Saturday, September 15, 2012
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Monday, September 10, 2012
Jesse Trentadue, a Salt Lake City attorney, gives a powerful speech about the murder of his brother, Kenneth, at the Oklahoma City federal lockup in the fall of 1995. This is a story of a brutal killing, how federal officials lied throughout the investigation, and how the current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder orchestrated the cover-up.
In his speech, Trentadue not only tells the story of his dealings with the FBI, or what libertarian writer James Bovard recently called “a Stasi for America,” but also goes into detail about the FBI’s program, PATCON, which involved infiltration of various anti-government groups since the 1990s. One important point he makes is that much of the problem is institutional, not political. The Department of Justice and the FBI and other agencies ultimately protect themselves and operate essentially on their own.
During the 1990s, Eric Holder operated as the “fixer” for Attorney General Janet Reno, and from Ruby Ridge to Waco to the Oklahoma City bombing, Holder made sure that the government suppressed information that would have placed the Clinton administration in a bad light. (Murder tends to make one look bad.) Ultimately, Holder was rewarded by being appointed U.S. Attorney General under Barack Obama, and one only can imagine the crimes that Holder now is concealing.
– William Anderson
San Antonio Express News reports on the attempted forfeitures of two houses owned by Dr. Sindy Chapa, Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Latinos Media and Markets at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University.
“Chapa hasn’t been charged with a crime, and an affidavit by an Internal Revenue Service agent explaining why the feds think they should have the house has been sealed. But in the public court filings, prosecutors allege the property was bought with proceeds of criminal activity….
“It’s not unusual for San Antonio prosecutors to seal affidavits outlining why they want property forfeited, but in recent high-profile cases, the owners have been out of the country. This is a rare situation in which the property owner is in the U.S. and could potentially contest the forfeiture.” Jason Buch and Guillermo Contreras, “Texas State professor’s property targeted by feds,” San Antonio Express News, 5 Sept. 2012.
Any speculation on the strength of the government’s case or the relative innocence of Dr. Chapa is premature. We simply don’t know much (beyond a rumored romantic relationwith Tomás Jesús Yarrington Ruvalcaba) because the DOJ was successful in keeping the supporting reasons secret. Still, it is unsettling to hear that San Antonio prosecutors regularly use sealed affidavits in civil asset forfeitures (and even more so if prosecutors are employing a concerted strategy to capture property while potential claimants are away).
Recent tales of asset forfeiture abuse in Tennessee sparked my curiosity as to how Tennessee law enforcement departments are handling (or mishandling) seized property. I am looking for credible accounts (relevant to asset forfeiture) of misappropriation of funds, stolen drugs, improper accounting, et cetera… I’ve concentrated my search on smaller departments with the thought that a couple of bad apples in Memphis do not (statistically) imply a great deal. However, I welcome any articles or reports contributors suggest. Blatant malfeasance in small departments strikes us as more descriptive of the problem and more supportive of the argument that permitting law enforcement to self-appropriate the fruits of seizures abrogates the power of the purse (castrating the electorate’s power to compel responsive government).
Contact @ scott[at]forfeiturereform.com
3rd Judicial District Drug Task Force: Pervasive accounting deficiencies.
4th Judicial District Drug Task Force: DTF agent indicted for two counts of theft of Drug Task Force funds after $5,700 goes missing.
10th Judicial District Drug Task Force: $4,500 shortage in evidence and confidential funds. A In excess of $17,000 in 10th Judicial District DTF credit charges lacked adequate documentation including $6,800 with no documentation. Quality reporting from Judy Walton of the Times Free Press reveals that, between 2008 and 2010, 10th Judicial District DTF agents spent more than $100,000 of seizure proceeds on hotels, meals, mileage and airfare. Walton also reported that former “DTF Director Mike Hall’s drug task force credit card was used to charge more than $50,000 between 2008 and 2010 on meals for himself, task force members and guests at local restaurants, as well as gifts, flowers and goodies for co-workers and office secretaries, credit card receipts show.”
12th Judicial District Drug Task Force: Failed 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim reveals that local DTF paid 20% ‘referral fees’ to at least one informant for seizures leading to DTF forfeiture proceeds as a bounty.
13th Judicial District Drug Task Force: An employee improperly charged personal expenses to Drug Task Force accounts resulting in a cash shortage of $10,000.
