PART 1 of 4
Jon Christian Ryter
March 9, 2011
For a few months in New York City after 9-11 America renewed its love affair with its police officers. But the feelings were short-lived. America, for good reason, no longer trusts the law enforcement agencies they adored due to their heroics on Sept. 11, 2001.
Today, the police, the district attorneys and judges we elect whose job it is to make sure that justice is meted fairly and in an unbiased manner, are increasingly viewed by a growing segment of the popultion as a bigger threat to the people of the United States than all of the killers, rapists, drug dealers and petty thugs who prowl the streets of America put together—because the people themselves have become the new profit center for the bureaucracy we call "law enforcement."
To aid the cities, counties and States generate desperately needed revenues to meet growing budget shortfalls created by shrinking tax revenues that have left many city, county and State governments buried under a mountain of debt, activist judges at both the State and federal levels have redefined who and what is protected under the umbrella of the Bill of Rights by ruling that the protection we, as citizens, enjoy under the Constitution does not necessarily extend to our property. Today, the bureaucracy is waging a war of attrition against private property because property, separate from the people who own it, has no Constitutional rights and, thus, can be seized at will. To regain their property, the accused (who generally is not arrested with their property) must be able to conclusively prove how he or she received their property, which has already been seized. This, of course, is precisely the reverse of the constitutional concept of innocent until proven guilty.
In a rare instance where the victim of aggressive police action actually won—two years, two months and five days after the Drug Enforcement Agency [DEA] seized $9,000 in cash from Willie Jones, a Nashville landscaper, US District Court Judge Thomas Wiseman ordered the government to return his money. But, such reversals in the government's newest form of revenue generation are extremely rare. Generally, the victims—law abiding citizens—lose their property simply because they lack the means to fight the government in court since normally, the seizure is so complete that the defendant has nothing left with which to fight. And, should they have "secret" savings, that money—when it surfaces to pay for an attorney—is seized as well.
In the case of Willie Jones, he was flying to Houston on February 27, 1991 to purchase plants for his landscaping business. He carried cash because experience had taught him that cash got him a better deal than either checks or credit cards. In addition, Jones was African American. Unknown to Jones, the DEA had previously struck a deal with ticket sellers not only with most of the nation's air carriers, but with Greyhound, Amtrak and even most major hotels to report to them when people pay for travel or accommodations with cash—especially large sums of cash. In Jones' case, he paid cash for his plane ticket. The American Airlines ticket clerk quickly reported Jones' cash purchase to a DEA agent nearby. The agent stopped Jones' and asked to see his identification. Then he asked if Jones' minded if the agent searched him.
Jones objected to being searched since he had done nothing to merit such action. The DEA agent told him that drug-sniffing dogs detected cocaine on the cash he paid for his air fare, and that alone justified the search. Finding the $9,000 Jones' was carrying—but no drugs or anything else illegal—they released him but "arrested" his money, telling him he would not be buying drugs with it. (A 1989 study found that 70% of all currency in circulation will likely have cocaine residue on it. That figure is much higher today. Now, well over 95% of all currency in circulation in the United States will contain trace signs of cocaine since using a rolled up dollar bill is the most common "straw" used for "sniffing" cocaine.)
Jones asked for a receipt for his money. The DEA agent gave him a receipt for an "undetermined" amount of money. Jones balked and insisted the agent physically count the money and give him an accurate receipt since he intended to get his money back. The agent refused, claiming that actually counting the money violated DEA policy. But you can bet he counted it very carefully because, under current seizure law, the agent who seized the assets receives 25% of the 80% retained by the DEA. The remaining 20% goes to the federal court system where it is placed in the judiciary's bank account to help defray the court's own operating expenses. There is an 80-20 split between the local, county, State or federal law enforcement agency that seizes the assets and the corresponding court that will deal with the "criminal"—which 80% of the time means the assets that were seized since charges are seldom filed against the victim over overaggressive police search and seizure tactics because there is generally no evidence that any crime has actually been committed. The assumption of guilt is now prevalent in law enforcement. In the judicial system, although it is incumbent upon the prosecution to prove guilt, it is equally obligatory for the defense to be able to prove innocence. In far too many instances across the nation, people are convicted of crimes ranging from simple burglary to murder not because the State proved they were guilty of the crime for which they were on trial, but because the defense was unable to prove the defendant was innocent of the charges.
When the Jones case finally showed up in US District Court Judge Wiseman's courtroom, the magistrate saw it for what it was. Highway—or rather, airport—robbery. And the crooks were the cops. Wiseman told the DEA, in court, that the reasons they offered for the seizure of Jones' money was "misleading," "unconvincing" and "inconsistent" and that the officer's behavior was casual and sarcastic. In his ruling he said: "Based on the credible evidence presented at the trial, Mr. Jones was unreasonably seized in violation of the 4th amendment...which prohibits illegal search and seizure of property." Wiseman called the Jones' seizure "...a forfeiture proceeding started in bad faith with wild allegations based on the hope that something would turn up to justify the search." Wiseman concluded that "...a growing chorus of courts are finding the evidence of narcotic-trained dogs alert to the currency is of extremely little weight," adding that, a study by Lee Hearn, chief toxicologist for the Dade County (Florida) Medical Examiner's Office found that 97% of the bills from around the country tested positive for cocaine. The DEA was forced to give Jones' back his $9.000.
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Many times when "evidence" seizures occur—when an actual crime has been committed—the "crime" is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a small fine. Generally, the property seized by the police in misdemeanor arrests is worth hundreds if not a thousand times more than any fine that would be levied. (An example might be a "john" seeking the pleasures of a prostitute who may or may not be an undercover police officer. Since the "john" used his car to drive to the location where he tried to solicit paid sexual favors, the car—which can now be seized under current forfeiture laws—was used in the commission of a crime.) Whenever they can do so today, law enforcement officers "arrest" the property of "suspects" even if they don't have enough evidence to arrest the individual who owns the property. What is occurring is a legal form of theft for profit and personal gain by the police. For part two click below.