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Feds Threaten Colorado Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Colorado US Attorney John Walsh last Thursday sent letters to 23 medical marijuana dispensaries and their landlords across Colorado warning that they must shut down within 45 days or "action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property." The letter was sent to dispensaries operating within 1,000 feet of a school.

Colorado dispensaries (not necessarily this one) are under attack. (O'Dea at WikiCommons)
"Those who do not comply will be subject to potential criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions by the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado and the Drug Enforcement Administration," the US Attorney's Office elaborated in a press release.

The letters are of a kind with letters sent out by US Attorneys in California beginning in October. In both states, federal prosecutors are targeting dispensaries that trigger enhanced federal penalties by being within a 1,000 feet of a school, which does not violate state law in either state, but does result in enhanced penalties in federal prosecutions. The California threat letters have led to the closure of numerous targeted dispensaries, as well as the closure of dispensaries that were not directly targeted, but were intimidated by the signals emanating from the feds.

"When the voters of Colorado passed the limited medical marijuana amendment in 2000, they could not have anticipated that their vote would be used to justify large marijuana stores located within blocks of our schools," Walsh said in the release. The letters are "merely a first step to address this issue, and the office will continue to insist marijuana stores near schools shut down."

The Colorado dispensary scene exploded after then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden issued an October 2009 memo saying federal prosecutors should not use their resources to target patients and providers in compliance with state laws. But in June 2011, Ogden's successor, James Cole, issued another memo clarifying that state laws do not provide protection from federal prosecution.

Colorado dispensaries are taxed and tightly regulated, and had previously been relatively free of federal interference. It looks like that is changing now.

Denver, CO
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Virginia sheriff gets raided, a sleazy Michigan cop gets busted, a New Jersey cop gets convicted, and several Oklahoma lawmen are headed to prison. Let's get to it:

In Halifax, Virginia, Virginia State Police served a search warrant at the Halifax County Sheriff's Office December 5 in an ongoing embezzlement investigation of Sheriff Stanley Noblin. State Police seized documents, a bank statement, and several computers, including a binder titled "fiscal year asset forfeiture money" and a notebook titled "drug buy money." The search is part of an investigation requested by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II into the disposition of $48,500 in asset forfeiture funds and $34,500 in drug buy funds for which no official use has been discerned.

In Benton Harbor, Michigan, a Benton Harbor police officer was arrested December 8 on charges he forced a 24-year-old woman to perform fellatio on him to avoid being arrested for marijuana possession. Officer Jared Graves is charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, one count of misconduct in office, and one count of delivery of marijuana. Graves allegedly was called to an apartment complex on a drug use complaint and confiscated marijuana from the woman. Two days later, he told her to come to the police station to discuss the incident. He then forced her into oral sex and returned her marijuana. Weeks later, Graves met the woman at the apartment complex and compelled her to perform oral sex and engage in sexual intercourse, again threatening her with the marijuana offense.

In Camden, New Jersey, one Camden police officer was convicted and another acquitted last Friday on charges they falsified reports, planted evidence, and stole money. Officer Antonio Figueroa, 35, was convicted on three of five counts of civil rights violations and conspiracy, while Office Robert Bayard, 33, was acquitted of all charges. Both were members of the Camden Police Special Operations Unit, an elite crime-fighting team formed to crack down on drug dealing and violent crime in the city. Three other officers in the unit have already pleaded guilty to planting drugs on suspects and stealing cash discovered during searches. They had also been accused of lying to state grand juries and falsifying reports to bring unjustified criminal charges. Figueroa will be sentenced March 16.

In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a former Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics agent was sentenced December 5 to 35 months in federal prison after admitting his role in an operation to smuggle guns from Oklahoma to Texas, some of which ended up going to drug cartels in Mexico. Francisco Javier Reyes, 30, pleaded guilty last year to one count each of conspiracy and transferring firearms to an out-of-state resident as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. He could have gotten up to 10 years.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, three former Tulsa police officers and a former ATF agent were sentenced December 6 after being convicted on drug corruption charges. Former officer Jeff Henderson got 3 ½ years in prison, former officer JJ Gray got four months, retired officer Harold Wells got 10 years, and former ATF agent Brandon McFadden, who copped a plea and testified against the others, got 21 months. All were convicted in a long-running scandal involving false arrests, false reports, and other civil rights violations. Three other officers were acquitted, but remain off the job while Tulsa Police finish an internal investigation.

Show-Me Freedom Benefit for Americans for Forfeiture Reform and Green Aid

Hello!