17th Judicial District Drug Task Force: At a motion to suppress hearing, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger notes: ”Essentially, all of [17th Judicial District Interdiction Agent] Daugherty’s traffic stops are pretextual attempts to find illegal drugs.” [Incidentally, Daugherty was the 2008 national runnerup for interdiction officer of the year-based on numerical measure of of productivity.] Under oath, Daugherty admits that DTF funding is reliant on seizure revenues. When asked by defense counsel: ‘”Is it a fair statement that part of the reason that you were up by the Kentucky border at least 100 miles away from your four counties was the fact that it’s better hunting grounds up there?” Daugherty agrees that the drug-related activity in that area is “better.”” Judge suppresses Daugherty’s testimony after noting that she finds his testimony unconvincing and speculates why Daugherty does not employ available equipment to document cause for stops.
23rd Judicial District Drug Task Force: Sloppy accounting and a missing $54,000 in seized currency. NewsChannel 5 Investigates reports that “that officers with the 23rd have been paid thousands of dollars in bonuses, some years higher than others.” DA denies bonuses are tied to drug busts or amount of money officers seize. NewsChannel 5 Investigates presents evidence that motorists are being pulled over for fictitious traffic violations after the Dickson Police Chief, who serves as chairman of the board for the 23rd Judicial District DTF, claims: ”Every time they stop somebody it is a legal traffic stop.”
24th Judicial District Drug Task Force: Cash, guns, drugs, jewelry, and equipment under the control of the Drug Task Force were misused, stolen, and/or lost. Falsified records. Theft and smoking of crack cocaine stored in evidence, missing marijuana, etc. Drug Task Force Director at the time of the offenses “charged with one count of theft, one count of official misconduct and one count of knowingly giving a false statement to an auditor.” DTF’sAdministrative Assistant charged several days later with “one count of theft and one count of knowingly giving a false statement to an auditor.”
Crump Police Department: Multiple unauthorized removals of various seized drugs.
Dickson County Sheriff’s Office: Missing drug money. Fraud. Forgery.
Etowah Police Department: Seized drugs, cash, and guns missing.
Gallaway Police Department: Missing guns, guns issued to non-law enforcement, allegations of duplicate pay for police chief.
Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff’s Office employees alleged misconduct results in $14,000 cash shortage from missing commissary funds and use of an unofficial receipt book.
Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office: Deputy initially “arrested and charged with one count of burglary, one count of theft and one count of tampering with evidence” after narcotics go missing from the evidence room. Charges grow to 68 counts.
Henry County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff and sheriff’s office business manager indicted after audit finds $162,000 shortage and falsified records, mail fraud, conspiracy, etc.
Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office: “A Lauderdale County deputy sheriff repeatedly spent undercover funds for unauthorized purposes and falsified documents to cover his tracks, a report by the Comptroller’s Division of County Audit has found.”
McMinn County Sheriff’s Office: Deputy indicted for one count of official oppression. Deputy accused of stealing prescription drugs from motorists.
Monterey Police Department: Guns and some $30,000 gso missing. Former police chief pleads guilty to theft. Allegations that the current police diverted asset forfeiture funds to pay for the use of a bulldozer on his property leads local District Attorney to call for an investigation.
Sequatchie County Sheriff’s Office: Missing commissary funds and missing cash taken from inmates at processing.
Trenton Police Department: $73,000 in cash goes missing from police department. Police chief and his secretary are purportedly the only individuals with access. Town officials have no explanations.
Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff indicted on multiple felony charges including “six counts official misconduct, one count of theft over $1,000, one count of tampering with evidence, one count of criminal simulation and one count of attempted aggravated assault.”
Wayne County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff’s office sells vehicles for cash. Cash never recorded. Cash goes missing.
Wilson County Sheriff’s Office: Former Lieutenant accused of, among other things, falsely claiming to witness a drug deal between two men, holding the men at gunpoint, falsely arresting them and seizing their vehicles and cash, forging documents in an attempt to claim ownership of (several) other vehicles seized by the sheriff’s office, checking out unknown amounts of marijuana from the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office evidence room and arranging for its sale at personal gain, selling confidential information to the target of a drug investigation, burglarizing the residence of his former girlfriend to give the stolen items to his wife as gifts, and attempting to poison his wife. Bunch of other stuff gone too-including disappeared cocaine.
Whitwell Police Department: former police chief and former city recorder arrested for theft.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
I have always enjoyed the old Soviet humor, and I thought I’d share this one that I found in my notes:
A flock of sheep were stopped by frontier guards at the Russo-Finnish border.
“Why do you wish to leave Russia?” asked the guards?
“It’s the NKVD!”, replied the terrified sheep. “Comrade Beria has ordered them to arrest all elephants!”
“But you aren’t elephants!” the guards pointed out.
“Try telling that to the NVKD!” replied the sheep.
