Civil Asset Forfeiture

What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?

Civil Asset Forfeiture in the United States, sometimes called civil judicial forfeiture, is a legal process in which law enforcement officers take assets from persons suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the owners with wrongdoing.

While civil procedure generally involves a dispute between two private citizens, civil forfeiture involves a dispute between law enforcement and property, such as money or valuable items such as a car.  The item should be suspected of being involved in a crime.

Wikipedia states that to get back the seized property, “owners must prove it was not involved in criminal activity.”

This is an odd twist:  usually, the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but in this case, the owner of the item must prove his or her innocence.

Last Thursday, SB 443, California’s attempt to end civil-asset forfeiture and “equitable sharing” abuse, failed passage in the State Assembly, 24 to 44, according to the National Review.

What is equitable sharing?

The National Review writes that “Forfeiture practices are further complicated with the existence of equitable-sharing agreements. Therein, state and local agencies partner with federal law enforcement, seize property, and proceed with the forfeiture motion through the jurisdiction with the least restrictive process, oftentimes the federal courts. The agencies then share the proceeds. This allows law enforcement to wholly sidestep any legal protections guaranteed by the state.”

More on Civil Asset Forfeiture by Wikipedia:

“Proponents see civil forfeiture as a powerful tool to thwart criminal organizations involved in the illegal drug trade, with $12 billion annual profits, since it allows authorities to seize cash and other assets resulting from narcotics trafficking. Proponents argue that it is an efficient method since it allows law enforcement agencies to use these seized proceeds to further battle illegal activity, that is, directly converting bad things to good purposes by harming criminals economically while helping law enforcement financially. Critics argue that innocent owners become entangled in the process such that their right to property is violated, with few legal protections and due process rules to protect them in situations where they are presumed guilty instead of being presumed innocent.”

The ACLU writes:

“Civil forfeiture allows police to seize — and then keep or sell — any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government.”

Why would we allow civil asset forfeiture?

The Heritage Foundation writes that Civil Asset Forfeiture is intended to give law enforcement a tool they can use to go after organized crime – mafia, etc. – including drug dealers and their organizations.

The Heritage Foundation continues:  “Unfortunately, civil asset forfeiture is also used by law enforcement as a way to generate revenue, and many of its targets are innocent members of the public.”

In regards to the California Senate Bill 443, the bill “would not affect law enforcement’s power to seize property, based on probable cause. Police would still be able to hold seized property in evidence rooms and impound lots until forfeiture proceedings are resolved.”

A Sacramento Bee letter to the editor writes:

“Instead, SB 443 would only allow seized property to be forfeited (to the government) once its owner has been convicted of any crime. California already requires this for most seizures. Several states, including Montana, Nevada and New Mexico, recently enacted this vital protection of due process.

“Moreover, whenever California agencies collaborate with the federal government, SB 443 would first require the federal government to obtain a criminal conviction before proceeding with forfeiture. One investigation found the federal government, in cooperation with California agencies, took nearly $300 million in cash from people never charged with a crime.”

What Are The 19 Hate Groups In South Carolina?

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC) lists 19 hate groups that are active in South Carolina.  That number is being cited in numerous articles due to the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.  What groups are listed by the SLPC?

Group                                                                       Ideology                       Location

Americans Have Had Enough
Bob’s Underground Graduate Seminar/BUGS
Confederate Hammerskins
Creativity Alliance
Dixie Republic
Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
Original Knight Riders Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
Patriotic Flags
Southern National Congress
Southern Nationalist Network
Southern Patriot Shoppe
True Light Pentecost Church

(Updated post)

Can The U.S. Follow The Scandinavian Model?

There is an opinion article out by Megan McArdle with Bloomberg that states the U.S. cannot follow the Scandinavian model (of higher taxes on the rich, robust social services, etc.).

The article then proceeds to give a series of uncomfortable, race-based opinions why.

Oddly enough, this same week, articles came out stating that Reverend Franklin Graham said that Shariah law should be banned from the U.S.  However, there seems to be no evidence that Shariah is being implemented in the U.S.

So, it is an interesting juxtaposition: The U.S. can’t use the Scandinavian model of governance, but we are apparently in danger of enacting Shariah law.

Several points were made about the Scandinavian model. The first point was that “…Swedes have the same poverty rate in America as in Sweden…” At first glance, the point seems to be that Sweden has the same poverty rate as the U.S.

Upon closer inspection of references, however, their source actually states that Swedish people have the same poverty rate as people in the U.S. with Swedish ancestry. No definition of “Swedish ancestry” is given in the article. 1/4th Swedish? 1/2 Swedish?