You are invited to the following event:

Show-Me Freedom

Event to be held at the following time, date, and location:

Nov 22, 2011at 8:00 PM to
Nov 23, 2011 at 2:00 AM (PT)

The New Parish
579 18th Street
Oakland, CA 94612

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Show-Me Freedom is a benefit for Green Aid: The Medical Marijuana Legal Defense & Education Fund and Americans for Forfeiture Reform in support of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, a legalization initiative for the State of Missouri! Tickets include: ...
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Cheers,
Americans for Forfeiture Reform & Ed Rosenthal's Green Aid

Date: 
Tue, 11/22/2011 - 8:00pm - Wed, 11/23/2011 - 2:00am
Location: 
579 18th Street
Oakland, CA 94612
United States

US Reps, CA AG Chide Feds on Medical Marijuana

The unhappy reaction to the renewed federal offensive against medical marijuana growers and distributors continues to spread, with several members of Congress and California's attorney general among the latest to voice their displeasure.

Since the Sacramento press conference last month where California's four US Attorneys announced a crackdown on the medical marijuana using heavy-handed raids on businesses in exemplary compliance with state and local laws and a wave of letters to dispensary landlords threaten property seizure or even criminal prosecution if they don't throw out their medical marijuana tenants, reaction among medical marijuana supporters, including elected officials, has been growing.

On Friday, nine members of Congress, led by Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), sent a letter to President Obama expressing "concern with the recent activity by the Department of Justice against legitimate medical marijuana dispensaries in California that are operating legally under state law." The other congressional signers were Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Pete Stark (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Bob Filner (D-CA).

Citing "aggressive SWAT-style federal raids in at least seven states," as well as threats directed at landlords and elected officials, the solons told the president such actions "directly interfere with California's 15-year-old medical cannabis law by eliminating safe access to medication for the state's thousands of medical marijuana patients."

The nine US representatives called on the president to reschedule marijuana as either a Schedule II or Schedule III drug with recognized medicinal uses, either by administrative action or by supporting legislation to achieve that end. A bill that would do just that, H.R. 1983, the States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, has already been filed, they helpfully pointed out.

A week before the congressional letter, California Attorney General Kamala Harris added her voice to the choir of the concerned. "Californians overwhelmingly support the compassionate use of medical marijuana for the ill," she noted in a statement.

"While there are definite ambiguities in state law that must be resolved either by the state legislature or the courts, an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California," the state's highest elected law enforcement officer said. "I urge the federal authorities in the state to adhere to the United States Department of Justice’s stated policy and focus their enforcement efforts on ‘significant traffickers of illegal drugs.'"

In mid-October, state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), stalwart friends of marijuana law reform, were among the first to speak out against the federal crackdown, followed shortly by fellow San Franciscan state Sen. Leland Yee (D).

"Medical marijuana dispensaries are helping our economy, creating jobs, and most importantly, providing a necessary service for suffering patients," Lee said in a statement. "There are real issues and real problems that the US Attorney's Office should be focused on rather than using their limited resources to prosecute legitimate businesses or newspapers. Shutting down state-authorized dispensaries will cost California billions of dollars and unfairly harm thousands of lives."

In the face of widespread criticism, the US Attorneys have attempted to insulate their boss from the political heat, with a spokesperson making pains to tell the Huffington Post they had coordinated only with the Justice Department, not the Obama administration. But it is ultimately President Obama who is in charge, and who will pay whatever political price is to be paid.

Feds vs. Deadheads in Missouri "Schwagstock" Forfeiture Battle [FEATURE]

Since 2004, when veteran musician Jimmy Tebeau brought the 350-acre rural property in central Missouri and turned it a camping and concert venue, Camp Zoe has been Deadhead central in the Show Me State. A member of the Grateful Dead tribute band The Schwag, Tebeau has hosted numerous Schwagstock and Spookstock festivals, as well as other concerts and events, drawing nationally known acts and thousands of fans for weekends of outdoor fun in the sun.

Jimmy Tebeau (image via campzoe.com)
But the DEA and the Missouri Highway Patrol harshed Camp Zoe's mellow vibe last November, when they rolled into the venue early in the morning and searched the site. A week later, they announced that they were initiating federal civil asset forfeiture proceedings against the property because of alleged rampant drug use and Tebeau's failure to put a halt to it.