Friday, September 7, 2012
Nita Ghei has a great Op-Ed at the Washington Times on the new authority given to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF or BATFE) to seize and administratively forfeit property allegedly involved in Controlled Substance Act offenses. The Op-Ed is spot on except a clarification might be useful. Ghei’s Op-Ed could be misread as implying that without the rule change, BATFE lacks power to seize and administratively forfeit property. That is not the case. BATFE already enjoys broad power to seize and administratively forfeit. However, it currently has to to tie the seizure to some specific offense (within its authority)-even if there is no charge or conviction against a person. In practice, expanding BATFE authority to seize and administratively forfeit for controlled substance offenses is granting BATFE authority to use fill-in-the-blank catch-alls for seizures and forfeitures.
Courts often accept that unexplained property possession is drug related-even when there is no direct evidence of drugs. Bulk currency is the obvious example but it could be anything. In theory, that would (and should) be the same with controlled substance act violations. In practice, it is not.
The Obama administration is making it easier for bureaucrats to take away guns without offering the accused any realistic due process. In a final rule published last week, the Justice Department granted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) authority to “seize and administratively forfeit property involved in controlled-substance abuses.” That means government can grab firearms and other property from someone who has never been convicted or even charged with any crime.
It’s a dangerous extension of the civil-forfeiture doctrine, a surreal legal fiction in which the seized property — not a person — is put on trial. This allows prosecutors to dispense with pesky constitutional rights, which conveniently don’t apply to inanimate objects. In this looking-glass world, the owner is effectively guilty until proved innocent and has the burden of proving otherwise. Anyone falsely accused will never see his property again unless he succeeds in an expensive uphill legal battle.
Such seizures are common in drug cases, which sometimes can ensnare people who have done nothing wrong. James Lieto found out about civil forfeiture the hard way when the FBI seized $392,000 from his business because the money was being carried by an armored-car firm he had hired that had fallen under a federal investigation. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Mr. Lieto was never accused of any crime, yet he spent thousands in legal fees to get his money back.
Law enforcement agencies love civil forfeiture because it’s extremely lucrative. The Department of Justice’s Assets Forfeiture Fund had $2.8 billion in booty in 2011, according to a January audit. Seizing guns from purported criminals is nothing new; Justice destroyed or kept 11,355 guns last year, returning just 396 to innocent owners. The new ATF rule undoubtedly is designed to ramp up the gun-grabbing because, as the rule justification claims, “The nexus between drug trafficking and firearm violence is well established.”
The main problem is that civil forfeiture creates a perverse profit motive, leaving bureaucrats with strong incentives to abuse a process that doesn’t sufficiently protect those who may be wrongly accused. Criminal forfeiture is more appropriate because it’s tied to a conviction in a court with the option of a jury trial and evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Innocents like Mr. Lieto have to fight against the might of the U.S. government with a watered-down standard that stacks the legal deck so prosecutors can get a quick win.
The rule extending civil-forfeiture power to the ATF recognizes this dynamic, stating with perhaps unconscious cynicism that an uncontested civil forfeiture “can be perfected for minimal cost” compared to the “hundreds or thousands of dollars” and “years” needed for judicial forfeiture. Nowhere is there any recognition of the burden placed on innocent citizens stripped of their property, or of the erosion of their civil liberties. In fact, the rule argues that, because in the past the ATF could turn over requests for civil forfeiture to the Drug Enforcement Administration, there has been no change in “individual rights.”
Instead of expanding the profit motive in policing, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. should be working to eliminate it.” Nita Ghei, “GHEI: ATF’s latest gun grab Agency reduces due process for seizing firearms,” The Washington Times, 6 Sept. 2012
The entire speech is worth listening to, but for those interested in Posner’s statement on marijuana you could start listening at about the 54th minute:
This is causing some consternation in Georgian newspapers. (Or at least the English-language papers.)
Russia needs a “leap forward” to rejuvenate its sprawling defense industry, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday, harkening back to the ambitious industrialization carried out by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the run-up to World War Two.
“We should carry out the same powerful, all-embracing leap forward in modernization of the defense industry as the one carried out in the 1930s,” Putin told his Security Council, without mentioning Stalin by name.
Stalin, who ruled the Soviet empire with an iron fist for 27 years, is blamed for the death of about six million people but also is praised by many Russians for winning the war and industrializing the country.
The but in that sentence is doing some seriously heavy lifting.
In the 1930s Soviet leaders transformed a rural country devastated by civil war into an industrial superpower, using terror and executions to impose strict discipline at new plants built across the vast country.
Putin’s top defense industry official Dmitry Rogozin posted on his Facebook page a copy of a 1940 letter from Stalin to gun factory managers and accompanied it with a sarcastic warning: “Such methods of improving discipline also exist”.
Stalin’s letter to the managers said: “I give you two or three days to launch mass production of machinegun cartridges… If production does not start on time, the government will take over control of the plant and shoot all the rascals there.”
