Monday, 8 September 2014

Leviathan Stirring

The Serpent Has Means and Opportunities

Motive He has Never Lacked

The headline was eyecatching:

Philadelphia Police Confiscating Thousands of Families Homes

 The piece appeared in Breitbart News, and the opening paragraphs just had to be sensationalised by to a considerable degree.

Monday on CNN's "The Lead With Jake Tapper," CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown reported on Philadelphia police and prosecutors seizing the homes of people with no criminal charges. 

 The report highlighted a family who's 22-year-old son was arrested for a $40 drug charge but the parents, who were unaware of their adult sons criminal activity, were never charged with any crime are currently fighting city prosecutors to stay in the family home.

The homeowners told the story of police bursting into their home in suburban Philadelphia with a sledgehammer reportedly saying, "We're going to break your walls and pipes. This house is going to be ours."  As he was explaining what was going on, there was people closing doors with screws, locking them. They had the electric company here to turn off my electric and gas."
There had to be something more going on here.  But the next paragraph was even more sensational:

CNN reported, "The general core of the civil forfeiture law is capture the cash or ill-gotten gains or contraband that criminals have used to commit a particular crime. But unlike criminal forfeiture, the civil law allows authorities to seize property without the owner being convicted or even charged."
This had to be wrong.  The United States is a country built upon the rule of law, and the rights of human beings to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--untrammelled by oppressive tyranny of the state.  The arbitrary seizing of property by the state authorities, without cause or criminal conviction or criminal investigation would never be allowed.  The kind of behaviour being described above belongs to the arbitrary tyranny of a feudal past, not to a modern democratic government built upon the rule of law.

Ah, if only that were true.  Sadly, statism eventually spawns tyranny.  The United States, ruled by progressive ideologies for many decades, has for over a century worshipped at the altar of government to fix all wrongs and fight all evils.  Now the government is emerging as Leviathan itself.  It is the problem.  The dragon is bearing its teeth in Philadelphia.

Really?  Come on.  That's sensationalist claptrap.  Way over the top.  Not according to a lengthy, well researched piece by Sarah Stillman, published in The New Yorker magazine, entitled "Taken:
Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes."

Stillman explains the basic appeal of civil forfeiture:
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!” In Monroe, North Carolina, police recently proposed using forty-four thousand dollars in confiscated drug money to buy a surveillance drone, which might be deployed to catch fleeing suspects, conduct rescue missions, and, perhaps, seize more drug money. Hundreds of state and federal laws authorize forfeiture for cockfighting, drag racing, basement gambling, endangered-fish poaching, securities fraud, and countless other misdeeds. 
But the problem lies right here:
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. [Emphasis, ours]
The law of civil forfeiture was originally intended to allow police to seize the property of drug barons, career criminals, and mobsters, without (or before) criminal convictions.  The spin-off was that millions of dollars would be "made" allowing police departments to be better funded.  And, oh, it would fund bonuses for police personnel.  Naturally, as anyone with a modicum of understanding about Economics 101 and regnant human depravity would realise, before you could say lickety split, police in some jurisdictions were targeting the defenceless.
 But a system that proved successful at wringing profits from drug cartels and white-collar fraudsters has also given rise to corruption and violations of civil liberties. Over the past year, I spoke with more than a hundred police officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, and forfeiture plaintiffs from across the country. Many expressed concern that state laws designed to go after high-flying crime lords are routinely targeting the workaday homes, cars, cash savings, and other belongings of innocent people who are never charged with a crime.
Stillman tells the story of one elderly couple--in Philadelphia, that left-wing progressive icon, the city mentioned in the CNN/Breitbart report above.
In West Philadelphia last August, an elderly couple named Mary and Leon Adams were finishing breakfast when several vans filled with heavily armed police pulled up to their red brick home. An officer announced, “We’ll give you ten minutes to get your things and vacate the property.” The men surrounding their home had been authorized to enter, seize, and seal the premises, without any prior notice.

“I was almost numb,” Mary Adams, a sixty-eight-year-old grandmother with warm brown eyes and wavy russet hair, recalled. When I visited her this spring, she sat beside her seventy-year-old husband, who was being treated for pancreatic cancer, and was slumped with exhaustion. A little earlier, he had struggled to put on his embroidered blue-and-yellow guayabera shirt; his wife, looking fit for church in a green jacket, tank top, and slacks, watched him attentively as he shuffled over on a carved-wood cane to greet me. Leon explained his attachment to their home in numerical terms. “1966,” he said. “It’s been our home since 1966.” . . .

