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Forum Post: Police State Update

Posted 4 years ago on Aug. 9, 2013, 6:34 a.m. EST by TropicalDepression (-45)
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[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

City Pays $20,000 to Surfer Mistaken for Rogue Ex-LAPD Cop


By Jason Kandel, NBCSanDiego.com

The city of Torrance has paid $20,000 to a surfer shot at by police when he was mistaken for a rogue ex-LAPD officer wanted in a murderous rampage, the man’s attorney said on Sunday.

David Perdue, 38, was shot at by police during the manhunt for rogue ex-cop Christopher Dorner Feb. 7.

Separately, Perdue has filed a lawsuit against the city of Torrance and its police department that is pending in federal court.

Torrance officials do not comment on pending litigation.

Perdue was driving his black Honda pickup on his way to pick up a friend to go surfing when he was stopped by officers looking for Dorner, an ex-Los Angeles police officer who had promised to bring "warfare" to his former department's officers and their families.

Authorities say Dorner killed four people, including two law enforcement officers, during a weeklong rampage that involved a massive manhunt and ended with his apparent suicide in a mountain cabin following a gunbattle with police.

At the time officers stopped Perdue, Dorner had already killed two people, and officers throughout the area were protecting people he named as targets. Authorities believed he was driving a pickup, although it was a different make and color than Perdue's truck.

The officers who stopped Perdue asked him a few questions, then told him to turn around and go back the way he came, according to the lawsuit.

Soon after, a second police car driving toward him accelerated to 25-30 mph "without any warning," and rammed his pickup, spinning him around and tearing off the rear axle. Air bags deployed, and Perdue's upper body was jolted over the center console, he says in his complaint.

Perdue says the two officers fired at least three bullets into the open driver's side window, sending them into the side air bags, past his head and through the front windshield.

Perdue was ordered out of the pickup with a gun to his head and forced to lie face-down on the pavement. He was detained for an hour.

The Perdue shooting was not the only case of mistaken identity that morning. Two women delivering newspapers in Torrance were also shot at by Los Angeles police officers; the city reached a $4.2 million settlement with the women in April in addition to the $40,000 settlement for the loss of their pickup truck.

Perdue said he has been unable to work, surf or play with his sons. The $20,000 will be used, in part, to help with daily living expenses, said his attorney, Robert Sheahen, in a statement.

"You have no idea how difficult it has been for us,” Perdue’s wife, Lizzette, said in a statement. “My husband cannot work and he is in constant pain. I do not know why Torrance is treating us like this. Dave didn't do anything to them."

NBC4's Hetty Chang contributed to this story.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 years ago

I'm still suspicious about the Dorner official story

one wonders if the killings weren't organized crime hits

[-] -2 points by summerbummer (-33) 4 years ago

Since the cops burned Dorner alive, guess we will never know.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

What Do You Do When You No Longer Need Your Slaves or Your Workers?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013 14:28 By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed


What does America do when she no longer needs her slaves or surplus workers?

The 1880’s reconstruction era was the first time in our history that America had seen a large surplus of non-white labor.

In the 1870’s many former slaves were integrated into the labor force, but white backlash in the 1880’s and 1890’s led to a permanent underclass through nearly a century of “separate but equal.”

For very different reasons, there was a similar surplus of white labor in the early 1930’s.

Regardless of race, capitalism runs in cycles: It’s called “the business cycle.” There are uptimes when there are jobs for everybody, the labor market is tight, and pay rises.

Then there are downtimes when the economy has a surplus of workers, falling wages, and a high level of unemployment.

We saw this cycle during the boom-and-bust of the roaring 20’s and the stock market crash and Great Depression of the 1930’s. After the crash, nearly a third of American workers couldn’t find a job, and the numbers were even worse in minority communities.

Our economy couldn’t put them to work, because capitalism failed. So what do you do with all of those extra workers who can’t find a job?

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, that very question was the subject of a clear and open disagreement between Democrats and Republicans. Herbert Hoover and the Republicans believed that when capitalism fails and you have high unemployment, you do nothing. You wait for the “free market” to magically fix things, and for capitalism to right the ship.

FDR and the Democrats believed that the Republican’s benign indifference was the completely wrong approach. Instead, FDR said that it’s the responsibility of government to put people back to work during times of high unemployment.

He enacted his New Deal. He put Americans back to work planting trees and forests, building schools, and improving the nation’s infrastructure. Twelve million Americans who’d been unemployed for years went back to work, and capitalism was rebooted in America. For much of the 20th century, Hoover’s and FDR’s approaches represented the two sides of the debate about what to do with surplus workers.

