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Asset Forfeiture: Use And Abuse

With John Harwood in for Tom Ashbrook.

With no charges of wrongdoing, you can lose your savings, your car, your house.  We look at the use and abuse of asset forfeiture laws.

Hartford Police Department Seized Hummer in TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut. (Flickr//Russ Glasson)

Hartford Police Department Seized Hummer in TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut. (Flickr//Russ Glasson)

It sounds like something that happens in Third World countries – a law enforcement officer stops you for a traffic violation, or for no reason at all, and demands your cash in return for letting you go. But it’s happened here.

Asset forfeiture laws designed to target drug dealers make that possible. How often are those laws abused? Do some police officers use them to finance their budgets – or simply to steal from those who can’t defend themselves?

This hour, On Point:  has law enforcement gone too far?

Guests

Sarah Stillman, Staff Writer at the New Yorker. Her article in the most recent issue, “Taken,” looked at forfeiture laws across the United States. (@stillsarita)

Vanita Gupta, Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit, who felt their assets had wrongly been seized.

Cameron Holmes, assistant attorney general for the state of Arizona. Primary drafter of Arizona’s forfeiture and money laundering statutes. Chair of the Arizona Forfeiture Association, an association of border state attorney generals and law enforcement agencies.

From the Reading List:

The New Yorker: Taken — “The basic principle behind asset forfeiture is appealing. It enables authorities to confiscate cash or property obtained through illicit means, and, in many states, funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, cops drive a Cadillac Escalade stencilled with the words “this used to be a drug dealer’s car, now it’s ours.”

Vice: Asset Forfeiture, the Cash Cow of the Drug War — “During a July 9 traffic stop in Meridian, Mississippi, police found $360,000 stashed in a secret compartment in the car. Though that’s perhaps an eyebrow-raising amount of money, readers of that linked article might notice something odd—the driver was let go, but the money was kept by the cops.”

Sentinel and Enterprise: Tewksbury motel owner lobbying Congress for reform of federal civil-forfeiture laws – ”After winning a landmark federal forfeiture case against the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Russell Caswell, owner of the Motel Caswell in Tewksbury, is headed to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to take part in a legislative briefing called “Policing For Profit” on the campaign to reform the federal civil-forfeiture laws.”
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  • fun bobby

    yet another reason the evil stupid war on drugs continues to be waged against the citizens of this nation. follow the money , it never fails

  • John Cedar

    “This used to be a drug dealers car” sounds like a recruiting tool for drug dealers.

    This topic is proof that the SCOTUS branch is useless. We would be just as well off if congress and the POTUS could do whatever they want. They are no different than the jurists meant to protect us.

    • J__o__h__n

      My town’s pointless DARE program had a sportscar taken from an alleged drug dealer that was supposed to impress students. Another war on drugs success story.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        The path from lauding DARE (which dates to, what, the late 80s?) to todays show is an easy one to trace.

        • J__o__h__n

          It wasn’t a total failure as it might have inspired a classmate who became a local cop until he was fired for stealing cash from the evidence room.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            /rimshot

      • adks12020

        Oh man, the DARE program. What a freaking joke and waste of time that was.

  • brettearle

    Gives full credibility–from any legal standpoint, whatsoever–back to the idea of private citizens being permitted to videotape and audiotape any sort of interaction with police. Period.

  • Bluejay2fly

    I am curious if the asset has a bank loan does that mean the bank now has an unsecured debt? Worse yet wouldn’t that be hard to collect if the debt holder is in jail? This seems fundamentally unfair to the banks.

    • cambridgeknitter

      In fact, twenty-odd years ago, when I was still a conveyancer, one of our bank clients was threatened with having its mortgages on properties owned by a landlord facing forfeiture for drug-related issues wiped out. The feds were claiming that he would only rent to drug dealers. The bank had to explain that it had no idea that its mortgagor was anything other than a normal landlord. I have often wondered how that worked out, but I never checked, probably because I didn’t want to become even more cynical about the honesty of our government.

      • Bluejay2fly

        I am retired military and work in law enforcement the things I have seen. When I retire I want to live overseas.

  • AC

    What? I never heard of this!!

    • Rick Evans

      This has been going on for decades. Some of the most unjust victims are individuals legitimately traveling with large amounts of cash.

      Examples? An unbanked legal migrant worker returning to Mexico after a season. An retired elderly couple carrying cash in a cross country RV trip. These are not people caught with drugs. They are accused of carrying large amounts of cash to make fictitious drug deals.

      • dust truck

        forget cash, many of them lose their car or even their house! Just being RELATED to a criminal is enough for the government to take everything away from you. Read the New Yorker Article… it’s scary!

  • TomK_in_Boston

    Does this mean we can take the $ the investment banks made with their fraudulent practices that caused the Bush crash?

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      Does this mean we can confiscate property from billionaire backers (ie, Hollywood moguls) of tax and spend politicians that rob the rest of us?

      • TomK_in_Boston

        Get a grip!
        Next thing you’ll want to confiscate $ from the Kochs for promoting destruction of the planet.

        In the real world, the IB operate like drug dealers and the mafia, so it’s not a stretch to make the connection. They packaged garbage, got it rated AAA by the corrupt ratings agencies, and sold it to investors. Simple fraud.