“Of course, it was a joke,” Rozogin told reporters regarding his posting but added that failures would not be tolerated.
How positively mafioso of him. “Like Stalin, should you fail to produce weapons to our satisfaction, we will take your business, kill you, kill your workers, and kill your families.”
“Ha, ha! I am just kidding!”
“But seriously. We will not tolerate failure.”
Thursday, September 6, 2012
You should read this MIT News article about addiction researcher Natasha Schull’s groundbreaking research on gambling addiction. Excerpt:
Now, in her new book, Addiction by Design, published this month by Princeton University Press, Schull delves into the lives of such gamblers. In particular, she looks at compulsive machine gamblers — not the folks playing social games around a table, such as poker, but those who play alone at electronic slot-machine terminals. For a small percentage of the population, these games become an all-consuming pursuit, a way of shutting out the world and its problems for long, long stretches of time.
But eventually, most compulsive machine gamblers recognize the hold that high-tech gaming has come to have over them. As one gambling addict told Schull: “I could say that for me the machine is a lover, a friend, a date, but really it’s none of those things; it’s a vacuum cleaner that sucks the life out of me, and sucks me out of life.”
Schull thinks this point — that for machine gamblers, it’s not about the money, but the escape into the “zone,” as Mollie and other gamblers call it — has eluded politicians who wrangle over casino openings and expansions throughout the United States, where more than 30 states currently have some form of legalized machine gambling.
“It’s a real stumbling block for policymakers to understand that,” Schull says. She adds: “Everyone believes the harm is how much money is spent, and that what’s driving the compulsive gamblers is a desire to make money. But … the ‘zone’ is really what’s driving this experience. The idea of winning money falls away when you get to the point of addiction.”
Scholars who have read the book praise its exploration of the psyche of gamblers. Tanya Luhrmann, an anthropologist at Stanford University, lauds the way it “captures the intense relationship between humans and machines that is so much part of what people call the addiction experience.” Luhrmann adds that until reading Addiction by Design, she “hadn’t realized gambling was so much about the experience” of playing, rather than winning.
Schull’s research had attracted considerable attention well in advance of the book’s publication: She has appeared on “60 Minutes” and testified about the subject in front of the Massachusetts state legislature.
Yet Schull holds off on offering specific regulatory remedies concerning the way games should be structured. In some countries, legislators have suggested slowing down the pace of electronic slot machines to stretch out payoffs and water down the intensity of the experience — a technological fix Schull calls “wrongheaded” because it may simply encourage gamblers to play for longer periods using an equal amount of money.
Machine gambling, Schull emphasizes, “is not like buying a movie ticket or making a purchase at a store and then going home. This is rapid, fast, continuous spending where people lose track of time and space, and their ability to make decisions shifts over the course of the encounter.”
Instead, Schull asks, “Given the nature of this product and this interface, shouldn’t policymakers, state legislatures, be learning a little bit more about how this product affects people?” She adds: “I think my work is part of an emerging conversation.”
Folks, it’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, back here because I just got this email and it points very clearly to the path we must take: CHANGE THE SEX OFFENDER LAWS which are, as this “offender” himself notes, harsher than those we mete out for murder — even when what we’re talking about is CONSENSUAL SEX between two teens. – L.
I am a registered sex offender. My convictions were CSC 4th degree (statutory rape) and CSC 3rd degree. Both occurred in the State of Michigan, my first when I was 17. I was involved with my FIRST girlfriend, who was just about to turn 16 at the time of the offense (we started seeing each other when I was 16 and she was just about to turn 14 and headed into her freshman year of HS.) My second conviction came almost a year later to the day. I was on probation, admittedly not following orders as I was already listed on the sex offender registry, had been expelled from HS 3 months before graduating due to the conviction and convinced my life was pretty much over as I knew it. I ended up in a situation where a young woman lied to me about her age (15 when she was really 13) and I engaged in some sexual activity with her. Cops found out a couple of days later and after being told she was claiming forced rape, I told them what really happened and was given the good ole boy “we knew she was lying” routine, but even if it was not forced it did not matter I knew I was in big trouble because I found out then that she was only 13 and I was now 18.
I was looked at as predator because I was increasing in age and my “victims” were decreasing in age and sentenced to prison for a period of 1 1/2 years to 22 1/2 years.
Now i want to make a few of things perfectly clear. 1) Prison probably saved my life, I was a good kid way in way over his head with partying and living recklessly. 2) For my first conviction I was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 2 years probation and sex offender treatment, along with the mandatory 25 years on the Sex Offender Registry. 3) I was not a Leave-It-to-Beaver kid by any means. I did have issues with sex addiction and low self esteem but had no idea where or who to turn to in order to work on those issues 4) I was never put into treatment of any kind during my probation, my PO kept saying we would get to it eventually, which I did not understand because according the them I was some monster who needed to be tracked and monitored.