Up until 1980, Republicans said you waited for the market to absorb the surplus of workers, while Democrats said you proactively used the powers of government to put Americans back to work. But then Ronald Reagan came to Washington, and everything changed.

When Reagan stepped foot in the White House, he said the job of the government was not just to ignore a surplus of workers, but to figure out ways to make a buck off of them. Reagan lived by the notion that profit was king. If America’s businesspeople always and only did whatever made them the most money, that would magically cure all ills with supply-side fairy dust.

He fundamentally changed the way that we deal with surplus workers. Instead of ignoring them, or having the government put them to work, there was now a third option.

Make a profit off of them.

There are a variety of ways capitalists make a profit off of poor and unemployed people, from payday lenders, to “rent to own” furniture stores, to the most radical of them all: Turn them into prisoners. That latter is the most radical, and has turned out to be the most profitable for America’s capitalists.

It’s almost elegant in its simplicity.

Turn unemployed Americans into criminals. Track them, punish them for any crime possible, take away their rights and throw them into for-profit prisons.

Once thrown inside a for-profit prison, an inmate needs food, housing, healthcare and other services. This means huge profits for capitalists. They’re raking in tens of thousands of dollars per prisoner per year – hundreds of percent more than Roosevelt paid to simply put them back to work.

And turning unemployed Americans into very profitable prisoners is a booming business.

From the beginning of America until 1980, the incarceration rate in America remained fairly steady. While Nixon declaring his war on drugs in 1971 did slightly increase incarceration in the United States, the increase was nothing drastic.

But then Reagan came to Washington, and his buddies realized they could make a buck off of unemployed Americans.

The nation’s incarceration rate took off like a rocket.

Thanks to Reagan elevating profit to a religion, between 1980 and 2009, the state and federal prison population in the U.S. increased by over 700 percent.

Since the for-profit prison industry started aggressively buying Congressmen 15 years ago, the number of people thrown into for-profit prisons has exploded.

And Americans sitting in jail make a very exploitable, very profitable, slave-like labor force.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the minimum wage for a prisoner who works in the UNICOR program, the federal government’s prison industries program, is 23 cents an hour. The maximum UNICOR wage is $1.15 an hour.

Across all state prisons, the average minimum wage for prisoners for non-industrial work is 93 cents per hour.

And some states, like Georgia and Texas, are completely upfront about their slave-labor camps. They pay absolutely nothing to prisoners.

Because the Reagan Revolution changed America’s value system, we stopped asking, “What’s the best way to deal with surplus workers?”

Instead, we started asking, “How can we make the most money off surplus workers?”

The logical answer was a return to slavery, and it has been embraced by capitalists with a vengeance.

And that is insane brutality.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 5 points by Renneye (3874) 4 years ago

Thanks, Leo. Just want to let you know how much I appreciate your very important and incisive work on the forum...and that I read your exceptionally important national and globally relevant threads/posts with interest.

Thanks again!

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Thank you very much for the compliment.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

13th Amendment

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

3rd Amendment of the FreeDA Liberty Bill

3.Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.


[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Five More Frightening Details About the NSA

Tuesday, 13 August 2013 11:21 By Kevin Mathews, Care2 | Report


It’s been more than two months since word of the NSA’s drastic surveillance program came to light, and despite the United States’s government’s best attempts to assuage our fears, there’s still plenty of cause for concern. In fact, the more details that emerge, the more reasons citizens have to oppose the program.

Here are five recent pieces of information about the NSA that will have you have worried:

  1. It’s Actually a Secret to Congress, too

Though we’ve been assured that there is congressional oversight over the NSA and spying programs, that’s not actually the case. Many members of Congress admit they had no idea what the program did or how it operated, but at least some of them attempted to learn more about it before voting on the issue. Before voting on the NSA funding, members of both parties requested documents and substantial information on the organization, yet these requests were either ignored or outright denied because it was supposedly “classified.”

Republican Morgan Griffith, a Representative for Virginia, was frustrated at having to vote under such circumstances. “My oath is to make informed decisions, and I can’t do my job when I can’t get even the most basic information about these programs,” he said.

  1. Everything You Do on the Internet is Trackable

We just learned that the NSA uses the software program XKeyscore to “collect nearly everything a user does on the internet.” By gathering everything you type/send/search for, the NSA has an easy database to look up keywords and identify potential terrorist threats. Of course, culling every bit of activity ultimately has implications for non-terrorists, too. So much for internet privacy!