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          Was FannieMAE and FreddieMAC in on the fraud? Maybe we can claw back the millions paid out to Franklin Raines and the dozens of Clintonites that populated their halls.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            Take the ideological glasses off, worried. There is a lot of blame to go around for the Bush Crash but one thing is for sure: if the IB hadn’t created all that toxic paper and insured it with credit default swaps, there would not have been a big crash. Nobody put a gun to the bankers heads and said sell this crap and then write CDS on it. They are guilty of fraud and all their profits should be confiscated, not jsut the little fines they get.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Well we can agree that there was plenty of blame to go around. Doesn’t it come back to “too big to fail” and the repeal of Glass-Steagall?

            Regarding the CDS, wasn’t AIG the primary purchaser of these instruments? One has to wonder if Eliot Spitzer hadn’t ousted Hank Greenberg (the founder) if AIG would have gone whole hog into CDSs.

          • Don_B1

            Actually, there are aspects of the overleveraging of derivatives based on paper generated by shadow banks that Glass-Steagall might not have prevented. It really was the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, mostly written by Senator Phil Gramm, that killed attempts to regulate derivatives (advocated by Brooksley Born). Though there is an argument that the Bush administration would not have enforced any regulations anyway, when its appointed SEC Chair, Christopher Cox, did not rigorously enforce SEC regulations either.

            As to A.I.G.’s role, does this mean that the district attorney that puts the parents in jail for a crime is the cause of the child’s criminal life? I see a rough similarity to the person who kills his parents asking for mercy as he is an orphan?

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Are you defending Spitzer?

            His actions were similar to the lawless police state action described in this show.

          • cambridgeknitter

            Please educate me. I didn’t pay enough attention to this when it happened to understand where you’re coming from. Are you claiming that Hank Greenberg was keeping AIG honest and that Eliot Spitzer railroaded him out, after which AIG went crazy buying bad paper? If so, I would appreciate some details. Not that I need help becoming even more cynical, but knowledge is a good thing most of the time.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            We’ll never know if Hank Greenberg would have prevented mismanagement at AIG since he was forced out before it happened.

            However, we do know that Spitzer used bully tactics and the power of the State to force Greenberg out without due process.

          • Don_B1

            I think you need to revisit the definition of “due process.” Where did the AG’s steps deprive Greenberg of due process?

          • WorriedfortheCountry
          • WorriedfortheCountry

            “He routinely used the extraordinary threat of indicting entire firms, a
            financial death sentence, to force the dismissal of executives, such as
            AIG’s Maurice “Hank” Greenberg. He routinely leaked to the press emails
            obtained with subpoena power to build public animosity against companies
            and executives. In the case of Mr. Greenberg, he went on national
            television to accuse the AIG founder of “illegal” behavior. Within the
            confines of the law itself, though, he never indicted Mr. Greenberg. Nor
            did he apologize.”

            http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120519359147125705.html

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            When you ruin someone’s reputation in the press and then drop all charges then you are denied due process. Don’t you think?

          • Don_B1

            I was saying that what Attorney General Spitzer did cannot be used as a cause of A.I.G.’s actions in allowing a rogue operation to go on in its London branch.

            To accept Hank Greenberg’s claim that he would have provided more diligent oversight is not supported by much evidence and is rejected by a lot of people close to the A.I.G. operation.

            But AG Spitzer used due process, where the objects of his attention had better legal representation than anyone shown to have suffered on this program, so I do defend his actions, but in a way separate from your insinuation.

      • 1Brett1

        “Hollywood moguls” “tax and spend politicians”

        Translation: LIBERALZZZZ

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          OK., I’ll modify my comment to ‘tax AND/OR spend politicians’ so we can include backers of GOP types like Bush. Both parties are culpable. One is just less responsible than the other.

          • J__o__h__n

            Responsible like the House Republicans’ farm bill? You are correct that one party is less responsible than the other.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            What is wrong with the farm bill? I haven’t heard. Did they get rid of the corn ethanol mandates?

          • J__o__h__n

            Probably not. That one is a bipartisan scam.

          • Don_B1

            The continuing support for agribusiness is bipartisan, the desire to ruthlessly cut SNAP is totally Tea/Republican.

          • Don_B1

            The Senate version continues too much support for big agribusiness and cuts SNAP (by about $4 billion) in a time of increased need due to the slow recovery from the Great Recession (the country is in a Lesser Depression because of Tea/Republicans’ refusal to spend enough to create the needed recovery jobs).

            The House of Representatives stripped the SNAP funding out and increased the payments to big farmers (including themselves, many of whom have received $millions in farm support payments). It has just failed to pass a proposed bill which would have cut SNAP by $40 billion after earlier proposing cuts of $20 billion.

            The Republican cruelty is orders of magnitude worse than the Democrats were led to show in efforts to gain enough Republican support to pass it in the Senate.

          • 1Brett1

            Thanks for your clarification, Worried. At least we can agree that the GOP is a less responsible Party.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            LOL!!!

            I use a simple metric — not perfect — growth of debt and unfunded entitlement liabilities as a percentage of the economy.

            What is harder to measure is the impact of the Fed’s actions. In many ways the Fed is propping up the economy now but as we all know there is no free lunch and the landing could be very hard.

          • Don_B1

            The growth of debt as a percentage of GDP is going down not up and the SS “liability” is only growing slowly because of the Lesser Depression the country is in due to Republican obstruction of remedies and the syphoning of the growth in income to the most wealthy who do not make contributions based on that increased money which is above the cap (which also relates to the growth in inequality).

            The only “unfunded liability” which is growing is that for healthcare costs, and the PPACA is starting to turn the rudder of that ship and will provide data on how to make further changes to close the gaps there.

            The measures you are advocating make the poor pay for the sins of the wealthy, which is unethical and immoral in most religions.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            “The measures you are advocating make the poor pay for the sins of the wealthy”

            Project much? Actually, I want the poor to become prosperous.