According to a complaint filed November 8 in the Eastern Missouri US District Court, the feds alleged that "over the past several years law enforcement agents have specifically observed the open sales of cocaine, marijuana, LSD (acid), ecstasy, psilocybin mushrooms, opium and marijuana-laced food products by individuals attending the music festival and made multiple undercover purchases of illegal drugs."

Tebeau and other Camp Zoe staff members "were in the immediate area" when drug deals were going down and "took no immediate action to prevent the activity," the complaint continued. It added that "undercover purchases have been made as recently as September 2010," when Schwagstock 45 was held, but noted that the investigation stretched back to 2006 and included evidence from "surveillance, undercover operations, source information, bank records, and interviews."

Most critically, the complaint alleges that Camp Zoe was "knowingly opened, rented, leased, used, or maintained for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using controlled substances." In other words, the feds are arguing that the purpose of Camp Zoe was not to be a concert venue, but a drug den, and it could thus be lawfully seized, along with nearly $200,000 in cash they seized from the site and various bank accounts.

good clean fun at Camp Zoe (image from campzoe.com)
The case pitting a local counterculture icon and his property against the power of the federal government has stirred considerable interest in Missouri, as well as among members of the peripatetic Deadhead set. (In fact, I had a conversation about the case with a dreadlocked young woman at a Northern California music festival last weekend.) It has also excited the attention of asset forfeiture reformers and critics of overweening governmental power.

But wait, it's even worse. The feds upped the ante further just a couple of weeks ago. After stalling the asset forfeiture proceedings for seven months -- leaving Camp Zoe silent and vacant and Tebeau without his primary source of income -- and seeing that Tebeau was not about to roll over for them, federal prosecutors last week sought and got a criminal indictment charging that Tebeau "knowingly and intentionally profited from and made available for use, with or without compensation, said place for the purpose of unlawfully storing, distributing, or using controlled substances."

"This is the sort of things Soviet thugs did and that continues to happen in Russia under Vladimir Putin," said Eapen Thampy, executive director of the Kansas City-based Americans for Forfeiture Reform. "They take a businessman, take his money, and take him to jail. I see this as an attempt by rich and powerful law enforcement agencies to acquire property or money they can turn into salaries or equipment."

fun and camping at Camp Zoe (image from campzoe.com)
"The Camp Zoe situation is really interesting," said Dave Roland, a St. Louis-based attorney who is director of litigation for the libertarian-leaning Missouri Freedom Center. "The federal government has recently come back and said they will charge him with maintaining the property for the purpose of facilitating drug transactions, but that seems like an after the fact justification for their attempt to seize the property. The more likely explanation is that the government was embarrassed by the fact people kept saying how can you take this property without alleging he's doing something illegal in the first place," he ventured.

"There was no one engaging in violence at Camp Zoe, there were no allegations of harm or injury," Roland continued. "That the government is concentrating on these sorts of victimless crimes demonstrates misplaced priorities. Especially in light of the financial crunch, we ought to be reallocating resources to deal with real threats to the health and safety of the community and not these drug witch hunts."

But there's the rub. Missouri law enforcement agencies profit handsomely from asset forfeiture, especially when they do an end run around state asset forfeiture law and partner with the feds. Under a 2004 asset forfeiture reform law, funds seized by state and local law enforcement agencies are supposed to go to the state education fund, but that's not what happened.

The state auditor's reports on asset forfeiture activity show a quick learning curve by state and local law enforcement. While, after the 1994 reforms, schools got 27% of seized funds in 1996 and 1997, in 1998, that figure fell by half to 14%. There was no audit done in 1999, but in 2000 and every year since, schools have gotten 2%, with that figure dropping to 1% in 2008 and 2009. Meanwhile the Justice Department and state and local cops have raked in millions of dollars, gobbling up the vast majority of funds that were supposed to go to Missouri's schools.

"Asset forfeiture abuse is rampant all over the country," said Roland. "Here in Missouri, the state made an effort to improve its statutes a decade ago, but the problem is that law enforcement agencies find alternative ways to accomplish the same end. Now, you see state and local law enforcement handing cases over to federal agencies because they get a kickback from the asset forfeitures. There is an actual financial incentive to assist federal agencies in the unconstitutional use of asset forfeiture laws."

"Missouri has laws that say how asset forfeiture should be conducted and where the money should go, but they aren't being followed," said Thampy. "When you put this into that context, these abuses are way more serious," he said, adding that he believed 90% of Missouri counties were not in compliance with the law.

Neither Roland nor Thampy were impressed with the criminal charges now being brought against Tebeau. Nor were they aware of other cases of "maintaining a drug premise" being brought against other concert venues. That law is widely known as the "crack house" law.