  1. The Information is Being Used for More Than Terrorism

Allegedly, the Drug Enforcement Agency is also using intelligence collected through the NSA to convict Americans for drug crimes. The process is secretive and the DEA can’t obtain evidence this way, so investigators conduct “parallel construction” where they legally gather the necessary evidence from what they already know via wiretapping.

“When law enforcement agents and prosecutors conceal the role of intelligence surveillance in criminal investigations, they violate the constitutional rights of the accused and insulate controversial intelligence programs from judicial review,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy director. “This is inappropriate, dangerous and contrary to the rule of law.”

  1. The NSA Doesn’t Track Its Own Emails

Some critics of the NSA have requested to audit employee emails through a freedom of information request to ensure that they are not abusing their powers and privileges, but get this – the NSA claims it lacks the technology to monitor its own emails. Unbelievably, an entity that tracks the digital communications of millions around the world purports to have no way of checking its own internal messages. At best, it’s a sign that the NSA grants itself the privacy it denies to just about everyone else in the country. At worst, it’s part of a massive cover-up to limit accountability for extremely questionable behavior.

  1. NSA Was Re-Approved by a Secret Court

Amidst all of the controversy surrounding the NSA, it seems appropriate to have a national conversation about our surveillance state before saying, “Whatever, carry on!” But that’s exactly what happened in July when a U.S. court renewed the program.

Not just any court – a top secret FISA court – the same court that essentially blindly rubberstamps any request to spy on someone, a true beacon of accountability. Meanwhile, the government believes it is being “transparent” by acknowledging for the first time that the program will continue, despite relying on a secret court to get this dirty business done.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Why Are SWAT Teams Answering Routine Police Calls?

Friday, 16 August 2013 09:35 By s e smith, Care2 | Report


The SWAT team is the big guns of policing in the United States, reserved for kidnappings, gunmen and other highly dangerous and potential volatile situations. Right?

Wrong, apparently, because in recent years, the use of SWAT teams for routine law enforcement matters has been on the rise, with sometimes fatal consequences. These highly trained police personnel are being sent out on gambling raids, ordered to break up underage parties and even dispatched to handle student loan fraud. Not the best use of taxpayer resources, given the expense of maintaining a SWAT team and sending members out on calls, but more than that, it’s a troubling indicator of something going deeply wrong in America.

In the United States, the police are kept separate from the military for a number of social and political reasons. Paramilitary forces like SWAT teams, developed in 1960s Los Angeles to address considerable social unrest, are intended to be used judiciously, in situations where a threat to civilian wellbeing and social stability is so significant that it justifies the use of considerable force and organized military tactics against members of the civilian community.

Thus, a potential terrorist threat or situations in which people’s lives are endangered by a gunman or another threat of violence is an appropriate use of a SWAT team or similarly-trained arm of a police department.

But what about routine law enforcement situations? These are supposed to be the purview of the police, who are trained in how to handle them, and when to determine if they need more substantial backup. When a police raid includes a SWAT team, the mix can turn explosive and dangerous extremely quickly; and police killings, particularly of young black men, are a problem across the United States thanks to the criminalization of ordinary activities like walking down the street in baggy jeans or even existing while black.

Such activities are also including searches under nebulous circumstances, the use of excessive force, and other abuses of law enforcement power that have a net effect of intimidating civilians. This is a troubling development in a nation that enshrines civil liberties and the ability to live without interference from police forces unless clear evidence of lawbreaking is occurring, and it’s evident that some police forces and their SWAT teams are overstepping boundaries, sometimes with inadequately trained personnel who aren’t prepared to deal with the complexity of a chaotic raid situation. Absurdly, celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal and Steven Seagal are being “deputized” onto SWAT teams without any formal training, but it’s not just an honorary position. They’re going out with police officers into situations that involve contact with civilians, despite the fact that they aren’t prepared, and the results might seem comic on the news — Seagal driving a tank into a man’s living room, for example — but they are indicative of a seriously problematic trend in law enforcement, one in which heavily-armed law enforcement are flooding the homes and businesses of people who may not necessarily have committed crimes and don’t pose a significant public safety risk.

The CATO Institute has a grim map of paramilitary incidents like raids that went horribly wrong, and it provides a bleak picture of a United States struggling with deep internal conflicts when it comes to making decisions about policing and civil liberties. Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, a growing chokehold on civil liberties has occurred to the steady beat of a nationalistic drum, and while many of these liberties have slipped away in bits and pieces, creating a subtle slide into a more militaristic nation, civilians are clearly aware of the issue, and they’re not happy with it.