      • brettearle

        Does this mean that we can incarcerate T Boone Pickens and the KOCH Brothers for slandering Liberal politicians?

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          Sure. Why not? It appears we’ve already thrown away the Constitution. Anything goes.

          • 1Brett1

            You forgot to preface your “thrown away the Constituttion” with “trampled on” first!?!?! Your rhetoric is a little off this morning, Worried! You know, caffeine before talking points can be the way to go for you.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Thanks. I’ll take that as a complement. ;)

          • 1Brett1

            Or even a “compliment”! ;-)

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      OK, now for a serious question. If fraud did exist why hasn’t Holder or Obama prosecuted anyone?

      Jon Corzine? He only oversaw a few $billion go missing.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        Because despite your confusion on the subject Obama is not a liberal socialist but a righty conservadem in bed with wall st and the National Stasi Agency.

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          Or maybe Obama is still a leftist but is also a corrupt politician who can be bought.

          Guess which politician couldn’t be bought — Romney. Too bad you, and many others, couldn’t see it.

          • geraldfnord

            No need to buy one of the buyers.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Retired.

          • Don_B1

            Romney didn’t have to be bought; he was already a believer/supporter of their agenda.

            He still claims he didn’t say what he said about the “47%” being moochers who will never take responsibility for their lives.

            Check out Brad DeLong on Dan Baltz’s new book on Mitt Romney:

            http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2013/08/dan-balz-opinions-of-what-mitt-romney-said-differ-why-oh-why-cant-we-have-a-better-press-corps-weblogging.html

            It really is fun to read and shows up how even supposedly good (“respected”) journalists let politicians off when they dissemble in an interview.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Glad you give us the ramblings of another mind reader. LOL.

          • Don_B1

            Show me the statements that are “mind reading.”

            What I saw was based on actual statements, the consecutive words output, by Mitt Romney on the tape and the (failed) attempts of Dan Balz to get Romney to deal with what he actually said instead of repeating other words conflicting with the documented words he did say.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Context. “did say” is much different than what he was thinking back in March at a private fund raiser.

            Since Romney was talking about campaign strategy it does give an incite into a flawed concept since the policies he was promoting were for the betterment of the 100%. It just shows that Romney never was a natural politician.

    • William

      Not likely. Just look how Obama took billions away from the legal bond holders of GM and gave the money to the UAW.

      • Don_B1

        He also saddled the UAW with the healthcare costs of the union members and retirees.

        There were no winners here except the C-level officers who kept their golden parachutes after running GM into the ground.

        As the big banks like to claim against those charging them with fraudulently selling them derivatives, the bond holders were generally knowledgable buyers who had the resources to do proper due diligence before purchasing those bonds. They should have known the risk, if only by the high interest the bonds carried, and they lost.

    • Don_B1

      Didn’t you hear that was used on HSBC after it was caught money laundering for Mexican drug dealers?

      Oh, wait:

      http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/outrageous-hsbc-settlement-proves-the-drug-war-is-a-joke-20121213

  • 1Brett1

    I’m just surprised that a ‘Rogue Cops Gone Wild’ reality show hasn’t emerged on Spike or something…the small jurisdictions with limited funding for law enforcement seem particularly vulnerable. It is also a reason law enforcement would like to see a continuance of the ‘war on drugs.’ Not only can they confiscate some really sweet assets, they can often get increased funding if they can prove drug trafficking is prominent in their communities.

  • William

    We really do have an out of control law enforcement system in this country. SWAT teams used for routine arrests, asset seizing at the drop of a dime, arresting people for any reason possible (barking at a police dog, Florida, last week), no knock search warrants. The trend is we have become a massive police state with the police taking a “them vs us” mentality.

  • Fred_in_Newton_MA

    Would someone on the show please confirm or clarify this draconian aspect of seizure law:

    My understanding is that prosecutors can seize property based upon evidence which would be inadmissible in a court of law, such as anonymous allegations by unidentified criminal informants. Then, unlike standard civil or criminal cases, the defendant (property owner) has the burden of proving (at his/her expense) that the evidence is incorrect (possibly without being able to confront the accuser), rather than being presumed innocent.

    • brettearle

      If what you say is true, it should have been challenged by the ACLU, a long time ago.

      I have a hard time believing that such a statute exists–especially with the technicality going unchallenged.

      What you describe above, almost sounds Whitey-Bulgerish.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    There was a case in the local newspapers where the Feds where attempting to seize a motel (family owned since 1955) simply because drug activity occurred.

    A judge threw out the case in 2013 but the family had been living through hell since 2009 when the Feds came down on them and tried to seize the hotel.

    It is hard to believe this is still America.

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/01/24/owner-wins-court-battle-against-feds-trying-seize-his-motel/KZdorsYWYTNc6CauDnrGyM/story.html

    • Ray in VT

      That’s also the Sentinel and Enterprise link above.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Missed it. Thanks.

        • Ray in VT

          Sure thing. I wouldn’t have noticed, but I followed the show’s link.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            The Feds spend $millions prosecuting this case. There is a Motel 6 right next store but they decided to go after the property that wasn’t affiliated with a chain and didn’t have a mortgage.

            There has been a lot of coverage in the local newspaper on this one. If the feds were successful they would split the proceeds with the town.