That being said, putting a non-violent statutory rapist in the same prison (my prison was actually a sex offender “compound” there was only about a 12 % segment of the population who were not sex offenders) as pedophiles, violent rapists, and true predators can create some very warped views and mindsets.
Eventually I was released and put on 2 years of parole, and after a very bumpy 2 years and a very understanding parole officer who knew I was inherently not a bad person, I was able to get off of parole.
Fast forward almost 7 years later and I am now 31, in college for the first time and doing quite well, but it took a LOT of false starts to get to where I am at. I deal with the registry because I have to, since I committed two sex offenses I am now on it for the rest of my life.
I am a level-three sex offender according to Arizona, the state in which I now reside, and that will also probably never change.
While I can see how my actions led to my incarceration and accept that there must be some punishment for breaking the law, I fail to see how having the stigma of being a “sex offender” hanging over my head for the rest of my life does myself or society any good.
The young man who was convicted of sex crimes at the age of 17 and 18 has finally grown up and I am in no way of the same mindset as I was back then. It’s a process we know as maturing. But I will forever be judged and seen by those actions of my past.
The system is not fair, and justice very rarely can be assigned to more than one party, especially if they are on opposing sides. But at one point can guys (and women) like me, who have served their time and are doing everything they follow the law and become useful members of society, get some sort of relief?
Sex offenders in today’s society face many obstacles, many of them crippling to say the least. With housing options limited, job opportunities almost nil (hope you like working in restaurants or telemarketing), and a legal system designed to induce failure rather than facilitate success, the pathway to become a useful member of society is littered with sinkholes and quicksand. I could have killed someone and have gotten a lighter maximum sentence, no registry and probably better employment opportunities than I have come across thus far.
I do not cry myself to sleep at night, nor am I hopeless. But I know the cards are stacked against me. My career options are limited to say the least and given the state of the nation these days, even with my college degree in hand down the road, my future is somewhat uncertain.
I am not a danger to society, I am not some monster who you need to be warned about. I am someone’s son, brother, mentor, and a friend to many. I am not a hardened career criminal, I am not going to peek in your blinds or steal your baby. I was a young man who made a series of very poor decisions and will pay for them for the rest of his life. And worse of all? I am not unique, I am not alone. There are many more like me, and they may not have the courage or means to speak up, so I am speaking up for them.
9th Circuit Appellate Court Rejects Government’s Argument That Claimants Who Deny Currency Ownership To The Police Concede Article III Standing To Challenge Attempted Forfeitures
Scott Alexander Meiner, Americans for Forfeiture Reform
Michael Simard prevailed on a civil asset forfeiture and Article III case or controversy standing question before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The federal government argued, among other things, that a possessor of currency who denied knowledge of, or interest in, possessed currency, at the scene of an investigatory stop and seizure, conceded Article III case or controversy standing to subsequently claim ownership and/or possessor interest in the currency. For purposes of ownership interest, at this point, the appellate court saw otherwise. The appellate court reversed the district court and found (while implicitly rejecting the government’s position in regards to ownership interest):
” The district court erred in granting the motion to strike by applying the standard of proof for a claimant asserting a possessory, rather than an ownership, interest in property. In a civil forfeiture proceeding, “[a]t the motion to dismiss stage, a claimant’s unequivocal assertion of an ownership interest in the property is sufficient by itself to establish standing.” USA v. Michael Simard, et al., No. 11-15528 (9th Cir. Aug. 27, 2012)(unpublished).
Parties seeking to claim property facing federal in rem (against the thing) forfeiture actions carry the burden of establishing their own constitutional standing at all stages of litigation. Without Article III case or controversy standing, federal courts lack jurisdiction to hear the claim.
The government’s argument, if successful, threatened to further escalate incentivization of coercive seizure tactics while reducing access to the courts-eliminating it for some. Many parties who suffered currency seizures would effectively be left with no option but to petition the agency for remission or mitigation-a plea for the agency and agents (who often havefinancial and professional incentives to say no) to be merciful.
Mr. Simard and his attorneys, Ronald N Richards and Louis Palazzo, deserve congratulations on their victory. The matter has been remanded to the district court where the matter will be further litigated. Among possible issues to be discussed in further litigation include the government’s contentions:
- Asking for a consent to search on the pretense of a “current threat assessment and homeland security issues” is not coercive [It should be noted that Simard is Canadian. The U.S. Government's role in sending Canadian Maher Arar to his native Syria for a year of torture is better known in Canada than it is in the U.S.]