The home served the Adams family well over the next half century, as Leon took a job as a steel-plant worker, and later as an elementary-school janitor, and Mary worked as a saleswoman at Woolworth and, eventually, as a patients’ care assistant at Bryn Mawr hospital. (“I treated every patient as a V.I.P., whether you were in a coma or not!”) More recently, the home has helped the couple ease into their retirement. “I love digging in the dirt,” she said, referring to their modest, marigold-lined front yard, and “sitting on the porch, talking to neighbors.”

Their home also proved a comfortable place to raise their only son, Leon, Jr.—so comfortable, in fact, that the young man never quite flew the nest. At thirty-one, slender and goateed, Leon, Jr., occupied a small bedroom on the second floor. When his father, who had already suffered a stroke, fell ill with cancer, he was around to help out. But, according to a report by the Philadelphia Police Department, the younger Leon had a sideline: on the afternoon of July 10, 2012, he allegedly sold twenty dollars’ worth of marijuana to a confidential informant, on the porch of his parents’ home. When the informant requested two more deals the next week, the report said, he made the same arrangements. Both were for twenty dollars, purchased with marked bills provided by police.

Around 5 p.m. on July 19th, Leon, Sr., was in his bedroom recovering from surgery when he was startled by a loud noise. “I thought the house was blowing up,” he recalls. The police “had some sort of big, long club and four guys hit the door with it, and knocked the whole door right down.” swat-team officers in riot gear were raiding his home. One of the officers placed Leon, Jr., in handcuffs and said, “Apologize to your father for what you’ve done.” Leon, Jr., was taken off to jail, where he remains, awaiting trial.

The police returned about a month after the raid. Owing to the allegations against Leon, Jr., the state was now seeking to take the Adamses’ home and to sell it at a biannual city auction, with the proceeds split between the district attorney’s office and the police department. All of this could occur even if Leon, Jr., was acquitted in criminal court; in fact, the process could be completed even before he stood trial.  [Emphasis, ours]
Here is another example, documented by Stillman, this time from Detroit.

Another case involves a monthly social event that had been hosted by the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. In the midst of festivities one evening in late May, 2008, forty-odd officers in black commando gear stormed the gallery and its rear patio, ordering the guests to the ground. Some in attendance thought that they were the victims of an armed robbery. One young woman who had fallen only to her knees told me that a masked figure screamed at her, “Bitch, you think you’re too pretty to get in the mud?” A boot from behind kicked her to the ground.

The officers, including members of the Detroit Police Department’s vice squad and mobile tactical unit, placed the guests under arrest. According to police records, the gallery lacked proper city permits for after-hours dancing and drinking, and an old ordinance aimed at “blind pigs” (speakeasies) and other places of “illegal occupation” made it a crime to patronize such a place, knowingly or not.

After lining the guests on their knees before a “prisoner processing table” and searching them, the officers asked for everyone’s car keys. Then the raid team seized every vehicle it could find, even venturing to the driveway of a young man’s friend nearly a mile away to retrieve his car. Forty-four cars were taken to government-contracted lots.

Most of those detained had to pay more than a thousand dollars for the return of their cars; if payment wasn’t made promptly, the car would become city property. The proceeds were divided among the offices of the prosecutors, police, and towing companies. After the A.C.L.U. filed a suit against the city, a district court ruled that the raid was unconstitutional, and noted that it reflected “a widespread practice” by the police in the area. (The city is appealing the ruling.)

Vice statutes have lent themselves to such forfeiture efforts; in previous years, an initiative targeted gay men for forfeiture, under Detroit’s “annoying persons” ordinance. Before local lawyers challenged such practices, known informally as “Bag a Fag,” undercover officers would arrest gay men who simply returned their glances or gestures, if the signals were deemed to have sexual connotations, and then, citing “nuisance abatement,” seize their vehicles.

Detroit Police Department officials have said that raids like the one on the Contemporary Art Institute are aimed at improving “quality of life.” The raids certainly help address the department’s substantial budgetary shortfalls. Last year, Detroit, which has since filed for bankruptcy, cut the annual police budget by nearly a fifth. Today, “blind pig” raids around the city routinely result in the confiscation of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of cars.
Stillman's piece is lengthy, but well worth the time taken to read.  As some scholars note in her article, with civil forfeiture and the tyrannical actions of some police departments, the country has regressed right back to the issues which led to the American revolution in the first place.

It's always the way with idols.  You worship at their feet long enough, and in the end they take on demonic powers of their own.  Or, to put it another way, when men turn away from the Living God to serve other powers, the Dragon of old, is given means and opportunity to possess their souls.  Motive he has never lacked.

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