          • Ray in VT

            I can see going after the property if the owner is somehow linked up with the crimes, which certainly doesn’t seem to be the case there, and while 14 drugs busts in 14 years (or something) isn’t a great record for one’s business, considering how many others may have gone down that were not known about, I don’t know if that makes it a “hotbed”. Hotels and motels are convenient locations for deals like that. When I was in grad school there were a couple of motels that charged hourly rates, and the speculation that they were widely used by prostitutes and their customers.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Both motels are just off the interstate (RT 495) in a strip mall area. Tewksbury is a typical suburban town of about 30,000.

            Not that the authorities never went to the motel owner with any crime mitigation recommendations prior to that attempted property seizure. His first notice was the lien.

          • Ray in VT

            It certainly doesn’t seem either justified or on the up and up (in terms of validity). I had to look up where Tewksbury was. I guess that I’ve sort of been past it, as when I have visited Boston I’ve usually come in on 495. My wife is already starting to plan a 2015 family trip back, and I have informed her that Bunker Hill will be on the agenda this time.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            I’ve never made it past the Charlestown Navy yard on the Freedom trail. Of course the Bunker Hill monument is on Breed’s hill.

            Today, you can walk from the North End to to Charlestown. In 1775 you could not.

            Here are a few maps that show the dramatic difference. Boston was effectively an island in 1775. Note that Dorchester Heights (current site of South Boston High) is where Washington placed those Ft. Ticonderoga cannon that led to the evacuation of Boston by the British. Today you can drive across South Boston to “Castle Island”.

            http://firedirectioncenter.blogspot.com/2010/06/decisive-battles-bunker-hill-1775.html

            http://history.howstuffworks.com/american-history/history-of-massachusetts2.htm

            A friend of mine recommended the John Adams house. I haven’t made it yet.

            http://www.nps.gov/adam/index.htm

          • J__o__h__n

            It is worth seeing. The stone library is beautiful. His birthplace and his son’s are near there too.

    • Don_B1

      The DEA instigated this case and the U.S. Attorney (for Massachusetts) is the same one who went after Adam Swartz, driving him to suicide.

      Some better references:

      http://www.wbur.org/2013/01/24/tewksbury-motel-foreclosure

      http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2013/0126/Aaron-Swartz-and-Motel-Caswell-Book-ends-to-prosecutorial-reform

      and, importantly (it was not appealed):

      http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/bottom_line/2013/02/feds-legal-bill-in-caswell-case.html?page=all

  • Ray in VT

    Perhaps a topic for another day, but related to charges of abuse from law enforcement, but there are the cases of roadside body cavity searches of several Texas women that are also pretty horrific.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      When I heard

      It sounds like something that happens in Third World countries – a law enforcement officer stops you for a traffic violation…

      I thought that today’s show was on that.

      Not that they’re very far from each other.

      • hennorama

        TF – in some Third World countries one expects this to happen, as bribery is thoroughly ingrained in the culture. The reason we are shocked by these cases is that we have the opposite expectation – that law enforcement will act fairly rather than applying coercive tactics, such as “sign here and we’ll let you keep your kids,” etc.

    • AC

      are you serious?!! how is this possible anymore? i thought they had cameras on their vehicles? i’m amazed i’ve never heard of any of this stuff, you’d think there would be more outrage!

      • Mari McAvenia

        Cameras may be switched off or the camera operators know how to edit captured video, on scene, with support from “cop central”. Really, there is no way to police the police in this country. They consider themselves an elite fighting force. We are the enemy. “Pay me high wages, new toys and don’t ever question my authority.”

        • AC

          i dont know, there was a frightening moment in my life they were there for me. plus they have to see and deal with all the dregs of society, see all the kids living in alcholic homes and crap. it’s a horrible job too….

  • J__o__h__n

    Could they have seized the assets without the prosecutor threatening them into a plea bargain?

  • Mari McAvenia

    Sarah Stillman just described a highway robbery with the threat of a kidnapping thrown in for good measure. The perps were cops, though, so this is supposed to be OK under the law? They extorted cash from the innocent traveling family, too, so let’s include a charge of blackmail in this case, as well. The cops in America have gone rogue for profit, friends, so watch yourselves out there! Believe me, they’ve already got all eyes on you.

    • Scott B

      Look at the police depts. of some of these towns. They’ll have the newest equipment, and lots of it. They justify it as “to protect and to serve”, I’ve been through some towns where the town municipal buildings look like they barely have a pot to pi$$ in or a window to throw it through, but the cop shop looks like someone dropped the Guggenheim museum in the middle of town, with a lot full brand new squad cars and a tank out front.

  • maryrita

    Asset forfeiture is well documented in Michelle Alexander’s book about mass incarceration, “The New Jim Crow.” It’s a foundational piece of the evil edifice of mass incarceration in this country.

  • Shag_Wevera

    Ominous.

  • hennorama

    These civil forfeiture cases have enormous potential for abuse. They border on legalized theft. Significant safeguards should be in place, with third party judicial oversight.

    Few have any issues with criminal forfeitures, when there is proof that the assets were linked to criminal activity, but these laws stink.

  • Michiganjf

    One of the most defining characteristics of underdeveloped countries is corruption, especially of law enforcement.

    Let these stealing, lying small town cops off the hook, and we seal our demise.

    Very few humans ever receive power without ultimately abusing it, and cops are no exception.

    It’s up to lawmakers to keep this kind of power OUT of the hands of Yahoos who will MOST DEFINITELY end up abusing their “authority.”

  • geraldfnord

    The root of the problem is that some police forces act after the manner of an occupying army—looting from civilians is how all occupying armies act…that’s why not surprising that there have been recent, credible, allegations of sexual violence on the part of a Texas highway patrol officer, as rape is also a traditional occupier’s privilege.