- Simard’s vehicle being ”cluttered with several snacks” [while on a road trip] was indicative of a courier smuggling drugs or drug proceeds.
- The use of a rental car was indicative of a courier smuggling drugs or drug proceeds.
- The presence of an ”atlas on the front right passenger seat” was indicative of a courier smuggling drugs or drug proceeds.
- The presence of a “black backpack on the right front floor board [which] would hold insufficient clothing for the road trip” was indicative of a courier smuggling drugs or drug proceeds. [This was was prior to officers finding further luggage-presumably in his trunk where a good number of people keep luggage.]
- The presence of multiple duplicate electronic devices was indicative of a courier smuggling drugs or drug proceeds.
- Simard was no longer detained after officers told him that he could go but then came back and starting asking more questions, secured a signature to consent to search his rental, and seized the currency in his possession.
- That a positive canine sniff on bulk currency was (and is) a reliable indicator of recent exposure to illegal controlled substances and thus a reliable indicator that the currency was either intended to be used to purchase illegal drugs or constitutes proceeds of illegal drug sales.
The importance of this ruling is that the denial at the time of seizure (“It’s not mine; I’ve never seen that money before.”) no longer binds the claimant in a subsequent forfeiture proceeding. This is good, though it doesn’t make the claimant look either truthful or innocent, but that can’ be helped as he’s already denied ownership. At least it gets him into the game.
As for the factors mentioned, the burden to the government is probable cause, and it’s based on the totality of circumstances. It’s typical in a forfeiture proceeding to break down the circumstances into small bites to create the sense of a substantial number of factors that support probable cause. The claimant’s response would be that he was on a road trip, like millions of people innocently enjoy regularly every year, negating many of the circumstances.
The problem, obviously, is that millions of people on innocent road trips don’t have bulk currency in the car. The burden shifts to the claimant, after the government has proven probable cause, to prove that the currency was legitimately owned and possessed for lawful purposes. While the win on standing is a good decision, whether Simard can prevail on his claim is another matter…
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Jason Zepps hosted a community sound-off on this afternoon’s “Shadow Convention” coverage of the War on Drugs by Huffington Post Live. I wanted to point this segment out as it contains an account of another marijuana SWAT raid by the infamous Columbia Police Department. Leah Maurer narrates at 11:05; I am providing a rough transcription because I can’t embed the video, so you should click through and listen:
…My husband and I were involved in a home invasion by ten armed men in a SWAT team style raid on our house…we had no prior record…this was in Missouri, where we used to live… Only someone who’s lived through that can speak to the horror that you have to go through and having to have your civil liberties violated in that way by this overarching force like Walter referenced earlier the way that police forces have become so empowered and people have begun to fear them and it’s because of things like this when yo uhave three men that are three times my size holding machine guns at me when I have a harmless plant growing in my basement…
…I believe that they came into the house, and they found what they were looking for, and that after that all they continued to look for was money. I think they were trying to find a lot of money, which we had none…they ripped our whole house apart looking for that, because what they were looking for was pretty obvious, the grow was pretty obvious…
…We relocated 2000 miles away from them because after having our house drug through like that, not only did that happen but our faces were all over the media in this tiny little city in Missouri, we lost friends over it, my children were treated differently because of it, it was a pretty horrific experience and we just knew we had to get out. My husband was arrested because of it and is now a felon and is now serving probation…
…We were two people who completely had our liberties taken from us that day…
Sunday, September 2, 2012
In the Washington Times, “Caravan for Peace crosses U.S. to highlight the failed War on Drugs“, excerpt:
This August in conjunction with the Mexican Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, a high profile Caravan of Peace is crossing the U.S., starting in San Diego/Los Angeles area, heading east along the U.S.-Mexico border and then swinging north to Chicago, and cross to Cleveland, New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. to heighten the awareness of the failed “War on Drugs.”
The 6,000-mile journey through 20 cities is to honor lives lost due to the failed prohibition policies, culminating in an international day of action in Washington, D.C.
These days it is almost impossible to listen to the national news without reading about the rapidly escalating drug-related violence in Mexico, most particularly the areas of Mexico that share a common border with the United States.
The deadly mayhem and the greed that fuels it recognizes no borders, often making the American side of these drug war zones just an extension of their battlefield. Both sides of the border are tired of law enforcement’s failed efforts to put an end to the bloodshed and the breakdown of society in general.
So weary in fact, that renowned Mexican poet Javier Sicilia has become the primary spokesperson for the Mexican Movement for Peace with Justice & Dignity (MPJD). Also joining MPJD on the Caravan of Peace will be a broad bi-national coalition of 100 organizations.U.S.-based organizations and foundations including the Latin American Working Group, Washington Office on Latin America, The RFK Center, regional leaders of the Brady Campaign, Heeding God’s Call, Presente.org, LCLAA, NALAAC, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Fellowship of Reconciliation, Veterans for Peace, Institute for Policy Studies, Drug Policy Alliance, and many others, who realize a new approach is required.
