Monday, March 16, 2009

The Jack-Booted Thug(s) of the Week...

... are the members of the Tenaha, Texas Police Department, which is accused of misusing narcotics asset-forfeiture laws in order to bully motorists passing through (especially those of the black variety) who were stopped for minor violations into giving up money and other valuables in order to avoid being wrongly charged with major drug crimes.

In hundreds of cases, cash and valuables worth many thousands of dollars were seized, yet no charges whatsoever were ever filed against the alleged "criminals".

"In some cases, police used the fact that motorists were carrying large amounts of cash as evidence that they must have been involved in laundering drug money"

Really? Having a large bankroll of legal tender is now evidence of being a drug lord? Since when?

An attorney named David Guillory has now filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the town, and has found out some interesting facts while researching the case:

"More than 140 people reluctantly accepted that deal [sign over your stuff or face money-laundering charges] from June 2006 to June 2008, according to court records. Among them were a black grandmother from Akron, who surrendered $4,000 in cash after Tenaha police pulled her over, and an interracial couple from Houston, who gave up more than $6,000 after police threatened to seize their children and put them into foster care, the court documents show. Neither the grandmother nor the couple were charged with any crime... Guillory said the court records showed, police seized cash, jewelry, cell phones and sometimes even automobiles from motorists but never found any contraband or charged them with any crime. Of those, Guillory said he managed to contact 40 of the motorists directly—and discovered all but one of them were black."

A quick reminder: If arrested, don't sign anything or say a word, save for "I wish to speak to an attorney." Repeat as necessary. You're not going to help yourself by arguing your case, and may get yourself into more trouble, even if you're completely innocent of any crimes.

The department and town are vigorously denying the charges, of course, but here's where I think they're going to be sunk:

"The process apparently is so routine in Tenaha that Guillory discovered pre-signed and pre-notarized police affidavits with blank spaces left for an officer to describe the property being seized."

Ah, the dreaded efficiency "gotcha", in which the greedy town burghers apparently didn't wish to wait even five additional minutes to get their dirty hands on some ill-gotten treasures.

One Texas legislator is attempting to stop the blatant highway robbery going on in his state:

"On Monday he [State Senator John Whitmire] introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would require police to go before a judge before attempting to seize property under the asset-forfeiture law—and ultimately Whitmire hopes to tighten the law further so that law-enforcement officials will be allowed to seize property only after a suspect is charged and convicted in a court."

You mean to tell me that that cops in Texas don't already have to justify their unlawful confiscations of money and property in a court of law?


Note to self: Avoid traveling by car in Texas until this grievous error is fixed and the local chicken-fried thugs are properly slapped down.

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