    • Bluejay2fly

      Speaking as a member of the thin blue line (16 yrs) and having served 20 years in our military, I can say with experience, you are correct. Sorry, it breaks my heart to think of how so many good people are involved in such misguided deeds but that is where we have arrived. I wish more policy makers thought of this quote”Be careful fighting monsters lest you become one” Nietzche.

  • Ray in VT

    I did wonder about legal representation regarding the Texas case. Seems like a pretty bad situation to put people in where they do not have the right to counsel, and it also seems like a bad idea to give officers and officials a personal financial incentive in the matter.

  • Michiganjf

    YES!
    Make sure these types of seizures go to general education funds, and the seizures will stop INSTANTLY, especially in red states like Texas!

    Poor Texas, my Texas…

  • ChevSm

    His ….ahhhhh…..Pauses……Are……..Killing me…ahhhh……

    • Mari McAvenia

      Cue the music!

    • hennorama

      Seriously – someone give this guy an espresso or a Red Bull!

      • Mari McAvenia

        Or a fistful of confiscated cash!

    • J__o__h__n

      It is like a boring Shatner.

  • William

    There needs to be more “sting” operations run by the Justice Dept./FBI against local and state police to make the system more honest.

    • Mari McAvenia

      Who’s gonna sting whom? Cops don’t sting other cops, as a general rule.

      • William

        So true.

    • J__o__h__n

      Whitey’s FBI?

      • William

        Yup…just goes to show how corrupt a government agency can be for such a long time. Just think about what is going on at the local and state level.

  • J__o__h__n

    WBUR please stop announcing all your new stations more than once an hour. It is a chore to listen to it.

  • Scott B

    Most of this started with the Zero Tolerance laws that became popular in the 1980′s, and the modifications, and new interpretations, of the RICO act.

    When lived in Florida and there were Police depts that had more employees, more new vehicles, the biggest buidings, in towns with small population, all financed with vehicle seizures from things like someone being pulled over and not knowing his passenger had a joint in his pocket. There were towns that everyone knew to avoid, as well as Texas and Ohio (another state I traveled through), states that would come up in any conversations problem towns.

    There are some prime examples on the TV show, “Cops”, where someone borrowed a friend’s, or relative’s, vehicle and got busted with contraband and the vehicle was taken. This started happened in here in NY, but was soon clamped down on by judges.

    One famous case involved a landscaper that had a few thousands dollars to buy trees and other supplies for his business, in his once or twice a year trip to get the items. This was done by federal agencies. It’s not just local.

  • Fred_in_Newton_MA

    John Harwood – What are the standards of evidence in forfeiture cases? Just the word of a prosecutor, police officer, informant?
    The guy from Arizona impugns the ACLU, but simply ducks the question.

    • hennorama

      Fred_in_Newton_MA – the standards vary by state. From a 2011 forbes.com article:

      “Standard of Proof

      “The second way states make civil forfeiture harder on property owners is to establish a lower “standard of proof” under which the government can take the property. As most people know, the standard of proof in a criminal proceeding is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That is, the state must demonstrate to the jury that evidence shows that the accused individual committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This high standard exists to protect the rights of innocent individuals who might be accused of a crime. But innocent property owners enjoy no such protections. In only two states (Nebraska and Wisconsin) does the civil forfeiture standard match the criminal standard–”beyond a reasonable doubt.” And North Carolina has nearly abolished forfeiture entirely. Most states, however, have adopted a mere “preponderance of the evidence” standard, a standard that is usually reserved for such things as contract disputes. In effect, this means that criminals have more rights than innocent owners when it comes to forfeiture.”

      And from Ms. Stillman’s article:

      “In general, you needn’t be found guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement; in some states, suspicion on a par with “probable cause” is sufficient. Nor must you be charged with a crime, or even be accused of one. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which requires that a person be convicted of an offense before his or her property is confiscated, civil forfeiture amounts to a lawsuit filed directly against a possession, regardless of its owner’s guilt or innocence.”

      See:
      http://www.forbes.com/2011/06/08/property-civil-forfeiture.html

      http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/08/12/130812fa_fact_stillman

  • MarkVII88

    No matter how the statues are structured, the incentive is always there for abuse whether officers and prosecutors receive direct monetary or property compensation in their pockets or not. Things like increased job security, less chance of dept. budget cutbacks in coming fiscal years, better annual performance evaluations, or the chance to see a reduced municipal tax bill are all incentives to abuse these asset forfeiture laws. It’s like athletes taking performance enhancing drugs to stay competitive because of how pervasive their use has become. A recent example is teachers in Atlanta that were proved to have cheated on their students’ standardized tests because the incentives for them to do so existed. Always follow the direction the incentives point.

  • RonShirtz

    Asset forfeiture=legalized plunder.

  • Mari McAvenia

    A good show gone bad. Please get that inarticulate, droning apologist off the air or lose all your listeners.

  • Michiganjf

    Yeah, right…

    “They all personally benefit from these plaintiff lawsuits,” as in, they get their rightful money back, which was stolen from them by cops!!

    None of these plaintiffs have cases wherein the cops have any kind of standing to prosecute, or else they would surely lose their suit!

  • skelly74

    Cameron: “yes…are you talking to me?…ah..yes…the canary feathers hanging out of my mouth are not actually canary feathers…ah..they are..actually egregious attempts by canaries to ah…abuse the……..the idea….that….mu hungry….is..ah..casual…and…..uh…well…if the law let this canary…uh..gift himself there than you would see why the canary…ah..ended up there in the first place…it’s the law.