To illustrate the gravity of the problem, Sicilia points out that more than 60,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico in the last few years. More than 10,000 people have been disappeared and over 160,000 displaced.
“Our purpose is to honor our victims, to make their names and faces visible,” Sicilia said. “We will travel across the United States to raise awareness of the unbearable pain and loss caused by the drug war – and of the enormous shared responsibility for protecting families and communities in both our countries.”
Link via Law Enforcement Against Prohibition executive director Neill Franklin, who adds:
Traveling with the Caravan for Peace, meeting poet Javier Sicilia and fellowshipping with the many families who have lost love ones at the hands of the cartel has been one of the most rewarding moments in my life. The courage exemplified by my Mexican brothers and sisters is extraordinary. Traveling into a foreign land with threats upon their lives, placing their safety into the hands of complete strangers, all in an effort of asking the US federal government for help in changing policies responsible for the carnage in their country takes faith – a lot of faith. I certainly hope they listen to the voice of reason. I pray they have hearts of compassion.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Long before I was given blogging privileges on The Agitator this past month, I was a reader of Free-Range Kids. Ironically, the person who put me onto the blog was Karen DeCoster, who doesn’t have children, but is wonderfully-opinionated and fun to be around.
Lenore Skenazy, who runs the site, became famous four years ago because (Horrors!) she let her then-nine-year-old son take the New York City subway home. I remember when it happened because a number of people were shocked and accused Lenore of engaging in child abuse.
(The thing to keep in mind is that the term “child abuse” in America has changed in definition from actually abusing children to not hovering over them at every second. By actually permitting her child to engage in something that was an adventure without putting him in real-live danger, Lenore was performing a real act of parenting, which apparently to some has changed in definition from guiding children to outright dominating them. Why this has become the New Normal in the USA will be explained later in this post.)
When I heard about what Lenore had done, I loved it. Why? Children need adventure, and their imaginations are able to change things like a typical subway car into a spaceship or a vehicle that takes them into another dimension. (Yeah, some of us who like to ride the NY Subway might agree that the while thing really IS another dimension, but I won’t go there.)
Her act helped me to remember my own childhood in which my best friend, Gary Babe, and I ranged far and wide where we lived. We explored creeks, went ice skating in the winter, and rode bikes from here to there, all without parental supervision. I remember once when my mom let me walk to Billy Fries’s house holding a small guitar — in the middle of a blizzard. That was an adventure in itself, but I still remember that we had fun making music. (Today, Bill Fries is a first-rate professional musician.)
Yes, sometimes we got into trouble. Bikes crashed, we got cut on thorns, we fell out of trees (I was a great tree-climber and falling was an occupational hazard.), and once I fell into Hook Creek on a cold March day in 1961 and shortly thereafter got pneumonia. Being in the crude children’s ward at Crozier Hospital for a week was as terrifying as being in jail, as the battle-axe nurses performed rectal temperature checks and made us use bedpans. But I survived quite well, thank you, as did my other friends, and we have plenty of stories to tell. None of my buddies ever received a serious injury and none were kidnapped, although I am sure that some folks in the neighborhood might have wanted to see the loud and mouthy Billy disappear for a while.
Today, Americans are supposed to believe that danger lurks behind every corner and if we take our eyes off our kids for even a second, tragedy can strike. Yes, children throughout the ages have disappeared or have been abducted, but the actual numbers of abduction are much smaller than what we are led to believe, and often helicopter parenting won’t prevent such a tragedy, anyway.
Why the difference in then and now? If anything, the environment is safer than it was then. If I have to point to once event, it would be the passage of the Mondale Act of 1974, which not only led to scores of false accusations of sex abuse of children, but it also created the various bureaucracies that are dedicated to the “safety” of children. When bureaucrats and social workers occupied the Child Protective Services agencies, they came with the “mission” to protect children from their parents and the children themselves.
One of the things we learn about bureaucracies is that over time, they become imperialistic. As the reach of bureaucratic empires expands, the bureaucrats become careerists and all of the self-preservation that comes with human nature comes to the fore. When combined with the (unfortunate) endurance of the Progressive belief that “experts” should have control over our lives, it is not hard to see where all this is going.
Unfortunately, most journalists have bought into this “the experts know best for us” mentality. In my old days of watching TV (we have not had television reception in our home since 2001), I remember that the Today Show would have Bill Clinton’s head of the Consumer Safety Products Commission director as a guest, and she would tell us what new toys were dangerous to children. The atmosphere was near-worshipful, and no one ever questioned the Great Wisdom of the Expert.
