CRIMINAL ASSET FORFEITURE

 

Last night I came across a recent report generated by the US Inspector General documenting the controversial policy of “civil asset seizure.” The conclusions, though unsurprising to me, should outrage ordinary American’s. Do most people even realize the power our government has to legally forfeit anyone’s property, should the agency –DEA, FBI, DOJ, Local Sheriff, etc– have reason to suspect the owner be a part to a crime? I can say that most of the people I’ve discussed the issue with hardly believe such practices are lawful, let alone common.

Here are some of the statistics found within the IG report: DEA has seized since 2008 over 4 billion in cash, not including cars, electronics, property, homes, clothing, etc. 81% of the cash was seized despite no civil or criminal charges ever being filed. Since 2007 the Department of Justice criminal seizure fund has ballooned to more than 28 billion in cash, 5 billion of which was stolen taken in 2014 alone. 

Summarizing the findings, the IG makes a strong case for patterns of clear misuse and abuse stating, “a perverse profit motive is at play.” Essentially the program funds the budgets of many entities, providing overtime, even high end electronics and sports cars reportedly allocated for “investigatory purposes.” 

My interest stems from an incident that occurred traveling with my uncle in western Texas in 2010. Stopped at a checkpoint run by the local Sheriff, we were removed from the vehicle and separated for questioning without any probable cause. The Mexican border was about 60 miles west and we were not coming from, or traveling to Mexico. Not that it matters.

The truth was, as tourists from California visiting a friend in the area, we were simply fish caught in their “lawful” net. I was asked where we were headed and where we came from, my uncles name and address, about the two firearms in the vehicle and “where” the narcotics were. After affirming my uncles name, I refused to answer further questions without legal representation. Over the course of the following two hours I was threatened with arrest and my uncle’s supposed confessions. Even as a former soldier, the ordeal was frightening. In my mind I kept telling myself, “stay firm, keep story straight and eventually I will be released.” 

After two hours we were released. But not without consequence. They had seized my uncle’s two firearms and $2,300 in cash, implying we were drug mules. It took my family 4 years to retrieve the property and cash, but only after spending $3,500 on legal fees, plus two more trips to the Sheriff’s facility. It almost defy’s believe that this can happening America, it’s outrageous that it is not uncommon. 

It made no difference that we were both veteran’s or that we had no criminal records. It made no difference that we knew the neighboring county judge, that we were white or that we told the truth. Truth is, it shouldn’t matter had those things not been true. The government taking peoples property for any reason is wrong and shortsighted. The people stealing from the people. What does matter is that there seems to be a large group of people in our country that can justify this behavior perpetrated upon fellow countrymen and women. Who are the real criminals? Yes, I’ll say it: these fuckers hiding behind nefarious laws and dime store badges are far worse than most criminals. At least regular criminals don’t pretend to be Range Rover driving Robin Hood’s.  

There is a limit to what “the people” will take from their government before changes are necessary by any means. Maybe reports like this are the answer? Maybe not? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SMALL TOWN, BIG ISSUES.

It’s playing out like some lost episode of Twilight Zone or here in my temporary hometown. For such a small population the drama here runs deep, with much of it, in one way or another, orbiting the local city police department. Let me briefly share some observations and quickly describe some of the recent events.

Recently, the newish police chief, hired from out-of-state within the past couple years I believe, was placed on administrative leave, according to local reporting, after a complaint was filed by the former police chief accusing him of unethically moonlighting his private security company. Apparently, after a local business contacted the department asking for an assessment regarding reducing theft by shoplifting, the good chief said “we don’t really have time for that, but my business has you covered for as little as $600.” So tacky. Not surprising though considering the fact that the local Walmart had life-size cutouts of him in uniform at the entrances looking scary and pointing like, “don’t even think about stealing shit here.” These displays have disappeared. Huh?

Maybe a month ago, an officer responded to a call reporting gunshots only to somehow having his weapon taken by a man who attempted to murder him, firing like 6 9 mike-mikes into him before driving off in his prowler. Another words, the poor Sergeant was captured responding to a call involving known weapons, 5 blocks from the department. The story seemed like it would have a happy ending? The fucker was caught and the officer survived….only to die 10 days later during a relatively safe surgery on a damaged eye. So sad.

The weird part of this story, beyond an experienced officer being captured, is that supposedly the night he left for work he told his kids that “I think I am going to be shot tonight.?” What’s up with that? It’s not like this is South-side Chicago or West Baltimore. You envisioned being shot, then, responding alone to a shots fired call you get yourself captured…beside your own prowler? It just seems incredibly unfortunate?

The latest piece of de-di-de-di Twilight Zone, is last weeks supposed murder/suicide at a local motel on Thanksgiving, with the crime discovered the following day, according to the local paper? The initial report went: 4 found dead in room after employee found man crying in hallway. Employee looked in room then phoned 911. The “person” is not considered a suspect. Then today it comes out that the man was the father of the man who supposedly committed the crime, the husband of the older victim and grandfather of infant. The young lady, wife of suspect, was also murdered for no apparent reason, or at least no reason discovered to this point? 

A horrific tragedy that deserves more answers considering what we think we know. See, the man who was found outside the room crying is a former local police officer. 2005 to 2009. No information as to why he worked for only 4 years? Maybe transferred to a different agency? We don’t know, but the story is they were staying at the hotel due to them leaving the state soon. Huh? They lived here all this time but need to stay in hotel before leaving? The initial story included the young woman’s employer gushing over how well they liked her. Nothing about her leaving the state or her job? 

4 people are dead, so yes, something is terribly wrong. And yes, the police may know more and aren’t saying yet? The unknown knowns we have today would cause anyone to do a double take, right? The reporting so far has many holes, so many I won’t even begin. No matter what else comes out, or doesn’t, the scale of this tragedy feels enormous and must be impossible for anyone personally involved. I can’t even imagine.

I said all that to say this: a small town, too much tragedy and crap for just 3 months.

The final creepy chapter here has only tangential meaning. About 2 months ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine -who is Air Force police- about people who travel in the city openly carrying a sidearm. In my opinion, if you feel the need to be armed in public, get a concealed carry permit. The idea that openly brandishing a weapon in public, in the United States, makes most people unnecessarily uncomfortable and offers zero confidence in heightened safety. I could make an exception for the man or woman headed into the wild or returning, say, at the gas station or whatever. But wearing your .45 to lunch at Subway is wholly  inappropriate and ignorant.

The reason I brought the subject up was that that very day I encountered two different people armed in this manner. Both clearly made the situation uncomfortable with their decision, judging by the furtive glances by both employees and customers at the businesses. The creepy thing is, when a photo was released of the murder/suicide family, the young man accused of the crime was one of the very same men who were open carrying that day in Carl’s Jr. I remember clearly because later, we also ran into him and his wife with their infant at Starbuck’s, sparking the conversation. Weird.

This is a detour from my typical posts, I know. I hope it wasn’t too boring? Have a nice day!