as our Special Response Team. This pic was taken recently by staff at the Kennebec Journal as the two teams trained together for tactical approaches and tactical entries. Lookin’ sharp, guys!
I just did my first segment on HuffPost, along with one-time Agitator guest blogger Alyona Minkovski and friend-of-the-Agitator Jack Cole, one of the co-founders of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
The topic was terrorism and the drug war.
You can watch here.
Flemington, New Jersey has all of 4,500 people. It hasn’t seen a murder in well over a decade.
But it does have its own SWAT team. And now the town wants to buy assault rifles for its regular patrol cops, too.
Here’s a photo of the SWAT team, taken during a raid last June.
Brian Miller, former chairman of the Pima, Arizona, GOP, sends me this picture of police at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, with the comment:
I remember when I got kicked out of the Pima GOP how one of their biggest beefs was that I used the term “shock troops” when referring to the Pima SWAT…
Eapen Thampy of Americans for Forfeiture Reform here. Brian Majeski, editor of Music Trades, published the following op-ed this past week on the raids of Gibson Guitars over alleged Lacey Act Violations:
Gibson’s agreement to pay $350,000 to settle with the Department of Justice over alleged Lacey Act violations prompted a flood of press releases from environmental groups, lawmakers, and U.S. wood manufacturers. In unison, they hailed the settlement as a win for the world’s forests, a blow against slave labor, a victory for American jobs, and a triumph of diligent law enforcement. The actual settlement agreement, jointly signed by Justice officials and the Gibson legal team, paints a far different picture. Presenting a set of facts both sides agree on, it depicts overzealous and poorly informed enforcement officials in hot pursuit of a company that was trying in good faith to comply with contradictory foreign statutes. It also inadvertently sums up all that is wrong with the Lacey Act provision that holds U.S. firms criminally liable for violations of foreign laws.
Suspecting a Lacey violation, in 2009, the Environmental Crimes unit of the Justice Department, aided by the FBI and Fish and Wildlife Service, raided Gibson’s Nashville factory and seized pallets of ebony fingerboard blanks that had been imported from Madagascar. In 2006, Madagascar had banned the export of unfinished ebony, and two years later had prohibited the export of all ebony, so the DOJ felt they had a strong case. On a closer reading of the statutes, however, their case started to unravel. The order banning “unfinished” ebony contained a provision specifically permitting the export of guitar fingerboards. While it didn’t make a clear distinction between fingerboard blanks, and partially finished and fully finished, fretted fingerboards, does the global environment truly hang on whether a piece of ebony has a fret slot?
Upon banning ebony exports in 2008, the Madagascar government simultaneously issued licenses permitting select forest operators to legally ship wood that had been cut previously. The DOJ acknowledges that Gibson’s ebony came from a logger who had obtained one of the coveted export licenses. Documents seized during the raid also showed that Gibson had acquired the wood from a Forest Stewardship Council certified broker, who had provided ample assurances that it was in compliance with all relevant statutes. DOJ said that these circumstances partially exonerated Gibson, but that an internally circulated email from a company wood buyer stating “Proving legality is a major problem,” somehow showed criminal intent.
While they were sorting through the complexities of Madagascar law, in 2011 the DOJ raided Gibson again, seizing Indian rosewood fingerboard blanks from plants in Memphis and Nashville. This time, they charged that the wood was “unprocessed” under Indian law and unlawful to export, because it was several millimeters too thick. The Indian Foreign Trade office, along with several local industry groups, pushed back immediately and said that the DOJ had completely misread the law, noting that millions of similar fingerboards had been exported without issue over the past three decades to guitar makers around the world.
Proven wong on a factual point, the DOJ returned the seized rosewood and gave Gibson the green light to continue importing it as they had in the past. To save face, they sheepishly noted that if India ever changes its laws to prohibit such export, and Gibson fails to act accordingly, another raid may be in the works.
So three years and two armed raids later, the Justice Department admitted that Gibson did nothing wrong in importing Indian rosewood. Ambiguously drafted statutes make the Madagascar case less clear cut, but the best the presiding Assistant Attorney General can say is that the guitar maker “may have” violated some foreign statutes. This “may have” cost Gibson $350,000 in fines, the loss of wood valued at $261,000, and $2.4 million in legal fees. Not to mention the costs associated with disruptions in production, and having a reputation tarred by a government agency.
The biggest argument against the amended Lacey Act is that it holds U.S. companies liable for violations of the laws of all the world’s 200 countries. But if the U.S. Department of Justice, with its virtually unlimited resources, has a demonstrated problem grasping the nuance of foreign law, is it fair to hold private enterprises like Gibson to a higher standard? Furthermore, should arguments over the fine points of Madagascar law be elevated to criminal status? Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz rightly calls his company’s legal odyssey “a matter that could have been addressed with a simple contact by a caring human being representing the government. Instead, the Government used violent and hostile means with the full force of the U.S. government and several armed law enforcement agencies costing the taxpayer millions of dollars.”