Another claim is that “small homogenous countries are probably better able to support a cradle-to-grave welfare state than large, heterogenous ones.” Again, the article goes for the race (“heterogenous”) angle, and in this case does not give any sources to back up the claim.

“…(T)iny countries are more likely to generate outlying results than bigger ones (which looks fantastic if you drop the outlying underperformers from your sample)…” writes Bloomberg. The Bloomberg article then references an article about schools to make its point about the Scandinavian model of governance.

The article also states that “Tiny population nestled atop huge fossil fuel deposits” is probably not a strategy that the U.S. can emulate. Of course, immense natural resources is what propelled the U.S. to its historic economic prowess.

The next point made has to do with productivity and innovation: The article claims that academics Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson and Thierry Verdier, argue that productivity disproportionately comes from economies where “incentives for workers and entrepreneurs results in greater inequality and greater poverty” . . . i.e., the United States. Those innovations, however, don’t make just us more productive; they filter out to the rest of the world.

This may or may not be true, but the article admits that many have also taken issue with the academics assertions.

Other points made make little verifiable sense – such as the fact that many of the innovations and/or products in Scandinavia come from outside its borders. That is likely true, but one only need to look for the words “Made in China” or “Made in Japan” to see that the same is true for the U.S.

The same week that this article on the Scandinavian model came out, articles came out reporting that the Reverend Franklin Graham has said that Muslim Shariah law should be banned in the U.S. Graham pointing to the various human rights abuses committed by terror group ISIS in its implementation of the Islamic law.

Is the U.S. taking on Shariah law?  Wouldn’t that be something that the U.S. would have to voluntarily do?

This seems easier said than done.  How could we possibly implement Shariah law if we don’t want Shariah law?  According to the Huffington Post, only 1% of the American population is Muslim.  How could Shariah law be “foisted” upon us?

(Updated article)

A ‘Poignant’ Writing On Sociopaths

Recently, Debbie Borman, a law professor at Northwestern University wrote a blog post about sociopathy for the website “Mom, I Think I’m Poignant!” on The article was based on the case of the Boston Marathon bomber, as well as two recently-sentenced Chicago-area murderers in Bali.

Debbie writes:

“The news reports regarding the sentencing phase of the trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are now focused on Tsarnaev’s demeanor. As the prosecutors present victim-impact testimony, reports focus on Tsarnaev’s lack of demonstration of remorse, about how he is stoic and expressionless and lacking in emotion. Tsarnaev committed a horrible crime and he should receive the worst kind of sentence, either the death penalty for those who believe that is appropriate within the statutory possibility, or life in prison, so he can live out a miserable life behind bars.

“The accused shows no emotion, no remorse. He is a sociopath with no empathy.

“But there is a worse kind of sociopath, the sociopath who lacks empathy, but is so charming he shows artificial remorse and convinces the world that the opposite is true.

“Consider the sentencing yesterday of Tommy Schaefer, the 21-year old 50% responsible for the bludgeoning death of Sheila von Wiese-Mack. Schaefer and his complicit girlfriend, Weise-Mack’s daughter Heather Mack, repeatedly struck Wiese-Mack in the head, and then stuffed Ms. Wiese-Mack’s body in a suitcase and left it in the trunk of a cab in Bali. Schaefer was spared the death penalty in an Indonesian court and sentenced to a mere 18-years imprisonment, because of his artificial tears and phony demeanor: ‘Presiding Judge Made Suweda described his crime as ‘sadistic’ but said the defendant’s politeness and expression of remorse during the trial warranted that the Oak Park resident be spared a harsher sentence,’ according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.

“Heather Mack was an only child and sole beneficiary of a $1.56 million trust fund.

“Which sociopath is worse for our society–the sociopath who makes no mystery of the fact of his contempt for human life? Who kills and runs and hides in boat the way a cat hides under the couch with his tail sticking out? Or the charmer-murderer, who tells you that he loves you because he wants your money, and then convinces you to, and helps you kill your mother?”

(Updated post)

Was The Muhammad Cartoon Contest A Tit-For-Tat Response To An Earlier Rally In The Same Building?

According to USA Today, The Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest at the Curtis Culwell Center, outside Dallas, was coming to a close Sunday night when two suspects drove up to a parking lot entrance blocked by a patrol car.

A man named Elton Simpson and a man named Nadir Hamid Soofi shot an unarmed security guard outside the “drawing contest” at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

The drawing contest was held to draw cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The two men were then shot dead themselves.