    • Mari McAvenia

      Brilliant impression! Who knew that kind of dialogue could actually be written. You’re the second coming of James Joyce meets George Carlin.

    • hennorama

      Getting … uh …answers …uh … from Mr. … uh.. Cameron Holmes is … uh … like pulling … uh …
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      teeth.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      I dunno, I wouldn’t care about his vocal delivery if he weren’t so dishonest seeming. The feints, red herrings, and talking points have come out predictably, if not slickly.

  • Dave Bevis

    I just renewed by ACLU membership. Maybe we all should join.

    • Ray in VT

      I originally joined after doing my thesis regarding the civil rights abuses during the World War I era and the subsequent Red Scare.

      • Bluejay2fly

        You mean throwing the Amish in Fort Leavenworth and beating and torturing them for not fighting in the war was abuse? Thank God, we stopped using military prisons to torture civilians, that is so un-American.

        • Ray in VT

          There were some pretty bad abuses. If you have the time, the I would recommend reading the book Opponents of War by Peterson and Fite. It gives quite a few examples of just how thoroughly some people had their rights violated.

          • Bluejay2fly

            The Great Starvation Experiment is a book about how some co’s in WW2 volunteered to lose weight to study the effects of malnutrition and how to recover from it. You can email me if you have other book recommendations its my user name @yahoo.com

          • Ray in VT

            Will do. You are a brave man(? don’t know if you’ve mentioned that aspect of yourself) putting your email out there, although I’m certainly not going to spam you with health miracle cures and such.

  • ToyYoda

    Cameron sounds sedated. He should forfeit all his assets on the grounds that he is talking under the influence (of greed).

  • Scott B

    This is like anything else, where a movement becomes a policy and then becomes a racket; requires endless feeding.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    I’d ask our host to dig into the race issue and not let Holmes get away with “I didn’t read that one book”.

    This is Arizona we’re talking about.

    • Mari McAvenia

      It appears that proponents of seizures don’t read books, they just throw ‘em at you to extort more funds for their lucrative racket.

  • Ray in VT

    Mr. Holmes cited a number of cases of large corporations, which can afford large legal staffs in order to fight any sort government action or charge, and compares that with potentially very poor private citizens. I don’t think that that is a very apt comparison.

  • eam

    wow, this guy Cameron is a true chucklehead, and pretty much the worst guest I’ve ever heard on the radio. And he’s an assistant attorney general? Sorry, John, but Tom would have had this guy’s goat in no time.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    “The ACLU tends to paint the facts a little funny and when I hear they’re involved I sorta lose trust in the case.” (paraphrase)

    Says more about you and your media consumption, caller.

    • Dave Bevis

      I think her motives were just a tad suspect… I find it hard to believe that anyone could have thought that Holmes won that argument.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        The Rod Serling fan in me would like Holmes to be in someone else’s state and pulled over. And the arresting sheriff can even be white like him.

        Some place where “Don’t you know who I am?” doesn’t play with the local constabulary.

        • brettearle

          “Cameron Holmes…

          “Caught in a late night case of mistaken identity.

          “His Snuff and his Queen Anne’s Lace and his Mickey Finns seized as contraband and taken to a neutral location: the coffers of the local Chief of Police.

          “Ignored by authorities despite his claims of connections to high levels of Law Enforcement in his state.

          “Coming home from a late night Masquerade Party in Yuma, where he was still cross-dressed as Governor Jan Brewer.

          “Disbelieved by police who felt the costume was in poor taste.

          “Accused Holmes of not simply “Mistaken Identity”. But rather “Terribly Mistaken Identity.”….

          “With no sense of Yuma….here,
          in the Twilight Zone….”

          dooo-dooo-dooo-dooo-dooo-dooo-
          doooo-dooo

    • brettearle

      The anti-ACLU propaganda reminds of the anti-New York Times propaganda–but not, of course, in equally the same way. To the extreme Right, the ACLU and the NYT are miserably stereotyped as Far Left bastions.

      These malignant memes come from nowhere other than the scourge of AM Talk Radio, across this country.

      AM Talk is still, in my view, the most comprehensively destructive outlet for political voice in the United States.

      It seems to be wilting a bit.

      But when Governor Christie becomes President in 2016–and I think he will be elected–we will witness, unfortunately, a resurgence of AM Talk.

  • Dave Bevis

    It is scary that this guy is an AAG and has so little regard for due process.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Hey, we already know he’s from Arizona, don’t we?

      • tbphkm33

        Plus, he illustrates the failure of the U.S. educational system. A system that allows individuals to memorize and regurgitate material for exams, with little regard to actual comprehension of the material. Another drone of the system who’s incapable of looking outside the confines of his small box.

  • Scott B

    “LIttle tiny stops”? There are police depts making millions for themselves and the towns with this racket. Ohio is notorious for not just the thousands of speed traps, but doing things like the local DMV handing out license plate frames that the local police will then go bust motorists for using because it supposedly “obscures the plate”. How else do these small towns have a police budget (never-minding the town) in the millions with a population of a very few thousand?

  • Fred_in_Newton_MA

    Mr. Holmes, AAG of Arizona was, simply, _unbelievable_. Disgraceful.
    He evades, obfuscates,and refuses to answer when it doesn’t suit him.
    Boils down to “trust me, we have your interests”. Well, no, sounds like they have the assets of a lot of people who were not rich and connected enough to challenge his legalized appropriation of property.