"The government has a pretty steep hill to climb to prove that Tebeau was operating this camp so that people could buy illegal drugs," said Roland. "I'm very skeptical that the government is going to be able to carry its burden of proof."

"That charge is complete bullshit," Thampy responded bluntly. "If they wanted to charge him with drug trafficking or drug possession, those would be appropriate charges if they could prove them. But charging him with running a drug premise says that he got this land for the sole purpose of conducting drug transactions. It would be putting it mildly to say this is an abuse of prosecutorial power."

"To the best of my understanding, this is not a commonly used statute," said Roland. "I don't recall ever seeing it used in the context of a concert venue owner. They're alleging that the property is being used for the purpose of facilitating drug transactions simply because Tebeau didn't take some unspecified affirmative action."

Now facing criminal charges as well as the seizure of Camp Zoe, Tebeau is still refusing to roll over and cut a deal. With his income-producing property shut down and his bank accounts seized, Tebeau is at a real disadvantage, but thanks to his fans and followers and continuing gigs as a musician, he has so far been able to raise the funds to defend himself.

"A just outcome would be dropping the charges and dropping the attempted asset forfeiture," said Roland. "If we're not going to legalize drugs, the government needs to at least focus on the people and activities they're really worried about. Jimmy hasn't been charged with actually being involved, and it's unjust to target him for a criminal action because someone else was doing something illegal. That's manifestly unjust."

MO
United States

Daniels Vetoes Indiana Asset Forfeiture "Reform"

A bill that would have given 90% of the proceeds from seized cash and goods to local prosecutors and law enforcement agencies involved in the case has been vetoed by Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). The remaining 10% would have gone to the Common School Fund.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) has vetoed a smelly asset forfeiture bill. (Image courtesy state of Indiana)
Under the Indiana constitution, all proceeds from seized items must go to the Common School Fund, but county prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have found several means of skirting the law. Some county prosecutors have contracted out asset forfeiture cases to private attorneys, leading to lucrative pay-outs to lucky litigators. Others have claimed ludicrous law enforcement "expense of collection" costs to justify keeping hold of their looted lucre.

In vetoing Senate Enrolled Act 215, Gov. Daniels said paying out 90% of every forfeiture dollar to police and prosecutors for "expense of collection" was improper. "That is unwarranted as policy and constitutionally unacceptable in light of the Supreme Court's recent guidance and the plain language of Article 8, Section 2 of the Indiana Constitution," Daniels said in his veto message.

On April 27, the state Supreme Court reaffirmed that asset forfeiture funds must be paid to the Common School Fund. But two days later, the Republican-led General Assembly voted to approve the change in asset forfeiture distribution anyway.

Now, Gov. Daniels has stood up for Indiana schoolchildren -- and the rule of law -- in the face of the law enforcement lobby and despite the wishes of his own Republican peers.

Indianapolis, IN
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Texas DA is on the wrong side of the bars, and so is a Kentucky jail guard. Meanwhile, crooked cops in Philly and California's East Bay have their own problems. Let's get to it:

In San Ramon, California, a former Central Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team member was arrested May 4 in an expanding Contra Costa County drug corruption case. San Ramon Police Officer Louis Lombardi is believed to be involved in a corruption case involving the task force commander, a Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy, and a private investigator, all of whom were arrested in March. They are accused, among other things, of stealing and reselling drugs and ginning up false DUI arrests. Lombardi's specific charges include possession of stolen property, including guns, IDs, and drugs; grand theft of weapons, possession of an illegal assault rifle, and conspiracy. At last report, he was in jail with a $760,000 bond.

In Shively, Kentucky, a Bullitt County jail guard was arrested May 5 after being caught with 28 hydrocodone pills, 28 1/2 oxymorphone pills, six doses of anabolic steroids, three syringes, three needles, a gun and ammunition during a traffic stop. Eric Risen, 26, is charged with four counts of trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and disregarding a traffic signal, Shively police said. He was released on his own recognizance and will be arraigned in court early next week.

In Alice, Texas, the former Jim Wells and Brooks County district attorney was sentenced Friday to 180 days in jail for the criminal misuse of asset forfeiture funds. Former DA Joe Frank Garza, 64, must also serve 10 years probation and repay $2 million in funds misappropriated for his personal use. Under Texas law, prosecutors must have the okay of the county commission before spending seized cash on salary increases or the personal benefit of employees, but Garza never bothered to do that with funds seized between 2002 and 2008.