But what’s worst about this case is how an unlikely coalition of environmental groups, U.S. wood manufacturers (whose wood consumption dwarfs the music industry), and the Department of Justice can transform the use of raw coercion on flimsy legal grounds into some kind of a victory. For anyone who thinks our assessment is overly harsh, we suggest they go to Gibson’s website, where they can read the Department of Justice Settlement for themselves. There is no argument against proper stewardship of finite wood resources. However, there is something wrong with abandoning basic concepts of due process and proportionality, and creating scapegoats in the name of a worthy cause.
by Eapen Thampy, Americans for Forfeiture Reform.
The Department of Defense Criminal Investigation Service now has the ability to use federal asset forfeiture and “Equitable Sharing” provisions to seize and forfeit property:
In order to gain sharper teeth in its investigations and prosecutions, DCIS added something more to its arsenal in 2007. A Memorandum of Understanding outlining basic functions and guidelines of DCIS’s participation in the DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture Program was formalized on May 25, 2007. Before this MOU became official, DCIS could only seek civil judgments and settlements for large sums of money as some form of financial punishment.
Assets being sought for forfeiture by DCIS are entered into DOJ’s Consolidated Asset Tracking System (CATS). DOJ’s CATS system, a controlled DOJ database, tracks assets through the forfeiture process and gives the Attorney General a good picture of what assets are being forfeited, in what amounts, from whom, and by what investigative agency. CATS, however, is only as accurate as the end user or data entry specialist who inputs the information at the local level. If assets are being forfeited but are not entered into CATS, DOJ has no other way to know what assets are being forfeited by each investigative agency. As the forfeiture partnership progresses, CATS should provide an accurate reflection of the assets being forfeited by DCIS.
Another aspect of the DOD/DOJ MOU is that the United States Marshal’s Service (USMS) will be the custodian of all assets seized when DCIS is the lead investigative agency. This is common practice for other DOJ criminal investigative agencies such as the DEA, FBI, and some non-DOJ participating investigating agencies such as the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).
Part of the rationale for establishing DCIS as a participating agency in the DOJ Asset Forfeiture Program, specifically the Assets Forfeiture Fund, are the two DCIS capabilities that were not available before 2007. As previously described, DCIS now has the ability to take [*204] the profit out of crime affecting DOD and its sub-agencies. Additionally, the MOU gives DCIS the ability to receive equitable sharing funds directly from the DOJ Assets Forfeiture Fund. Equitable sharing is available to DCIS if it was not the lead investigative agency seeking forfeiture on a case but contributed to the investigation. The MOU establishes that DCIS can not only seek equitable sharing from DOJ criminal investigative agencies, but also investigative agencies that participate in the Treasury Fund and Postal Fund. An example of this would be when IRS Criminal Investigations is the lead agency on a forfeiture case that DCIS substantially assisted. Funds shared and received must be used in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 524(c), the Attorney General’s Guidelines on Seized and Forfeited Property (July 1990), and DOJ’s policies.
Interesting legal twist:
Unique problems may exist when the federal government seeks to civilly forfeit assets from active duty personnel and national guardsman or reservists called to active duty under Title 10 of the United States Code. Under the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA), service members have certain protections against default judgments being entered against them. While the language of the statute states that the act “applies to any civil action or proceeding in which the defendant does not make an appearance,” it is unclear if this protection applies specifically to civil forfeiture actions. In order to comply with the statute, a plaintiff must provide an affidavit to the court stating whether or not the defendant is in military service or showing that the plaintiff is unable to determine whether or not the defendant is in military service. Due to the in rem nature of civil forfeiture actions, the defendant is the asset itself, and thus will never be in military service within the meaning of the SCRA. Any property subject to a civil forfeiture action cannot defend itself against a default judgment unless a third party intervenes and files a claim to the property. Therefore, in the case that a service member is the owner of assets being sought in civil forfeiture, the service member is not the defendant in the action, but rather the claimant if he or she files a timely claim to the subject property. No precedent exists on the SCRA’s prevention of default judgment in federal civil judicial forfeiture actions. Historically, the SCRA’s language was intended to prevent the entry of default judgments against service members who were named parties to common place civil actions such as tort actions, small claims lawsuits, copyright [*208] infringement, civil rights lawsuits, bankruptcies, debt and foreclosure actions, divorces, or any child custody proceeding.
As previously discussed, assets are entered into the DOJ CATS system for tracking purposes by the lead investigative agency in a forfeiture case. In 2008, DCIS judicially forfeited over $ 238,000 in assets coming from Virginia, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Currently in CATS, n65 DCIS is seeking forfeiture of over $ 10.5 million in assets ranging from televisions, jewelry, gold coins, computer equipment, cash, bank accounts, vehicles, watercraft, real property, stock shares, and other items. Because federal asset forfeiture is still new for DCIS, not all states have active DCIS judicial forfeiture cases pending. But many states and districts are quickly joining with DCIS as a viable and strategic partner in combating crime and punishing criminal activities within the DOD.
This is all from the article “Federal Asset Forfeiture and the Military”, in the 2009 Air Force Law Review, authored by Staff Sergeant Steven Morley.