Has policing in the United States evolved to the point of no return, making it impossible to dial it back and put SWAT teams back where they belong? Or can organizers and advocates push for a return to the basics when it comes to policing, paired with more conscientious treatment of civil liberties?

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 0 points by TropicalDepression (-45) 4 years ago

"Why Are SWAT Teams Answering Routine Police Calls?"

Thats a damn good question.

[-] -1 points by summerbummer (-33) 4 years ago

Because they have all that neat ninja gear and want to use it! They are decked out like special ops, but unfortunately, they do not have that training. There are scores of stories about tragic swat raids, be they for minor, non-violent offenders or going to the wrong house. This is another big issue to me, but it just goes hand in hand with the standing army that is being raised in blue to get around posse commiterus (sp?)

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Law to Clean Up "Nuisances" Costs Innocent People Their Homes

Sunday, 11 August 2013 13:59 By Isaiah Thompson, ProPublica | Report


When Rochelle Bing bought her modest row home on a tattered block in North Philadelphia 10 years ago, she saw it as an investment in the future for her extended family — especially for her 18 grandchildren.

Bing, 42, works full-time as a home health assistant for the elderly and disabled. In summer when school is out, her house is awash with grandkids whom Bing tends to while their parents work. And the home has been a haven in troubled times when her children needed help or a father went to jail. One of Bing’s grandchildren lives there now.

“That’s the only reason I bought my home — I needed stability for my children,” Bing said. “And if anything was to happen to me, they would have a home to live in.”

But four years ago, something happened that imperiled Bing’s plans. In October 2009, police raided the house and charged her son, Andrew, then 24, with selling 8 packets of crack cocaine to an undercover informant. (Upon entering the house, police reported finding unused packets, though not drugs, in a rear bedroom.) Rochelle Bing was not present and was not accused of a crime. Yet she soon received a frightening letter from the Philadelphia district attorney’s office. Because Andrew had sold the drugs from inside his mother’s house, a task force of law enforcement officials moved to seize Bing’s house. They filed a court claim, quickly approved, that gave Bing just 30 days to dissuade a judge from granting “a decree of forfeiture” that would give the DA’s office title to the property. Bing was devastated.

“For me to lose my home,” she recalled recently, “for them to take that from me, knowing I had grandchildren - that would have hurt me more than anything.” And so Bing resolved to do what whatever was necessary to keep the house.

She had no idea how long and how difficult that fight would be.

On its face, Bing’s predicament might seem implausible if not unjust. How could someone who’s neither accused nor convicted of a crime be forced to give up her property because of another’s misdeeds? But stories like Bing’s are increasingly more common as Philadelphia and other jurisdictions have embraced the expansive power of forfeiture as a crime-fighting tool.

The idea behind forfeiture is simple enough: drug kingpins, embezzlers, racketeers and other offenders should not be able to keep the financial fruits of illegal acts. Prosecutors often ask a judge to seize the money, vehicles or real estate of a person convicted of a crime.

But authorities can also use civil law to seize assets before the criminal case is adjudicated or, as with Rochelle Bing, even when no charges are brought against the owner.

Doing so offers prosecutors considerable advantages. Unlike the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” required in criminal law, prosecutors seeking civil forfeitures face a much lower standard. Usually, they need only prove that a “preponderance of evidence” connects the property — not its owner — to a crime. Technically, the property — not the owner — is named as the defendant.

Bing’s name, in fact, appears nowhere in the case involving her own home, listed in court filings as “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. The Real Property and Improvements Known as 2544 N. Colorado St.”

Over the last two decades, forfeitures have evolved into a booming business for police agencies across the country, from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to small-town sheriff’s offices. Although there is no single tally of all this activity – the information is buried in the budgets, court records and annual reports of thousands of individual agencies — the available data makes clear that billions of dollars in cash, cars, real estate and other assets are being confiscated nationwide every year via civil forfeitures.

One measure is the growth of a program in which federal law enforcement officials seize property on behalf of local authorities in exchange for a share of the proceeds. In 2000, officials racked up $500 million in forfeitures. By 2012, that amount rose to $4.2 billion, an eightfold increase.

Bing is among a significant number of property owners not charged with any crime who lost their home or have battled for years against forfeiture actions. Other similar cases reviewed by ProPublica include an elderly widow, two sisters who shared a house, a waitress and hospital worker caring for two children, and a mother of three whose family wound up homeless. All stemmed from drug charges brought against a family member.