In Philadelphia, two former Philadelphia police officers were sentenced this week in a plot to rip-off drug dealers and resell their heroin. Robert Snyder, 30, got 13 years in prison, while a day earlier, James Venziale got 42 months for his role. They were two of three officers arrested last year in the scheme that also involved Snyder's wife, Cristal, and her sister's drug dealing boyfriend. Venziale got less time because he became a cooperating witness. He testified that he and Snyder got $3,000 each for robbing one dealer. The criminal cops went down in an FBI sting after word of their activities percolated up from the street.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's a veritable cornucopia of drug-related law enforcement corruption! We don't even know where to begin -- just jump in, but don't forget to take a shower after you're done. Let's get to it:

evidence room of opportunity
In Philadelphia, a narcotics cop accused of stealing money from people he stopped has been fired after the Philadelphia Daily News published those allegations. Officer Joseph Sulpizio, 42, had been looking at criminal charges, but Police Chief Charles Ramsey said that now wouldn't happen because the news article "blew the investigation." It was unclear how the Daily News article actually prevented the prosecution.

In San Francisco, six narcotics officers have been accused of illegal searches and perjury by the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, which has released a video it says proves its case. In two separate drug busts at apartments in the Henry Hotel in December and January, police without search warrants entered the apartments and arrested the occupants on drug sales charges. Police said they had informant tips and hot gotten consent to search from the residents. But videos captured by hallway surveillance cameras showed that an officer had used a master key to enter the apartments without the consent of the residents. Last week, a San Francisco Superior Court judge threw out one case, and prosecutors dropped the second one the next day. The public defenders are calling for an additional independent investigation of the incidents, perhaps by the state attorney general's office.

In Buffalo, New York, a Transportation Security Administration agent was arrested March 2 on charges he allowed a "drug kingpin" to pass unmolested through security at the Buffalo Airport. TSA agent Minetta Walker, 43, a behavioral detection officer, is also accused of helping other drug traffickers evade scans and searches to take cash -- but not drugs -- through the airport. She was arrested along with the "kingpin," a Buffalo man who regularly flew to Arizona with large amounts of cash that he used to purchase marijuana, which he then shipped back to Buffalo. Walker is accused of letting him travel under a false name and ushering him past security lines where he might be stopped for carrying large amounts of cash. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a criminal enterprise, conspiracy and intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, as well as charges of conspiring to defraud the US and aiding and abetting another to avoid security requirements.

In Dallas, the head of the Mesquite Police Department narcotics unit was arrested last Friday on charges he was ripping off cash during the execution of drug search warrants. Sgt. John David McAllister, 42, after the FBI received a tip in December that he was stealing cash. The FBI set up a sting operation in which an undercover FBI officer posed as a drug courier carrying $100,000 in cash. McAllister and his partner approached the vehicle, turned the driver over to other police, then searched the vehicle, finding the bundles of cash. Video recordings captured him taking one of the bundles and stashing it in his pants. When FBI agents counted the seized cash, it was short $2,000. McAllister is charged with theft of government property, and faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

In Danville, California, a Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday in connection with the investigation of a state narcotics agent who allegedly stole drugs from evidence lockers for resale. Deputy Stephen Tanabe, 47, was charged with suspicion of possession and transfer of an assault rifle and conspiracy to possess and sell controlled substances. Tanabe went down as a result of investigations into the February 16 arrest of Contra Costa Central Narcotics Enforcement Team lead Christopher Butler, who was arrested along with a private investigator on 28 felony counts of theft and the possession and sale of meth, marijuana, steroids, and prescription pills. Butler, Tanabe, and the private investigator were all police officers together at the Antioch Police Department in the 1990s.

In Phoenix, a Phoenix police detective was arrested Monday after being accused of replacing Oxycontin in the department's evidence room with over-the-counter drugs. The detective, whose name has not yet been released, is believed to have tampered with 83 evidence bags and swapped-out 2,400 prescription narcotics, replacing them with OTC drugs. The detective could face charges of evidence tampering, theft and drug possession in connection with the investigation. He has been interviewed and released and has resigned from the force.

