Abuse of executive privilege and authority has now become the Rule, rather than the exception. Drones are being acquired for domestic surveillance, voting rights are in doubt (you should look at the ACLU battle with Florida - HERE) and you can have your assets seized on the whim of a profiteering police officer.
Today, in the New Yorker, there's an article titled "TAKEN: Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing"? The "reporter at large" Sarah Stillman, documents for your reading pleasure, a plethora of civil seizure cases in several "policing for profit" schemes
The featured case on the 1st page is that of Jennifer Boatright, a waitress from Houston, Texas. Her and her husband, with child in tow, decided to travel, visit a family member and buy a used car. After stopping at a convenience store, they were followed by the local yokel who said they were in the left lane too long. Jennifer and her husband said they stayed in that lane to permit the police to pass.
Jennifer and her husband were told to give up your cash or go to jail, lose your kid.
What is more perverse than the B.S. that Jennifer and her husband "fit the profile of drug dealers" and the absurd logic that the kids were simply "decoys", is that after they realized they had to give up the money to buy the used car; the authorities no longer felt the need to protect the children from endangerment.
More below the fold.
Seizure Officer Said G-d Told Him to Do It
Tenaha is a border town that is starved for cash flow. So the mayor of Tenaha was ready, willing and able to listen to Barry Washington, in 2006, when the former state trooper of Carthage, Texas arrived and told the mayor he could solve Tenaha's cash woes with his "drug-interdiction" skills doing arrests and seizures on Highway 59.
When asked why a 2 decade veteran of the Department of Public Safety was so interested in the squalor town of Tenaha, officer Washington said he was lying in bed one night in Carthage, after leaving his old job and a light burst through the ceiling. "And it's like I'm in a trance" he said "And G-d tells me, Go to Tenaha Texas" - and that he did.
Jennifer Boatright seeks justice and her attorney finds massive abuse/profiling
Though Jennifer and her husband were warned to give it up and even threatened by the Tenaha's prosecutor, they still decided to fight for justice and found a lone wolf rare breed attorney who likes to fight bad guys and cares little of profit. In nearby Nacogdoches (always liked the sound of that name) - sat attorney at law David Guillory. The New Yorker describes Mr. Guillory as;
a broad-faced man with blue eyes and the gregarious, cheerful disposition of a Scoutmaster. (He is, in fact, an assistant Scoutmaster of local Troop 100, and keeps the “Handbook of Knots” by his desk, near heaps of legal briefs.) He moved to Nacogdoches seventeen years ago and set up shop as a small-town civil-rights lawyer. He specialized in cases around the state that made neither friends nor profits: mostly, suing policemen for misconduct.
Reportedly, attorney David Guillory decided to go to the local records of the court after a case came his way of Mr. Morrow before Jennifer Boatright did. David wanted to see how many cases of abuse he could find like that of James Morrow. Turns out there were many. Mr. Morrow who worked in Pine Bluff Arkansas. The Tenaha Police pulled him over for driving "too close to a white line". They seized his James Morrow's $3900 (that he was going to use for dental work) and his vehicle. They then dumped him on the side of the road with no vehicle and no money. He had to borrow someone's cell phone to call his mother, who rented a car to help bring James back home.
Wonder where you find the "Too Close to Breaking the Law Code"?
Akin to Jennifer's case, the "Profit Police" became arresting authority, prosecutor, judge and jury. They told Mr. Morrow that his "story of travel" was inconsistent with how much money he had and that he smelled of marijuana (though none was found in his vehicle). Attorney David Guillory's look at the empirical evidence found that most seizures were of cases of "routine" traffic violations and;
the targets were disproportionately black or Latino!
Attorneys Guillory & Garrigan File Class Action Lawsuit
In college, David Guillory's roommate was Paul Begala. That's correct, we are speaking of THE Paul Begala, who went to the University of Texas Austin with David Guillory. The prominent Democrat strategist politico who was an advisor to President Bill Clinton and co-host of CNN's political debate program Crossfire.
Fortunately, as we are in dire need of good blue's in the great State of Texas, David Guillory, though desirous of going the political activist way, instead chose the more arduous path of fighting for U.S. wee little people and cases that might spark reform, no matter how daunting the task.
In July 2008, David Guillory and his lunch buddy Tim Garrigan, agreed to join together in the class action case forward with James Morrow as lead plaintiff. Added to the parties was Jennifer Boatright and her bo Ron Henderson. They were quickly joined by others as The New Yorker details;
Within a few weeks, the lawyers had received calls from other Tenaha forfeiture victims. In addition to Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson, the suit was joined by a handful of others—among them an African-American woman from Akron, Ohio, named Linda Dorman, who had forty-five hundred dollars taken from her and a passenger; and a young Mexican-American, Javier Flores, who turned over twenty-four hundred dollars. The suit accused the mayor of Tenaha and other town and Shelby County officials of operating “an illegal practice of stopping, detaining, searching, and often seizing property from citizens,” and doing so “not for any legitimate law enforcement purpose but to enrich their offices and perhaps themselves.” The practice was discriminatory, the suit alleged, and in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, “at least.”