Critics argue that the power to pursue civil forfeiture has been abused by prosecutors and is creating a new class of collateral victims. Often they are minorities like Bing without the financial resources or legal know-how to protect their assets.

And prosecutors typically prevail. Of nearly 2,000 cases filed against Philadelphia houses from 2008 through 2012, records reviewed by ProPublica show that only 30 ended with a judge rejecting the attempt to seize the property.

“On the federal level, you tend to see bigger cases get attention — kingpins and that sort of thing — which is what Congress intended with forfeiture,” says Louis Rulli, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and director of its civil legal clinic, which does some pro bono work for homeowners facing forfeiture.

“But coming after the parents and the grandparents, who have nothing to do with it?” he says. “The logic does not hold up to me. The folks we’re talking about have usually owned their homes a long time. They’re paid up on their homes; they’re good residents of Philadelphia.”

Rulli worries, too, about the effect on poor and minority residents. “If one sits in court and watches,” he says, “you will see a disproportionate impact on African Americans and Latinos.”

Philadelphia Freedom?

The Philadelphia DA’s office defends forfeiture as a tool for the public good. In the case of forfeited houses, that means protecting neighborhoods from “nuisance properties” which serve as a base for illegal activities.

In a statement, the DA’s office said that its goal in forfeiture actions was “to establish responsible property ownership,” not to seize houses. “In those cases in which the legal owner was not the party arrested for drug dealing and he or she can establish that they had no knowledge of the illegal behavior,” the statement said, “the Commonwealth works with them to settle those cases and the property is not forfeited.”

But that’s not how the law looked to Bing and others who’ve spent years battling the city in court.

Records show that Philadelphia uses forfeiture on a scale and in a way unlike any other county in Pennsylvania. Since 2008, the next three largest counties in Pennsylvania – Allegheny, Montgomery and Berks – have taken fewer than a dozen houses combined, even though they operate under the same state drug laws enabling forfeiture.

By contrast, the Philadelphia DA’s office files forfeiture motions on 300 to 500 private residences annually. It seizes and sells as many as 100 or more properties each year, bringing in more than $1 million annually in real estate sales alone. In 2010, the year the DA went after Bing's house, it acquired 90 houses via forfeiture and auctioned 119 properties for $1.2 million.

The money went directly to the DA’s office and to the Philadelphia police department, including the narcotics units involved in raids that resulted in the forfeitures.

Forfeiture reports obtained from Pennsylvania’s Attorney General give only a general breakdown of how these funds are spent. The records show that the bulk of Philadelphia’s forfeiture money goes to “salaries” (the report does not say whose), and “municipal task force support.” The reports include a line-item for money spent on “Community Based Drug & Crime Fighting Programs” and “Witness Relocation and/or Protection Expenses.” In recent years, both of those items read “$0.00.”

Money from housing sales in 2010 represented about a fifth of all the DA’s $5.9 million in forfeiture income that year. The rest was generated by seizure of cash, cars and other property. Last fall, a story by this reporter in The Philadelphia City Paper disclosed that the DA’s office moves to seize virtually every dollar in cash found by police in stops — even amounts of $100 or less. Under the law, prosecutors need not secure a conviction in the underlying criminal case to keep the cash.

The money raised through forfeiture is handled outside the city’s budgeting and appropriations processes. The law requires only that it be used to enforce Pennsylvania’s drug laws. Critics and experts who study the issue say that gives prosecutors a powerful motive to step up the pace of forfeitures.

“The idea that law enforcement can raise money on its own, through this self-help practice of forfeiture — it’s subversive to the idea of democratic accountability and rule of law,” said Eric Blumenson, a research professor of law at Suffolk University.

Blumenson has criticized the reliance on forfeiture, saying it prompts law enforcement officials to over-emphasize drug prosecutions at the expense of other crime-fighting.

“Prosecutors and police are only too happy to use forfeiture, because it fills their coffers. And why would they stop? They’ve become dependent — you can look at it as an addiction by itself,” Blumenson said.

Prosecutors and police view the issue differently. In an interview last year, officials from the Philadelphia DA’s office last defended the practice as a means of improving civic life.

“Everything is approached from a public safety perspective,” said Beth Grossman, who heads the forfeiture unit. “You have people suffering on their blocks, where their homes are, because of drug-dealing properties. And it’s not fair.”