    I mean, come on, Cameron, WHAT PERCENT of the cases of asset forfeiture involve fraud against consumers, where you return money to individuals? 1%, 2%? Where were you in the financial collapse when fraud was rampant?
    No, I suspect it is mostly about “drug” money, real or imagined.
    And yes, it has been documented time and again that police departments and municipalities are EAGER to get seized property, not to suppress crime, not for justice, but as a source of extra income.l

  • Scott B

    Cameron seems to be one of those people that put “If you hadn’t been doing something wrong, you wouldn’t have been bothered”, ignoring facts, not to mention , and most importantly, the Constitution says you’re innocent until proven guilty, and entitled to due process.

  • 1Brett1

    Mr. Holmes tended to blast the New Yorker article…of course, that was AFTER the writer had left the show as a guest and couldn’t defend herself. Also, I felt his slow talking was a bit of a tactic to use up most of the air time; I found this cheap. The host should have stopped him at least when he would prattle on using lists of examples; two would have done fine in each point, he didn’t need to list five or six in each example to illustrate his point.

    The New Yorker article, as well as the ACLU guest, had an overall point that due process is not afforded citizens in these cases, yet Holmes focused on whose facts were better about individual cases (without any substantiation, only shoot-from-the-hip accusations). He pilloried the writer and the article from the New Yorker, which was particularly punk-like, kind of like having others hold someone down while you punch them.

    He didn’t really address the due process argument, either. He tried to deflect the issue by citing cases (again, more copious examples of the same type of example when two would have been fine) where an entity/corporation paid damages/fines without being convicted of anything, which weren’t pertinent examples of the main point to the whole conversation. I was glad that Vanita Gupta from the ACLU was there to point out that those companies at least were afforded due process.

  • 1Brett1

    Was it me or did Harwood go out of his way to put each guest in the other’s face, point out that each disagreed with the other, ask the other to defend his/her stance, then block any real defense by either introducing a caller, going to a break or emphasizing a position that a guest had articulated who no longer was on the panel to dfend? Is that really a way to promote an interesting conversation among those who are on different sides of an issue, or does it just promote a hostile environment without accepting any of the controversy oneself, without asking the tough questions and following through oneself? I think Harwood will lose On Point’s audience if he guest hosts much longer.

  • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

    Oh, jeez. Harwood- milktoast semi-conservative medioicrity. I am a better host. Seriously.

  • Scott B

    This is the exact same crap they pull in Mexico.

  • Davesix6

    Don’t see how “asset forfeiture” without due process can possibly be Constitutional. Where is the outrage? Why are we allowing the militarization of our Police?

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. – Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

    • hennorama

      Davesix6 – the history of forfeiture law goes all the way back to English common law and English court decisions. The English courts recognized three types of forfeiture: Escheat upon attainder, deodand, and statutory forfeiture.

      American colonies recognized only statutory forfeiture, and cases typically involved unusual circumstances, such as seizure of pirate ships or vessels during wartime.

      There have been numerous cases decided at the US Supreme Court.

      You can read more about this topic here:

      http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/forfeiture

      http://www.ij.org/policing-for-profit-the-abuse-of-civil-asset-forfeiture-4

      http://www.ij.org/part-i-policing-for-profit-2

      http://www.ij.org/part-ii-grading-the-states-2

      • brettearle

        I order you to evaluate my “Twilight Zone” satire, somewhat below.

        [Open Admission: My Ego needs more gratification than yours]

        • hennorama

          brettearle – I must say I was disappointed – “But when Governor Christie becomes President in 2016–and I think he will be elected–we will witness, unfortunately, a resurgence of AM Talk” – is rather weak tea as far as a Cayuga Production is concerned. The premise is simply not far-fetched enough, wouldn’t you agree?

          Seriously, I was half-expecting a TZ episode about Arizona that included not only Mr. Holmes, but also his protégé Parminder Singh, who climbed a fence and then jumped feet-first into the nearly 100-year-old mine shaft at the bottom of Meteor Crater in January.

          He did so, he told deputies as he was carried out of the crater nearly 12 hours later, because he wanted to “appease the gods.”

          No doubt Mr. Holmes would agree that Mr. Singh’s 18-wheeler, which was discovered in the Meteor Crater parking lot, should be forfeited as part of Mr. Singh’s criminal enterprise. One would expect the ACLU and conservatives alike to oppose the seizure on First Amendment grounds, as it’s clear Mr. Singh was freely expressing his religious beliefs.

          Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed your work. ;-)

          See:
          http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/20130111man-rescued-from-mine-shaft-meteor-crater-new.html

          http://azdailysun.com/news/local/massive-effort-rescues-man-from-bottom-of-meteor-crater-mineshaft/article_4de7dcf8-5c46-11e2-8130-0019bb2963f4.html

          http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20130111arizona-meteor-crater-mine-shaft-rescue-abrk.html

          http://www.space.com/834-mystery-arizona-meteor-crater-solved.html

          http://www.meteorite.com/meteor-crater/meteor-crater-floor-tour/

          • brettearle

            I…..shoulda…..known….better…..with…..
            a wit like you

          • hennorama

            brettearle – TY for your very kind words.

            For some reason, when Mr. Holmes was juxtaposed with the Twilight Zone, my mind went right to Meteor Crater. (Probably because I’ve been there and recalled that it is in AZ.) My initial thinking was “How can I get Mr. Holmes down in the crater?”

            I used my fave search engine, and discovered Mr. Singh’s delightful story, which was obviously “comedy gold,” as it could easily be connected to the topic of forfeiture as well as AZ and Mr. Holmes.

