Jonathan Livingston Spielberg

Pretty sure this one is a shoe-in for next year’s “Best Short Film Shot by a Seagull” Oscar.

Story here.

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Photo of the Day

Tbilisi.

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Hot Dog

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Dog not on a leash in St. Louis? That’s a puppycide!

WNEM TV 5
-Eapen Thampy

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Eric Holder in His “Fixer” Role

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

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Trust Us. We Have An Excellent Reason To Take Your House(s)

Scott Meiner, Americans for Forfeiture Reform

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).

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Tennessee Tales: A Review Of Misappropriations, Missing Funds, Improper Accounting, & Stolen Drugs

Scott Meiner, Americans for Forfeiture Reform

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

Initial findings:

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.

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First they came for the elephants, and then there was no one left

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.

 

-Eapen Thampy

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Nita Ghei’s Column On BATFE’s New Asset Forfeiture Authority

 

Scott Meiner, Americans for Forfeiture Reform

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 Column:

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

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Photo of the Day

 

Tbilisi.

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Legendary Federal Judge Richard Posner Endorses Marijuana Legalization

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:

 

-Eapen Thampy

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But Bush Said the Man Has a Good Heart

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.”

Pause.

“Ha, ha! I am just kidding!”

Pause.

“But seriously. We will not tolerate failure.”

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Photo of the Day

 

Tbilisi.

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Best Amicus Brief Ever

-Eapen Thampy

Here’s page 1.

 

The rest of the brief is here.

Hat Tip: Todd Bussert

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Thursday Afternoon Big Brother Rap Blogging

-Eapen Thampy

I thoroughly enjoyed this effort from the Juice Media. I like to think that George Orwell would appreciate it too:

 

Hat Tip: Mitch Richards

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