Stay Away From Tenaha Texas...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Jonas Parker, Feb 9, 2009.

  1. Jonas Parker

    Jonas Parker Hooligan

    Property seizure by police called 'highway piracy'

    Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

    Feb. 7, 2009, 11:10PM

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    Lisa Sandberg/Express-News SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

    Authorities seized property from roughly 140 out-of-towners who drove through Tenaha between 2006 and 2008.


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    <!-- end floating resource box --> TENAHA — A two-decade-old state law that grants authorities the power to seize property used in a crime is wielded by some agencies against people who are never charged with, much less convicted, of a crime.
    Law enforcement authorities in this East Texas town of 1,000 people seized property from at least 140 motorists between 2006 and 2008, and, to date, filed criminal charges against fewer than half, according to a San Antonio Express-News review of court documents.
    Virtually anything of value was up for grabs: cash, cell phones, personal jewelry, a pair of sneakers, and often, the very car that was being driven through town. Some affidavits filed by officers relied on the presence of seemingly innocuous property as the only evidence that a crime had occurred.
    Linda Dorman, a great-grandmother from Akron, Ohio, had $4,000 in cash taken from her by local authorities when she was stopped while driving through town after visiting Houston in April 2007. Court records make no mention that anything illegal was found in her van and show no criminal charges filed in the case. She is still waiting for the return of what she calls “her life savings.”
    Dorman’s attorney, David Guillory, calls the roadside stops and seizures in Tenaha “highway piracy,” undertaken by a couple of law enforcement officers whose agencies get to keep most of what is seized.
    Guillory is suing officials in Tenaha and Shelby County on behalf of Dorman and nine other clients who were stripped of their property. All were African-Americans driving either rentals or vehicles with out-of-state plates.
    Lawsuit filed

    Guillory alleges in the lawsuit that while his clients were detained, they were presented with an ultimatum: waive your rights to your property in exchange for a promise to be released and not be criminally charged. Guillory said most did as Dorman did, signing the waiver to avoid jail.
    The state’s asset seizure law doesn’t require that law enforcement agencies file criminal charges in civil forfeiture cases.
    It requires only a preponderance of evidence that the property was used in the commission of certain crimes, such as drug crimes, or bought with proceeds of those crimes. That’s a lesser burden than that required in a criminal case.
    But Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said the state’s asset forfeiture law is being abused by enough jurisdictions across the state that he wants to rewrite major sections of it this year.
    “The idea that people lose their property but are never charged and never get it back, that’s theft as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
    Supporters tout the state’s forfeiture law, when used right, as an essential law enforcement tool, allowing state and local departments the ability to go after criminals using the criminals’ money. Law enforcement agencies last year captured tens of millions of dollars from such seizures statewide, according to records from Whitmire’s office.
    But in Tenaha, a town of chicken farms that hugs the Louisiana border, critics say being a black out-of-towner passing through with anything of value is almost evidence of a crime.
    Town needs revenue

    Tenaha Mayor George Bowers, 80, defended the seizures, saying they allowed a cash-poor city the means to add a second police car in a two-policeman town and help pay for a new police station. “It’s always helpful to have any kind of income to expand your police force,” Bowers said.
    Local police, he said, must take aggressive action to stem the drug trade that flows through town via U.S. 59. “No doubt about it. (Highway 59) is a thoroughfare that a lot of no-good people travel on. They take the drugs and sell it and take the money and go right back into Mexico,” said Bowers, who has been Tenaha’s mayor for 54 years.
    Bowers said he would defer questions about whether innocent people were being stripped of their property to Shelby County District Attorney Lynda Russell.
    Russell could not be reached for comment, and her attorney declined comment. Randy Whatley, a local constable who himself deposited $115,000 into the county’s seizure account for fiscal year 2007 — state records show $45,000 was eventually returned to their owners — also could not be reached for comment. Russell, Whatley and Bowers are named in Guillory’s lawsuit.
    Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos said the state’s forfeiture law, which last year put millions in the coffers of local law enforcement agencies, including hers, takes some of the profit out of crime. “These ill-gotten gains are used to further the aims of law enforcement and public safety,” she said. “It’s kind of poetic justice, isn’t it?”
    Lykos praises law

    Lykos believes the law, if followed, provides citizens with adequate safeguards. Local police and attorneys in her office, she said, are well-versed in what constitutes adequate evidence for seizures. Rarely, she said, do seizures take place locally without the filing of criminal charges.
    In Shelby County, the district attorney made legal agreements with some individuals that her office would not file criminal charges so long as the property owner waived all rights to the valuables.
    “In exchange for (respondent) signing the agreed order of forfeiture, the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office agrees to reject charges of money laundering pending at this time,” read one waiver, dated April 10, 2007.
    The property owners named in the waiver had just signed over $7,342 in cash, their 1994 Chevrolet Suburban, a cell phone, a BlackBerry and a stone necklace.
    The law, forbids a peace officer at the time of seizure to “request, require or in any manner induce any person . . . to execute a document purporting to waive the person’s interest in or rights to the property.”
  2. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    That should go over well...

    This is what happens when the government turns most people into criminals. Many people have something they want/need to hide. When it comes down to facing bull&*iT charges, jailtime, and lawyer is no small wonder why they just fork over their property.

    Sometimes, I really really despise law enforcement. It is just unnecessary to have Gestapo in a free republic.
  3. E.L.

    E.L. Moderator of Lead Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I hope someone puts these people out of business.
  4. Tango3

    Tango3 Aimless wanderer

    and help pay for a new police station. “It’s always helpful to have any kind of income to expand your police force,” Bowers said.

    burn that suckah down...
  5. Seawolf1090

    Seawolf1090 Retired Curmudgeonly IT Monkey Founding Member

    Tenaha Mayor George Bowers, 80, defended the seizures, saying they allowed a cash-poor city the means to add a second police car in a two-policeman town and help pay for a new police station. “It’s always helpful to have any kind of income to expand your police force,” Bowers said.

    I am sure the fine upstanding Sheriff of Nottingham said the same thing.... [fnny]
  6. OzarkSaints

    OzarkSaints Monkey++

    this is actually far more rampant than what you would think....this shit happens all over the U.S.....Lost Rights is a great read and covers things of this tactic that is often employed is that they charge the property...some actual court cases are United States vs 663 Bottles of Red Wine....United States vs 9.2 Acres and Lake (I might be off by the number--663 and 9.2---but these are real cases)......the reason that they do this is America, property has no rights, only people.
  7. RouteClearance

    RouteClearance Monkey+++

    This all goes back to the Search and Seizures Act of 1983. The original intent of this law was to be able to go after high profile mobsters. Well we now know what can happen with laws that were ment for something totally different.
  8. PCI5588

    PCI5588 Monkey+

    Crimes like this committed by Police Officers are more common then alot of people realize. This sounds a lot like something that officer Thomas Tortoricci & Gabriel Cuenca of the San Jose, California Police department would do. We were unable to go to the San Jose police with the incident because the criminals were the police! The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office would not prosecute them because they are cops!
    Be very careful of San Jose, California & Santa Clara County!
  9. Seawolf1090

    Seawolf1090 Retired Curmudgeonly IT Monkey Founding Member

    Nothing a few good townsquare hangings (of the offending officials) wouldn't cure......... :rolleyes:

    A 'free' people should NOT have to put up with this overbearing nonsense.
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