When Chicago police broke into his Austin home with guns drawn and a search warrant, Markee Cooper Sr. . . . and his family could only look on as drawers and closets were searched for crack cocaine based on an alleged informant’s tip.
On Friday, a federal jury awarded Cooper and his family $565,000 in damages after finding one officer at fault for a falsified warrant and two others responsible for the illegal 2007 search.
[Cooper] and his wife testified at the trial that their two young sons, Markee Jr., 13, and Zion, 8, were traumatized at seeing their father confront a roomful of cops with guns before kneeling to the living room floor and handing over his badge and weapon.
“It’s a horrible experience for a child to see or even think about,” Cooper’s wife, Sherita, said after the verdict was announced. “I’m just glad that justice was served.”
The city of Chicago will have to pay $450,000 in compensatory damages awarded by the seven-woman, three-man jury, said Cooper’s attorney, Brendan Shiller. The jury also assessed punitive damages against three of five officers — money they will be responsible for paying, Shiller said.
Officer Sean Dailey, who testified that he secured the warrant based on information from an informant named “Lamar” who told him crack was being sold out of the second-floor apartment in the Cooper’s building, was assessed by far the most — $100,000. Sgt. Salvatore Reina was found liable for $10,000 and former Lt. Dennis Ross for $5,000.
Cooper’s legal team argued that Dailey either made up the informant or was reckless by making no effort to try to verify the tip. They pointed to the sketchy information Dailey initially had about Lamar’s background — no last name, phone number or address.
“I think this verdict shows that the informant didn’t exist, and he made it up,” Shiller said of Dailey. “And if he made up an informant, the city needs a better policy to prevent this from happening again.”
The officers’ attorneys argued that Dailey played by the rules, informing the Cook County state’s attorney’s office before going to a judge for the warrant. Dailey testified that the same informant had given him three previous tips that led to criminal charges. That the information turned out to be bad was not intentional, the defense argued.
“That’s called, ‘I ain’t perfect,’” Mitchell said during closing arguments Thursday. “Was it serious? Yes. Was it malicious? No.” . . .
[Cooper] testified at trial that he thought he was the victim of a home invasion when he first heard someone breaking into his residence, only to find about a dozen plainclothes officers with guns drawn.
It’s really rare to get any damages for a wrong-door raid, much less to see punitive damages assessed to the officers involved. Qualified immunity is a pretty high hurdle. and juries tend to be sympathetic to cops.
But Cooper’s description of the terrifying raid, and his first thought that he was being invaded by criminal intruders, seemed to have some resonance with this particular jury. Before you click over, see if you can guess what Cooper does for a living.
Hi Folks : It’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, already upset by the post below this one – William Anderson’s piece about kids in a Mississippi town being incarcerated for “crimes” like violating the school dress code, or even flatulence!
Which reminded me of today’s “happy” story in the NY Post about a young man who’d been given a $100 ticket for riding his unicycle on a Brooklyn sidewalk — even though he offered to show the cop a government web site on his iPhone that stated it is NOT a crime. The cop didn’t care. Worse — when he got to court, at first the judge refused to listen to him.
[Judge] Delury also warned him not to ride his bicycle on the sidewalk again “or I’ll put you in Rikers.”
Isn’t that a little FLIP? A high school student rides a unicycle on the sidewalk (incidentally NOT breaking the law) and the next thing you know a judge is threatening to send him to JAIL?
Eventually the judge backed down — but only after the kid had the guts to request a second appearance in front of him to ask for a jury trial. By then the judge had finally DEIGNED to read the ACTUAL LAW. He then declared the issue “dismissed.”
What a lucky break! The kid is not going to do hard time for not breaking a law! – L
This should be a very familiar topic for Agitators:
This paper develops the political economy of the militarization of domestic policing. We analyze the mechanisms through which the “protective state” — where the government utilizes its monopoly on force to protect citizens’ rights — devolves into a “predatory state” which undermines the rights of the populace. We apply our theory to the U.S., where we trace the (failed) historical attempts to establish constraints to separate the military functions and policing functions of government. In doing so we emphasize the role of crises in the form of perpetual wars — the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror” — in the accelerated militarization of domestic policing.
This is from Coyne and Hall at the economics department of George Mason University. SSRN here.
-Eapen Thampy, Americans for Forfeiture Reform
Hat Tip: Abhi Sivasailam
Here’s a photo of part of the police response to the protests in Anaheim today. As many times as I’ve seen and written about images like this one, I still find them startling. It just isn’t the sort of thing you’re supposed to see in a free society.
The heavy-handedness is Anaheim is particularly poignant when you consider that the protests themselves are in response to a rash of shootings by Anaheim cops, most notably Manuel Diaz last week, who was unarmed and shot twice. According to an attorney for the family, the second shot was to the back of the head as Diaz lay on the ground.
The punchline here is that after the police shoot Diaz, after they fire rubber bullets and pepper balls at protesters last week, after they call out the urban warfare unit this afternoon . . . everyone is calling on the protesters to remain peaceful.