Furthermore, the very self-perpetuating and imperialistic nature of bureaucracies means that people employed in those entities must find reason after reason to justify the existence of their jobs. Creating and sustaining crises is the most effective way bureaucracies can grow and seize more power. The process is insidious, but at every turn, there always is someone in a very public situation (like a journalist) justifying this metastasizing bureaucratic growth.
Without the Mondale Act and the bureaucracies it spawned, does anyone think that the rash of faux child molestation cases like McMartin, Kerns County, Little Rascals, and more would have happened? Would it be as easy as it is now for people with personal agendas (child custody or revenge) to make false accusations in order to make someone else disappear into the prison system, a person who is innocent of the charges but does not command the personal resources to fight the accusations and the army of police, prosecutors, judges, and journalists that are arrayed against him or her?
Furthermore, like its sister act, the Violence Against Women Act, the Mondale Act has made it easier for authorities to demonize men. Lenore has written much about that awful situation and the real tragedy that the “all men are dangerous molesters, kidnappers, and rapists” mentality that the laws and bureaucracies have created.
So, what does this mean relative to the title of this post? Free-Range Kids literally strikes a blow against the new Evil Empire. (The old Evil Empire, the U.S.S.R., depended heavily upon snitches and an internal spy system complete with anonymous “tips” that someone was being subversive. During Stalin’s Terror, the best way to make a troublesome neighbor disappear or to gain revenge was to tell the authorities that so-and-so had denounced Stalin. The Gulag would not have been possible without this internal network. Today, we see that same kind of thing at work in our “child protection” system.)
What is FRK really saying? It is saying that people closest to the situation usually are the best people for making the hard choices. It really is OK to let your child have some adventure. Lenore didn’t drop off her son in Hong Kong and tell him to make it back to the USA on his own; no, she let him get on the subway in order to let him take what already was a familiar route home. He didn’t have to panhandle or play music to get subway fare. He just needed to do what he already knew what to do — except this time he did it on his own.
Lenore’s choice was a blow against bureaucracy. At the time, she didn’t see it as that, but that is what it was. It was a small step in reminding us that childhood is an adventure that the government should not disrupt just because somewhere real life might intervene in ways we don’t like.
Perhaps “helicopter government” has prevented a tragedy here and there, but that same “helicopter government” has created huge calamities that have cut a swath of destruction. The Little Rascals Trials were the most expensive trials in the history of the State of North Carolina, yet NONE of the charges were true. Innocent people went to prison, lives were ruined, and the wrong people were empowered. That whole sorry affair helped to build up a false atmosphere of hysteria that still affects the lives of those involved two decades later.
Nothing can create the Perfectly Safe Society for Children. Not CPS, not Free-Range Kids, not The Agitator, not helicopter parenting, nothing. Life has its risks and we make choices, sometimes the wrong ones, but often the right ones when left to our own decision-making authority.
I close with a wonderful memory of nearly 30 years ago. On a warm Sunday in early March, I sat down to watch the finals of the ACC basketball tournament, a game featuring North Carolina State (which would win the NCAA championships that year in dramatic fashion against heavily-favored Houston) and Ralph Sampson’s University of Virginia Cavaliers. From what I hear, it was a very exciting game, an ACC classic.
However, I never got to watch it because my oldest daughter, Leah, who was about 40 days short of six years old, just before the tip-off asked me to take her rock climbing on nearby Lookout Mountain (near Chattanooga, Tennessee). I got up and we drove to an area that is littered with huge boulders, some more than 40 feet high. Leah and I climbed for about two hours and we still talk about that magic time.
Yes, there were some risky places where a fall could have meant injury. No, we didn’t do “technical” climbs or perform the antics of the famous rock climbers. We just did a dad-and-daughter thing and what we did that afternoon was better than watching a thousand ACC championships.
No doubt, a CPS bureaucrat or social worker would have been all over me for “putting your little child in danger.” Yeah, we could have been hurt, no doubt about that. But we took precautions and we did something very important: we helped build our relationships with each other.
Today, Leah is 35, a wife, mother of two, and a very successful person in the work world. She is independent, personable, and a good decision maker. She makes twice what her father makes, and I am not badly-compensated by any means. I’d like to think that our “free-range” afternoon in which we quietly defied the child protection bureaucracy helped contribute to her present situation.
Ultimately, Free-Range Kids is a reminder that our children are not helpless, and that a little bit of adventure for kids (and parents) can be a good thing. My sense is that Lenore’s children are going to be independent, respectful, cooperative, and fun to be around. Why? Because they are learning some important lessons on their own.
– William Anderson