The contest was the brainchild of the “virulently anti-Muslim Pamela Geller,” writes the Daily Beast. She is the co-founder of a group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

Garland is just outside of Irving, Texas, which endorsed Texas House Bill 562 – an anti Sharia Law bill to prohibit Sharia law from coming to Texas.

So it seems that in Garland there was a meeting of extremes. Was the cartoon contest a tit-for-tat response to another meeting?

Last January there were demonstrations outside the Curtis Culwell Center as Muslims met inside for a “Stand With The Prophet” conference.

It was just a few weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, and Muslims in Texas were holding a conference there on “Islamophobia” amid concerns that rising anti-Islamic sentiment would affect them in their adopted home.

Pamela Geller and several thousand protesters were there to meet them, peacefully and loudly, with a clear statement: Muslims were not welcome in Garland, the Dallas suburb.

Signs reading “Proud Texas Infidel,” “Americans Against Islam,” “Jesus is Lord,” “Not Here! Not Now! Not In My Backyard!” were just a few of the homemade signs that greeted Muslim attendees by the “gatekeepers” protesting.

For good measure, one sign read “#ARRESTOBAMANOW,” writes the Daily Beast.  (Why? What does he have to do with it?)

Demonstrators told The Daily Beast that this wasn’t personal against Muslim people but that the Muslim faith itself was incompatible with American values.

At the contest, the Texas and American flags “ran rampant across t-shirts, hats, and in tight fists, as if each attendee were a modern-day Neil Armstrong claiming the convention center for Texas, for America, for Jesus,” writes The Daily Beast.

“I’m here at this event in protest of what Islam, the Quran, and sharia law do to Muslims and non-Muslims alike,” said an attendee.

“Oh you should see my car…,” a woman named Donna Williams told The Daily Beast. “you haven’t seen my car out there? Oh, if you walk by my car, you’ll see it. It’s covered in eagles on the front, an American eagle on both sides, and a Texas flag and an American flag and the Israeli flag and a ‘we the people’ on the bumper.”

The Daily Beast writes that one cartoon featured a minimalist cartoon desert and, in the foreground, Muhammad suspended in the fetal position on a pencil skewering his entire body; another had “Islam, religion of peace” written across a man juggling severed heads; another featured Muhammad wearing a green turban with eyes that look bewitched, open-jawed snakes coming out of his neck; another had a grumpy Muhammad in black turban holding a bloody, serrated knife, captioned: “when it comes to religion…I’ve got the edge.”

The Curtis Culwell Center was reportedly teeming with police, SWAT teams, and security. The Dallas Morning News states there was a SWAT team at the convention center. People also had to pass through “multiple checkpoints and metal detectors” to get inside, writes The Daily Beast.

The inside was like a “cruise in the Caribbean—older men and women in t-shirts, baseball caps, Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and flip-flops buying books at the book table, talking in hushed voices near the windows…”

The cartoons of the prophet lined the halls; many of them violent, most of them amateur, “like a middle school cartoon contest but for grownups,” writes The Daily Beast.


What is ‘Turing’s Law’ in Britain?

The many faces of Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch played the part of Alan Turing in the film The Imitation Game recently.  Turing cracked the German “Enigma” code and is considered a hero of World War II.

According to The Independent, last February, the real-life family of Alan Turing visited Downing Street to demand that the British government pardon 49,000 men who – like Turing – were prosecuted for being homosexual.

In England, homosexuality was illegal until it was decriminalized in 1967, states the BBC.

The Independent states that Turing’s great-nephew, Nevil Hunt, great-niece, Rachel Barnes, and her son, Thomas, handed over the petition – which had almost half-a-million signatures – and demanded a new law on the matter be approved.

Ms. Barnes, 52, from Taunton, said: “I consider it to be fair and just that everybody who was convicted under the Gross Indecency Law is given a pardon. It is illogical that my great uncle has been the only one to be pardoned when so many were convicted of the same crime.”

Turing, the cryptanalyst and mathematician, was convicted in 1952 for “gross indecency” with a 19-year-old man.

As part of his sentence, he was chemically castrated and he died in 1954 after apparently committing suicide.

He was exonerated in 2013, but his family and petitioners want the government to pardon all the men convicted under the outdated law.

“Generations of gay and bisexual men were forced to live their lives in a state of terror,” said the editor of Attitude Magizine, Matthew Todd.

How does the British government feel about it?

A law on the topic has not yet been enacted, but that would probably change after the British Parliamentary Elections coming up on May 7th.