            BTW, I presume the title of your TZ episode is ‘To Serve Wo?Man,’ and that the critical line is “To Serve Wo?Man, it’s… it’s a ticket book!”

            http://www.militaryuniformsupply.com/files/products/t/ticket-book-binder-raine-inc.jpg

          • brettearle

            Henn,

            You SOB, I’m comically smitten…..

            I can’t counter, now [nor earlier: Before I even went through the pedestrian motions of making some rather mundane entries, today, I was preoccupied with some off-line stunners, as it were...]

            But tell me….I never do this, readily; really I certainly do not ….but I’m interested in showing you a bit of my work. .

            How can I do this, if you’re interested?

            I have an idea…where we can travel to a neutral zone. I don’t even have to give you my email address. You don’t even have to give me your email address.

            I want your candid opinion on what I’m working on. I won’t be doing this right away and I won’t show you much…..but just a taste.

            What d’ya say?

            Are you game?

          • hennorama

            brettearle – easy there, mister.

            Calm your Lemony Lactic Mist.
            Deploy your Calmest Limy Tonic, perhaps with gin.
            Obviate your Sly Italic Comment.

            Stopping now.

            (dontcha just love anagrams? In case you were unaware, the above are rearranged (rederanged?) versions of “comically smitten.”)

            Presumably I’m supposed to feel something about your comment. The hennorama-feelings-generator has auto-selected:

            “bashed”
            “abashed”
            “unabashed”
            “amused”
            “bemused”
            “amazed and diffuse”

            OK, serious answer – yes, I’m game. Your appeal to my healthy ego was well-played.

            Disclaimer: I have absolutely no qualifications related to literary criticism. Caveat emptor, and other fun Latin phrases.

            BTW – let me know ASAP as to where you’d like me to send my bank transfer information.

            OK, all kidding aside – yes.

            Hucking fell.

      • SteveDK

        Wasn’t Imperial Britain’s abuse of civil forfeiture that led to the 4th and 5th amendments? Clearly due process is meant to be more than cops in Tehana, TX stopping people and seizing whatever cash and cars people had on mere suspicion.

        • hennorama

          SteveDK – I’m not a Constitutional expert. I was merely pointing out that these laws and legal concepts have been in existence for hundreds of years, and for over a thousand years in the case of the doctrine of deodand. Americans did not adopt the entirety of English common law, but the legal concept of deodand has been thought to be the basis for civil forfeiture law in the U.S.

          Civil forfeitures have been more commonly used by US authorities since 1970, when “Congress enacted the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act (21U.S.C.A. § 881), also known as the Forfeiture Act.”

          The Forfeiture Act has been amended twice, in 1978 and, perhaps ironically, in 1984.

          See again:
          http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/forfeiture

          and:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deodand

  • tbphkm33

    Hmm, funny how it did not surprise me that Texas and Arizona was right in the middle of this issue. Counties operating on 40% of forfeiture founding???

    Not surprising, after all, the U.S. has increasingly become a para-military state and reality is that law enforcement is largely composed of criminal elements that society uses in a productive manner. No matter how you sugar coat it in feel good campaigns to support those risking their lives.

    A number of the individuals I have known who work in law enforcement, would, save their career, otherwise be involved in shady dealings running counter to the interests of society at large. Look at U.S. county sheriff’s departments, largely composed of legions from the good-old-boys club, little to no formal training, seemingly the main qualifications being of a certain mental outlook and having an interest in guns.

    • Bluejay2fly

      It is a broad net as law enforcement employs hundreds of thousands and while there are some “bad” elements in law enforcement so true is it that there are “bad” clergy businessmen, health care workers, and teachers. What is relevant is the militarization of our police force. Did you see Boston? They had assault weapons, combat uniforms and tanks. Dressing like being in a war, training like being in a war, and arming like you are in a war creates a hyper violent encounter. Violence is usually met with resistance which escalates the conflict thereby “justifying” these military tactics. Besides being counter productive to creating peace treating civilians like enemy combatants is contrary to presumption of innocence and preservation of people’s liberty. With our worship of the military, our increasingly more militarized police forces, our decaying cities, and widespread poverty and crime who would of thought that this was America and not some Banana Republic.

    • hennorama

      tbphkm33 – I have to take issue with your broad brush.

      I completely disagree that “law enforcement is largely composed of criminal elements that society uses in a productive manner” and the rest of your comment.

      Certainly there are some bad apples, but the barrel is not spoiled by them.

    • jefe68

      I agree with the assessment of the militarization of the police, but I’m not inclined to paint the police with such a broad brush as you do.

      I’m concerned about the militarization aspect since 9/11.
      The level of that militarization was on display in Boston when state shut down the city.

  • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

    These tactics are an absolute outrage- I’ll give the obviously qualude quaffing Az idiot credit for showing up, but he should be tarred and feathered for introducing this unConstitutional monstrousity. Cops are often bad people- now we allow them to bully and intimidate people into turning over their cash and cars, which go right into PD coffers??!@##$%^%^& These guys are essentially always threatening: “Obey me, or I might have to kill you”. And you allow them to steal people’s cash or property by extortion? This is worse than Mexico.

    They didn’t even discuss the Operation Pipeline connections, where 25-50K cops have been trained bu the Feds how to threaten and bully random “suspects” (having an air freshener, having your windows open) in groundless traffic stops into allowing a search of their car.

  • BenGjones

    I remember these issues being really bad in tennessee, to the point where there was low scale scuffling between officers of county police departments over who got to stake out particular spots and take people’s money. When did the police become a kleptocracy?

  • jefe68

    I think he was slow, v-e-r-y…. …. v-e-r-y… … slooow.

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