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

A Lack of Lawyers

Every weekday, Courtroom 478 in Philadelphia’s City Hall fills with people — most are poor, black and Latino — trying to get back seized property. An administrative judge presides, interacting entirely with assistant district attorneys, who effectively run the show. Some property owners are represented by a lawyer; most are not. Many have been there before, often a dozen or more times, only to have their cases rescheduled over and over. Some have spent years in legal limbo until the case is decided, even longer on appeal. According to multiple accounts, Tracy Clements was sitting on the sofa on the first floor of her North Philadelphia row house on April 21, 2010, when her brother, William Clements burst in followed by police in hot pursuit. William Clements was arrested and convicted seven months later on drug-related charges.

Neither Tracy, 49, who worked on an assembly line and cared for a son in the house, nor her sister, Sheila, 56, who worked for the IRS and was out of town visiting a daughter at Penn State, were charged with a crime. The two had inherited the house from their mother when she died in 2008. They had played there as children. When their brother William was released from prison, according to their attorney, Jonathan Freedman, they refused to let him live there again. In the meantime, they were served a notice of forfeiture from the DA’s office. “We had to appear 17 times in court,” their attorney, Jonathan Freedman, said in an email. “Had I charged the clients a merely reasonable fee it would have cost them more than the house is worth!”

The sisters ultimately had their day before a judge. The Hon. Rayford Means, Jr., denied the DA’s motion, saying, “They’re innocent owners. They knew nothing about the drugs, had nothing to do with the transaction.”

The DA disagrees, and has appealed, arguing that at least one of the sisters, Tracy, was home during the drug transactions on the porch, and must have known they were occurring. Prosecutors argue that she turned a blind eye to the crimes. The DA cited policy testimony indicating that a mirror with cocaine residue was found in her bedroom, though Tracy Clements testified in court that she knew nothing about the mirror and that it hadn’t been in her room when she left for work that day.

The Clements sisters, at least, had professional legal representation; many facing forfeiture do not.

Unable to afford an attorney, Takeela Burney chose to fight the forfeiture of her house alone after her son was arrested on May 6, 2010, for a single sale of $20 worth of cocaine from the house. Over the course of the next two years, Burney would appear several times in court in an effort to save her house.

Because many real estate forfeiture cases are resolved through deals with prosecutors, most of the homeowners contesting their forfeiture cases never appear before a judge.

Burney, however, eventually appeared as her own lawyer before Judge Paula Patrick, on May 13, 2012. When a prosecutor called a Philadelphia police officer as a witness, Burney didn’t seem to know what to do. Rather than cross-examine the officer, she attempted to explain her side of the story to Judge Patrick, court records show. Patrick said “that it was not her turn to tell her story,” according to an appellate court’s summary of the case. When asked if she had any questions for the officer, she answered, “Not at this time,” as if she’d have another chance to challenge the testimony. Judge Patrick granted the DA’s motion for forfeiture.

At the very last moment, Burney contacted the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program, a legal aid group which agreed to take on her case. Burney’s attorney, Matthew Lee, filed a brief arguing that his client had never been informed of her right to a jury trial and that a lawyer should have been appointed for her.

An appeals court blocked the forfeiture, ruling that Burney deserved to know of her right to a jury trial. The judges did not address the question of whether Burney was entitled to a court-appointed lawyer. Writing for the majority, Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer said: “We understand the importance of denying criminals the proceeds of their crimes and the need to make our communities safer.”

“However, it is also our obligation to assure that these laudable goals are achieved within constitutional boundaries. These boundaries become more apparent where there is no alleged criminal conduct of the homeowner.”

Practice of Forfeiture is Widespread

Philadelphia is hardly alone in its aggressive pursuit of forfeiture. In Washington, D.C., the City Council recently held hearings on a bill that would impose new limits on cases arising from cars linked to crimes. For years, the Metropolitan Police Department has seized cars by the hundreds and required owners to post “bonds” if they wanted to contest that action.

Last May the D.C. Public Defenders Service filed a class-action lawsuit against the city, asserting that the practice violates the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment’s guarantees of due process. They argued that car owners who can’t afford to put up money are deprived of their property without any judicial review.

The D.C. City Council is considering change in the law, including putting the money from forfeitures into the city’s general fund rather than law enforcement budgets. (The Attorney General for the District of Columbia opposes this bill, as does the city administration). Darpana Sheth, an attorney for the libertarian-leaning nonprofit Institute for Justice who testified at a recent hearing alongside the D.C. Public Defender Service, endorses that idea. “Having the people charged with enforcing the law seizing property and benefiting from that property is unconstitutional – specifically, the concept of ‘neutrality’ in due process,” she said. “They can’t be neutral if they have a financial stake.”