In March, the Leader of the Labor Party, Ed Miliband, said that a future Labour government would pave the way for posthumous pardons for gay men convicted under historical ‘gross indecency’ laws, according to the BBC.  It would allow the families of those men convicted to apply to have their records expunged.

Legislation would be known as “Turing’s Law” in memory of Alan Turing, said Miliband.

Miliband’s decision may have also had an effect on The Conservative (Tory) Party.  Recently, during April, The Conservatives pledged to introduce a new law helping to “lift the blight of outdated convictions” from other people found guilty of similar offenses, states The Telegraph.

“Thousands of British men still suffer from similar historic charges, even though they would be completely innocent of any crime today,” the Tory manifesto read.

The manifesto reads: “Many others are dead and cannot correct this injustice themselves through the legal process we have introduced while in government. So we will introduce a new law that will pardon those people, and right these wrong.”

(Updated article)

More here:

Sociology Students Go to Prison For Class Requirement

Temple University

For 18 years, the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program has been “a staple of social and criminal justice education at over 100 universities,” writes Krysta Amber Loftis of USA Today.  Inside-Out arranges classes at local prisons featuring both incarcerated and non-incarcerated students.

The Inside-Out program began in 1997 at Philadelphia’s Temple University, and has since become a staple of social and criminal justice education at over 100 universities, including Michigan State, the University of Toledo, Penn State and Dartmouth.

Take the example of Central Michigan University (CMU).

Members of CMU’s chapter of the national Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program spend Tuesday nights in the Central Michigan Correctional Facility in St. Louis. The class, Social Issues through the Prism of Prison, is taught by sociology professor Justin Smith.

This is the second semester CMU has offered the course.

“It’s (13) students from the inside and (13) students from the outside,” Smith said, explaining that the incarcerated men are between the ages of 20 and 65.

“A lot of this is a reaction to making sure we’re improving education in prisons, but also in higher education institutions. It’s a way to offer CMU students a very diverse setting to learn in (and) a way to learn from a variety of experiences, a variety of ages.”

The prison portion of the class consists of group discussions.

Issues range from the criminal justice system to gender, race and racism, class, social change, social movements and collective action.

“Both the inside guys and outside students get a lot out of it,” Smith said. “The inside guys are mostly older, and they’ve been through a different lifestyle than the students. The students have had a lot more access to education. We’re able to have a lot of good discussions.”

Indiana Pizza Place Would Refuse Service To Gays

Secular Talk

A local television station interviewed Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, which announced that they will turn down any gays entering their establishment looking for their wedding to be catered.

The interview was regarding Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA,

The pizza place has received both support and backlash for its beliefs.

Is Indiana’s Governor Making An ‘About-Face’ On New Law?

Indiana Governor Mike Pence said today that he “mishandled” the passage of a religious freedom law and he now wants a piece of legislation to “clarify” that it does not give anyone the right to discriminate in the state.

“This law does not give anyone a license to deny services to gay and lesbian couples. I could have handled that better this week,” he said, according to ABC News.

The move comes just as the House of Representatives in Arkansas passed amendments to a similar religious freedom bill that is expected to be signed into law when the governor signs the complete version, something that has already announced that he plans to do.

Pence said that he has been working with state legislators and businesses “literally around the clock” to work through the controversy, saying that “discrimination was never part of his plan.”

“I don’t believe for a minute that it was the intention of the general assembly. … It certainly wasn’t my intent but I can appreciate that that’s become the perception … and we need to confront that and we need to confront that boldly,” he said.

The changes that Pence mentioned are expected to be put into a “stripped version” of an election-related bill that is supposed to be debated Wednesday or Thursday by a conference committee. That is what Indiana’s Republican speaker of the House’s spokesman Brian Bosma told ABC News.

Bill de Blasio Says Indiana Anti-Gay Law Is ‘Doomed to Failure’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio discussed a controversial Indiana religious freedom law recently, telling reporters that it is “deeply disturbing” and “doomed to failure,” according to

Following the lead of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mr. de Blasio also said he would ban non-essential city travel to Indiana.

“It’s a deeply disturbing reality right now in Indiana and I hope before it’s too late, they turn back,” said Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, at an unrelated press conference in Brooklyn.

He said that the law, which critics say will allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, will backfire on the Republican-led state.

“Absolutely, I will instruct all New York City agencies to prohibit any non-essential travel to the State of Indiana,” he continued.

“This proposal [in] Indiana really undercuts decades and decades of progress on human rights and civil rights in this country. The notion that a government would allow a version of discrimination undercuts so much of what we fought for.”

“I also know it’s doomed to failure,” he added.

More here: