Date: Thu, 06 Jun 2002 06:57:56 -0500 From: firstname.lastname@example.org ("Leon") Subject: FEAR: Judith's Story: Should the government do THIS to your To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Reply-To: email@example.com
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The Liberty Initiatives site in Washington state, a group dedicated to the reform of forfeiture laws there, has some government horror stories on line at http://www.libertyinitiatives.org/harm.shtml .This is one of them.
S. Leon Felkins, Exec. Dir. FEAR Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nothing whatever but the constitutional law, the political structure, of these United States protects any American from arbitrary seizure of his property and his person, from the Gestapo and the Storm Troops, from the concentration camp, the torture chamber, the revolver at the back of his neck in a cellar. - Rose Wilder Lane
Judith's Story: Should the government do THIS to your grandmother?
Judith Roderick, a grandmother and tax consultant, returned from her vacation on a November day in 1997. She was met at SeaTac airport by 3 police officers who placed her under arrest. After her luggage was searched she was taken to the Thurston County Jail, where she was booked, fingerprinted, and incarcerated. The warrant asserted that she was guilty of money laundering, by which the drug warriors meant she was guilty of accepting a $3500 commission from someone they suspected of drug crimes.
However, they carefully ignored the fact her $3500 commission was for the purchase of a $3000 legal-financial trust kit plus $500 for her actual services for helping to fill-out the legal-financial forms for a client that sought to create a trust of his 42-acre site.
Authorities maintained the land trust was invalid and moved to seize the property under Washingtons asset forfeiture laws. They maintained that the site was used by her client for rock concerts and was probably used by her client for drug sales during the concerts. The drug warriors didnt stop with attempting to seize the clients land. Rodericks 26 year-old niece and terrified 4 and 7 year old great-nephews were held at gunpoint while the officers searched her home and vehicles. They seized computers, other equipment, records and other assets of Rodericks small business as well as two motorcycles that were not hers, but were on the property. And they froze her bank account making it nearly impossible for her to hire an attorney.
The charges against Roderick were based upon information supplied by a paid confidential drug task force informant (a four time convicted felon), who shares on a percentage basis with the task force in the sale of seized property. He had ingratiated himself with Rodericks client, become a trustee of the client and was instrumental in the transfer of the property into the trust.
That was 1997. In late February 2001, Judith Roderick sued Thurston County and its drug task force in federal court. She was represented by Hugh McGavick and Shawn Newman, two very able Olympia attorneys fiercely opposed to the injustices built into civil asset forfeiture laws. They were incensed by the actions of the drug enforcement task force. As a result of the efforts of McGavick and Newman, all charges against Roderick were eventually dismissed. But that didnt mean she got her property back. Under Washington law, the authorities can keep seized property even when the underlying charges that justified the seizure in the first place are dismissed.
Co-counsel Shawn Newman explained, We have a Kafkaesque situation in which the government can take your property without a conviction. The government and their paid informants are like bounty hunters who share a percentage of the proceeds. In this case after three years of enormous effort and expense McGavick and Newman were able to win back her property and a $100,000 judgment for damages. Her loss of business, damage to her reputation and emotional distress were not recovered with that award, but it was better than her client received. He was offered a choice: plead guilty to drug sales and receive a 9 month sentence and you may keep half of the value of your $800,000 property when the county sells it, or, you can fight the drug charge in criminal court and you may win, but in that case all of your property will be forfeited.
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