In Detroit, another Inskter police officer and a former Wayne County prosecutor have pleaded guilty in a case in which Inskter narcotics officers, Wayne County drug prosecutor Karen Plants, and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Mary Waterstone conspired to knowingly allow perjured testimony to be heard in a cocaine trafficking case. Officer Robert McArthur admitted filing false investigative reports in the 2005 case and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty. Charges of perjury and conspiracy were dropped against McArthur, who could have faced life in prison. Plants then pleaded guilty to one count of official misconduct and agreed to serve six months in jail. The former drug prosecutor copped to the plea in order to avoid trial on a conspiracy count that could have given her life in prison. Earlier, Inskter Officer Scott Rechtzigel pleaded guilty in the same case. Judge Waterstone is scheduled for trial in May. The four plotted to hide the fact that a witness in the case was in fact a snitch for the Inskster cops who had a large monetary incentive to testify as he did.

In Philadelphia, a fired Philadelphia police officer was convicted last Friday in a scheme to steal 300 grams of heroin during a fake traffic stop in his patrol car. Mark Williams, 27, was found guilty of drug and robbery charges. Williams staged the robbery of drug courier last May and split $6,000 in what he thought were proceeds from the sale of the heroin with two other officers, who have already pleaded guilty. But one of his co-conspirators was actually a DEA informant, and the $6,000 was really government bait money. Williams was convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin, possession with intent to distribute heroin, conspiracy to commit robbery and attempted robbery. He's looking at a mandatory minimum five years on the drug counts and another five years on the robbery charges. He has been jailed pending sentencing.

In Alice, Texas, the former Jim Wells County district attorney pleaded guilty Monday to charges he misused millions in seized drug money. For six years ending in 2008, former DA Joe Frank Garza led Jim Wells County law enforcement in an aggressive scheme to pull cars over and seize forfeited property and cash. Garza spent the cash on bonuses for himself and three secretaries, as well as trips to Las Vegas for "seminars." Texas law requires that asset forfeiture expenditures be approved by the county commission, but Garza never bothered. He pleaded guilty to one count of misappropriating more than $2 million, and will likely be sentenced to six months in jail at sentencing in May. He will also have to pay $2.1 million in restitution.

Illinois Blacks More Likely to Get Prison for Drugs

An Illinois state panel found Monday that Illinois blacks convicted of low-level drug possession offenses are much more likely to be sentenced to prison than whites. According to the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, 19% convicted of drug possession were imprisoned, while only 4% of whites were.

Joliet Prison (image via Wikimedia)
The disparity was even worse in the state's most populous jurisdiction, Cook County. While statewide, blacks were five times more likely to be imprisoned for drug possession than whites, in Cook County, the figure was eight times.

The commission was formed in 2009 to examine incarceration rates between the races. Legislation to create it was sponsored in the state Senate by Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), who co-chairs the panel.

"It's always disappointing to know the true facts," Hunter said in remarks reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The sentencing disparity comes despite research that shows that blacks and whites nationally use illegal drugs at roughly the same rate, said Pamela Rodriguez, president of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, a Chicago-based nonprofit that led the commission’s research. She cited a 2008 federal study that 10.1% of blacks and 8.2% of whites reported using illegal drugs.

Rodriguez said the disparity could be partially explained by differences in education and economic status, but that blacks were also more likely to conduct drug transactions in public spaces, where they are easily targeted by police. "Where you have greater enforcement, you have greater arrests," Rodriguez said. "Where you have greater arrests, you have greater prosecutions."

The commission called for funding alternatives to imprisonment as a way to reduce the disparity. The state has programs in place, including drug courts and first-time offender probation, but it needs new revenue to fund them adequately.

Sen. Hunter suggested that the commission would look at using part of local jurisdictions' drug forfeiture funds to pay for alternatives to imprisonment. That would be preferable to leaving them in the hands of police forces, which use them to arrest more drug offenders and seize more funds to arrest more drug offenders and seize more funds in a vicious cycle of drug law enforcement.

Springfield, IL
United States

Texas Counties $4.2 Million Drug Search and Seizures Fund Trips to Vegas

Location: 
TX
United States
In a classic example of drug prohibition money corrupting, Frank Garza, the former District Attorney of Jim Wells and Brooks Counties in Texas, has been charged with going on a $4.2 million dollar drug search and seizure forfeiture spending spree in seven years. This story draws attention to the practice of authorities and officials and the very lucrative search, seizure and forfeiture drug laws, in particular, the state of Texas. According to the Institute of Justice, due to Texas’s search and seizure forfeiture laws, Texas law enforcement agencies seized in property and currency, “nearly a quarter of a billion dollars” between 2001 and 2008.
Publication/Source: 
Death by 1000 Papercuts (US)
URL: 
http://deathby1000papercuts.com/2010/08/texas-counties-4-2-million-drug-search-and-seizures-fund-trips-to-vegas/

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