Last year, police officials in Tenaha, Texas, agreed to various monitoring and reporting conditions after being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for stopping drivers, mostly minorities, and seizing their cash and other property. Tenaha police often did not charge the motorists with any crime but threatened them with arrest if they didn’t agree to forfeit their possessions, according to the lawsuit. In settling the case, Tenaha officials denied that the traffic stops were unconstitutional.

The Teneha case drew national attention – briefly, at least – to the larger issue of forfeiture. But the revelations underscored how little is known about forfeiture practices nationwide.

“The problem is when police departments are able to seize assets in hundreds of thousands of dollars – they’re going to,” said Vanita Gupta, an attorney with the ACLU. “I worry with the Tenaha case that people will think, ‘Oh that’s just Tenaha.’”

“Every police department in Texas is pocketing money from forfeiture,” she said.

(Gupta has a point. Data compiled by the Institute for Justice, which has been a vocal critic of forfeiture, shows that 759 law enforcement agencies in Texas alone reported proceeds from forfeiture in 2008, the most recent year that data was available.)

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

The Search for a Fairer System

Spurred by similar reports of the abuse in the late 1990s, former Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., held a series of hearings on forfeiture, prompting the passage of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000.

The law addressed several key shortcomings in federal forfeitures, providing “innocent owners” with a defense against being punished for the crimes of a relative or friend. It also provided for the appointment of an attorney when a homeowner faced the loss of his or her primary residence and was too poor to afford legal help. Those reforms did not extend to the local level, where forfeiture is often governed by state laws.

In 2010, the Institute for Justice released a report entitled “Policing for Profit,” which represented one of the first attempts to catalogue each state’s laws regarding forfeiture. It found that most offered minimal protections to property owners.

North Dakota, for example, is among the few states that impose limited restrictions on the practice, prohibiting forfeiture of a home co-owned by someone not accused of a crime.

Critics have been pushing local legislators to enact additional rules. Forfeitures in cities like Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., are conducted through civil laws. One way to eliminate the inequities of that system would be to conduct property seizures only through parallel laws in the criminal code.

Such laws come into play only after an accused criminal has had his or her day in court. The ACLU’s Gupta said this would rule out one of the more unfair results of the civil cases, which is that people are arrested, lose their property and are then ultimately acquitted on the criminal charges.

“There are a few jurisdictions where they use criminal, not civil forfeiture – meaning they’ll still seize assets, but once someone is convicted,” Gupta pointed out. “It begs the question, why do we use civil forfeiture at all?”

The courts of Allegheny County, Pa., have answered that question, requiring local judges to pursue property seizures in most cases through the state’s criminal statute and then only after the person involved in the case is convicted. That practice began under the late Judge Robert Dauer, president judge in the county’s trial courts, and continues to this day. In 2009-2010, the county did not seize a single house.

“Our policy was we had to have a conviction and it had to make some reasonable sense why we were going after forfeiture,” recalls Pennsylvania Superior Court Robert Coville, who headed up the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office for 21 years.

Coville says that as DA he supported using criminal, not civil, forfeiture as a matter of principle.

“It’s based on fairness,” he says. “I would be very restrained as a prosecutor or a solicitor for the city, going in on the theory of an allegation or the presumption of something we don’t have – namely, a criminal conviction against the owner for some kind of illegal conduct.”

Coville declined to comment on the specifics of this story, as legal issues around forfeiture very well may come before him in his role as an appellate judge. But speaking from his experience as a former county prosecutor, he said he is troubled by the idea of supplementing police and prosecutor budgets with money from forfeitures.

“I can understand why someone would want to do that in this day and age,” he said. But “is there an incentive for police and prosecutors to go after property only for the value? That gets into a whole other bag of issues.”

Other legal experts see the right to representation – especially in cases involving something as important as a home -- as the single best way to curb injustices.

“The main defenses to civil forfeiture are called ‘affirmative defenses’ – you must raise them or you waive them,” says University of Pennsylvania professor Rulli. “I think lack of counsel is a big deal. Do these people know their rights? Are they learning it from the DA? What is the DA saying to people? Is DA saying you have a right to assert innocent owner?”

Matthew Lee, the lawyer for Takeela Burney, said the recent ruling that his client was entitled to be informed of her right to a jury trial was a step in the right direction. “I was hoping that they would say you have a right to a lawyer,” Lee said, “but what they did ultimately hold is that these cases are really more like criminal cases than civil cases and that a lot of the constitutional protections in criminal cases should apply.”

Rochelle Bing’s case illustrates the value of legal counsel. Like Burney, Bing couldn't afford a lawyer herself. She eventually was referred to the University of Pennsylvania Legal Clinic where law students took on her case without charge.

Bing’s fight to save her home dragged on for two years and required her or her attorney to appear in court no fewer than 23 times. Finally, prosecutors settled the case, allowing Bing to retain ownership if she agreed not to let her son visit when she wasn’t home. (Her son, who negotiated a guilty plea to one count of possession with intent to distribute, had already finished serving his sentence he received.) Bing said she would have agreed to that condition at the outset.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Ethiopia: Lives for Land in Gambella

Sunday, 11 August 2013 13:26 By Graham Peebles, Redress Online | News Analysis


To many people land is much more than a resource or corporate commodity to be bought, developed and sold for a profit. Identity, cultural history and livelihood are all connected to “place”. The erosion of traditional values and morality (including respect for human rights and environmental responsibility) are some of the many negative effects of the global neo-liberal economic model, with its focus on short-term gain and material benefit. The commercialization of everything and everybody has become the destructive goal of multinationals and corporate-driven governments.

[-] 1 points by TropicalDepression (-45) 4 years ago

The state is completely out of control on a power binge at every level, in every corner in this country.

[-] 0 points by summerbummer (-33) 4 years ago

Asset seizure is a biggie. I have read other stories about this. You have to prove your innocence to get your stuff back! There are a lot of highways where they pull you over and then take your money. As this article mentions, even small amounts of money. It would cost you more in legal fees to recover than what they took. It is outright "legalized" thievery!

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Teen Dies After Police Shock Him With Taser

By ALANA ABRAMSON | Good Morning America – 18 hours ago


A Florida teenager died after police shocked him with a Taser in an attempt to arrest him for drawing graffiti on an abandoned building.

Israel Hernandez, 18, died Aug. 6 in Miami Beach. The Miami Beach Police Department said in a statement that Hernandez started to flee when police officers caught him spray-painting a building, and that he didn't stop running when they told him to stop.

"During the foot pursuit, the subject encountered officers face to face ... and ignored officers' commands to stop. In order to affect his arrest, an officer deployed his conducted electrical weapon (Taser). The subject was placed into custody," the police statement read. Hernandez started to show signs of medical distress after he was taken into custody, according to the police department. The fire-rescue squad transported Hernandez to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, according to the police.

The cause of death has not been determined, and autopsy and toxicology reports are still pending, police said.

Hernandez's sister, Offir Hernandez, told ABC's Miami affiliate WPLG that her brother was an artist who "lived and breathed" for his work.

He was one credit short of graduating from Miami Beach High School, according to WPLG, and after high school, his sister told the affiliate that his only plan was to paint. She described an exposition he once held where he sold his paintings for a dollar apiece. "He called it the dollar menu," she told WPLG. "He sold it for just a dollar, just to spread it around."

According to WPLG, Hernandez's family members said they were not aware of any health problems that could have led to his death. When the WPLG reporter asked Hernandez if she believed police had gone too far, Hernandez said, "My brother is dead isn't he? Of course [the police] went too far. He didn't come home yesterday. The police did."

Tasers, also called conducted energy devices, are electro-shock guns frequently used by police to stun their targets into compliance. In 2012, the human rights organization Amnesty International, which has repeatedly called for heightened regulations on Tasers, reported that 500 people in the United States had died from these stun gun devices since 2001. Florida had the second-largest number of deaths from Tasers, according to Amnesty International.

Because Tasers are not firearms, they are not subject to regulation by the Bureau of of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Read about the history and controvery of Tasers.

The Miami Beach police declined to say how often its officers used Tasers.

In 2012, the journal Circulation, which is published by the American Heart Association, released a study by Dr. Douglas Zipes concluding that electronic control device stimulation from the Tasers could induce cardiac arrest.

"Users should be judicious in how and when to use the ECD weapon, avoid chest shocks if possible, monitor the person after an ECD shock, and suspect this adverse response in any victim who loses consciousness," the study stated.

The Miami Beach Police Department issued a statement saying, "The city of Miami Beach would like to extend their condolences to the family of Israel Hernandez." It said Hernandez's death was under investigation.

[-] 1 points by JGriff99mph (507) 4 years ago

Further recording of the people, but a decrease in police abuse. This is an interesting one.