"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cops Become Criminals and Steal Your Money Without a Trial

The American Police State
  • The Bill of Rights is ignored by thug sheriff officers when cops "legally" steal $50,000 in cash from a driver at a traffic stop without a trial or charging him with any type of crime.
  • The unconstitutional and fascist asset forfeiture laws are fully supported by the "liberal" Democrats and the "small government" Republicans.

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Authorities in a Nevada county are reviewing a "forfeiture program" and have settled lawsuits with two men who said a sheriff's deputy violated their civil rights when they were stopped for speeding, searched for drugs and forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars.

Tan Nguyen of Newport, Calif., and Michael Lee of Denver said in lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Reno they were stopped last year on U.S. Interstate 80 near Winnemucca about 165 miles east of Reno under the pretext of speeding. They said they were subjected to illegal searches and told they wouldn't be released with their vehicles unless they forfeited their cash.

The suits accused the same veteran deputy, Lee Dove, of taking a briefcase full of $50,000 in cash from Nguyen after stopping him for exceeding the speed limit by 3 mph in September, and seizing $13,800 and a handgun from Lee during a similar stop in December reports the Associated Press.

"The case has been settled," Steve Balkenbush, a Reno attorney representing Humboldt County in the case, told The Associated Press on Friday.

The district attorney's office said the settlement involved both Nyguen and Lee but not disclose how much money was involved. Nguyen's lawyer told a Reno television station Friday he received a check for the full $50,000 seized as well as $10,000 in attorney fees.

"He wasn't charged with anything. He had no drugs in his car. The pretext for stopping him was he was doing 78 in a 75," John Ohlson told KRNV-TV.

"It's like Jesse James or Black Bart," he told AP in an interview last week.

After Nguyen's stop, the sheriff issued a news release with a photograph of Dove pictured with a K-9 and $50,000 in seized cash "after a traffic stop for speeding."

"This cash would have been used to purchase illegal drugs and now will benefit Humboldt County with training and equipment. Great job," the statement said.
Alex Jones - Criminal Asset Forfeiture


When Cops Become The Criminals
Cops use traffic stops to seize millions from drivers
never charged with a crime.

Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize property (including cash and cars) without having to prove the owners are guilty.

Ken Smith was pulled over for speeding.  During the stop, Deputy Dove performed a warrant check and found a warrant for a Ken Smith.  On that basis, Dove detained Smith.  But according to a lawsuit filed by Smith, the Ken Smith on the warrant had a different birthday and was black.  The pulled-over Smith was white.  As the lawsuit puts it, Smith “should have been cited for speeding and let go, if there was probable cause for speeding violations.”

Instead, Smith was “unarrested” and allowed to leave with his car if he signed a waiver to surrender $13,800 in cash he had in the vehicle.  The Humboldt County Sheriff’s office also seized a .40 caliber Ruger handgun from Smith, though Smith claimed he did not waive his right to that firearm reports Forbes.

The incentives behind civil forfeiture make accusations like these all too plausible.  Nevada has scant protections for property owners against forfeiture abuse, according to “Policing for Profit,” a report published by the Institute for Justice (IJ).  Police can seize property under a legal standard lower than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard used in criminal convictions. 

Owners bear the burden of proof, meaning they have to prove their innocence in court.  In addition, law enforcement agencies keep 100 percent of the forfeiture proceeds.  While they are required to keep records on forfeiture, Nevada law enforcement refused to provide IJ with such information.

Nor is Nevada an outlier.  Twenty-five other states allow police to pocket all of the proceeds from civil forfeiture.  Property owners must prove their innocence in civil forfeiture proceedings in 37 other states.

“Asset forfeiture today, the way it exists federally, as well as in many states, is an institutional corruption,”  said Judge Jim Gray, who had three decades of experience on the bench in California.  Now retired and a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Gray would rather see forfeiture proceeds funneled to a specific neutral fund like education or feeding the homeless.  “None of the [forfeiture] money should go to law enforcement.  That provides them an inappropriate incentive,” he continued.

Across the country, institutional incentives have led to police misconduct.  Virginia State Police stopped Victor Luis Guzman for speeding on I-95 and seized $28,500 from him. But law enforcement didn’t ticket or charge him with any crime.  A church secretary, Guzman said he was transporting the cash for his church.  The money in question was from parishioners’ donations.  He was able to retrieve the cash only after an attorney who served in the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office during the Reagan administration took his case pro bono.

In a similar vein, police in Tenaha, Tex. stopped hundreds of predominantly African American and Hispanic drivers and seized about $3 million from them.  If drivers refused to cooperate, police would then threaten to file “baseless criminal charges,” according to the ACLU, which settled a class action lawsuit against the town in 2012.  The New Yorker reported that cops even threatened drivers, that, if they didn’t turn over their cash, their children could be taken by Child Protective Services.

Unsurprisingly, seizing cash from traffic stops can earn millions for law enforcement.  Two of the biggest moneymakers in the country were Sheriffs Bob Vogel and Bill Smith.  Vogel seized $6.5 million in cash from cars going southbound on I-95 in Volusia County, Florida. 

But usually the cars that smuggled drugs went northbound.  Plus, part of the “drug courier” profile for Sheriff Vogel “was that cars obeying the speed limit were suspect—their desire to avoid being stopped made them stand out.”  The Orlando Sentinel later found that in three out of every four cases, no charges were filed.  Ninety percent of the seizures involved African Americans or Latinos.

About two hours up north on I-95 was Sheriff Smith’s forfeiture corridor in Camden County, Ga.  The sheriff seized more than $20 million over two decades, with most of the money coming from intercepting cars on the highway.  As mentioned in the video below, Smith would use these proceeds to make ridiculous purchases, including a $90,000 Dodge Viper and paying convicts to build him a “party house.”   As Kevin Drum at Mother Jones put it, “‘forfeiture corridors’ are the new speed traps.”

“Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.”
John Adams
President of the United States
Federalist Party

1 comment:

David said...

That's a pretty sad state of affairs. Law enforcement is such a big business when police go corrupt, who will police them?