It took the United States Government getting involved, before the Tenaha authorities would turn over the dashboard camera recordings of Officer Washington and others. It is quite revealing, though most of the video evidence is either missing or poorly record. In the case of James Morrow, one alarming piece of Smoking Gun evidence has emerged as The New Yorker details;
a sliver of video was identified from Constable Randy Whatley’s camera feed, which captured part of the man’s detention by the side of the road. Washington could be heard instructing Whatley, “Would you take your K-9? If he alerts on the vehicle, I’m gonna take his mama’s vehicle away from him, and I’m gonna take his money.”
“Oh, yeah,” Whatley replied. “O.K.”
“I’m gonna take his stuff from him,” Washington repeated.
DANGER: You're entering a NO Obama Zone. Mention his Name and BLAM!
On a regular day in July 2009, a woman entered the foyer of attorney Garrigan's office and asked to speak with him. Upon Mr. Garrigan coming out all he found was an envelope. But inside that envelope are Smoking Gun email evidences that are telltale of the mindset of Tenaha's, in its "Policing for Profit" schemes. The New Yorker gives the following - Alarming - details of evidence and emails;
Over the previous year, Garrigan—a vintage-motorcycle enthusiast who can be found wearing New Balance sneakers, Levi’s, and soft old T-shirts on days when he has no court appearances—had received a handful of letters from tipsters with pen names like A Concerned Citizen and A Pissed-Off Voter. “I am just a citizen who knows right from wrong,” one note began, accompanied by seventeen pages of documents about the forfeiture program. “People don’t have the money, or are afraid to fight [Lynda Russell] because they will be put in jail and lose their jobs,” another read. But Garrigan was particularly struck by the contents of the unmarked manila envelope. It included chain e-mails that Russell had forwarded. “Be proud to be white! It’s not a crime YET . . . but getting very close!” one read. A second joked, “Danger: you are entering a no Obama Zone. Mention his name and I’ll drop you where you stand!” More revelatory was a nine-page spreadsheet listing items funded by Tenaha’s roadside seizures. Among them were Halloween costumes, Doo Dah Parade decorations, “Have a Nice Day” banners, credit-card late fees, poultry-festival supplies, a popcorn machine, and a thousand-dollar donation to a Baptist congregation that was said to be important to Lynda Russell’s reëlection. Barry Washington, as deputy city marshal, received a ten-thousand-dollar personal bonus from the fund. (His base salary was about thirty thousand dollars; Garrigan later confirmed reports that Washington had
received a total of forty thousand dollars in bonuses.)
All's Well That Ends - WELL?
In a typical fashion of circling the wagons to protect City Hall, the judge over the class action told everyone he was waiting for a decision in a Walmart case, concerning class actions. When that case reached a decision, the court denied attorneys Guillory and Carrigan from proceeding as "class" for the sake of getting paid; but did permit the case to go forward to seeking "injunctive" relief.
After a deposition was taken of Officer Washington, that reveals a whole other mindset bizarre. Armed with more cases coming forward, the town of Tenaha had to settle. The prosecutor Lynda Russell was denied use of public funds for her defense and asked to use "forfeiture" funds instead. A settlement was later reached; which included utilizing police cruiser cameras for every stop, that the "profiling" would end and the practice of giving "bonuses" for seizures has been halted. Roadside "waivers" where Police could threaten arrest, unless you release your assets, is no longer permitted. And;
Officer Washington is no longer an Policeman.
New Yorker's reporter went back to see Jennifer Boatright on Steak Night, after cleanup. Jennifer told Sarah Stillman that she considers most policeman heroes and that she doesn't want her children growing up, thinking police are all bad. Unfortunately, her bo Jonathan is still terrified and cringes every time he sees the Police. So Jennifer had a friend who is uniform drive Jonathan around in is patrol car, in an attempt to get Jonathan feeling more normal about it all.
Meanwhile, though Jennifer worked arduously to get her son to have a more positive view of law enforcement, the fact of the matter was, Jennifer had relatives there and has to return to the route the hate to Tenaha. She worries that here efforts to have her young son Jacob look at things better, may not be working too well. While Jennifer was preparing for her trip to go back to Tenaha, Jacob handed her a drawing he had done with felt pen. It featured a ship with skull-n-bones and the kid Jacob had drawn them smiling, as he remarked