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n a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with BIG Potential!”
They pulled into a mini-mart for snacks. When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange. The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them. Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over.
He asked if Henderson knew that he’d been driving in the left lane for more than half a mile without passing.
No, Henderson replied. He said he’d moved into the left lane so that the police car could make its way onto the highway.
Were there any drugs in the car? When Henderson and Boatright said no, the officer asked if he and his partner could search the car.
The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.)
The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services.
“Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?” Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears.
Judge Orders $1 Million Returned to Exotic Dancer
State troopers confiscated the money in March 2012 when they pulled over Rajesh and Marina Dheri, of Montville, N.J., for speeding in Nebraska, according to court documents. The Dheris are friends of Mishra and had been given the cash so they could buy a nightclub in New Jersey.
When they were pulled over for speeding, a state trooper asked the Dheris if he could search their vehicle, which they allowed, Bataillon explained. The state trooper found the money and after suspecting it was drug money took the Dheris into custody, according to the judge's opinion. But police did not find any evidence of drug activity in the car
...many states shift the burden of proof from the state to the owner to prove that he or she is innocent of the crime in forfeiture cases. In other words, with civil forfeiture, property owners are effectively guilty until proven innocent.
Police said they seized $22,000 from a minivan that had been stopped for traffic violations at 7:08 p.m. Wednesday on Interstate 80 eastbound in Wolf Creek Township, police said. Police said there were indicators of criminal activity but did not say what they were. The driver was identified as a 37-year-old man from Hamtrmck, Mich., but his name was not disclosed, and there was no mention of whether charges had been filed.
"The police specifically told us to bring cash," Greer says. "Not a cashier's check or a credit card. They said cash." So Greer and her family visited a series of ATMs, and on March 1, she brought the money to the jail, thinking she'd be taking Joel Greer home. But she left without her money, or her son. Instead jail officials called in the same Drug Task Force that arrested Greer. A drug-sniffing dog inspected the Greers' cash, and about a half-hour later, Beverly Greer said, a police officer told her the dog had alerted to the presence of narcotics on the bills -- and that the police department would be confiscating the bail money.
Originally posted by Asktheanimals
Excellent article Dave. Worth the read! I had some notion of civil forfeiture laws being abused around the country but had no idea it was so endemic or applied with complete denial of circumstance. Trying to throw old people dying of cancer out of their homes is going way too far. I can understand cops initial suspicion upon finding large amounts of cash but lacking any evidence of criminal activity they have no right to help themselves to private property.
Just more terrible results from America's "wars' on everything; drugs, terror, poverty - you name it we have a war against it. That kind of mentality permits these abuses and more, portraying everything as some kind of life and death struggle. Madison avenue meets law enforcement. This is overselling in the extreme.
“We all know the way things are right now—budgets are tight,” Steve Westbrook, the executive director of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, says. “It’s definitely a valuable asset to law enforcement, for purchasing equipment and getting things you normally wouldn’t be able to get to fight crime.” Many officers contend that their departments would collapse if the practice were too heavily regulated, and that a valuable public-safety measure would be lost.
When Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson complained to the county in the hope of retrieving their savings, they got another surprise. Lynda Russell, the district attorney, told them she had warned “repeatedly” that they did not have to sign the waiver, but, if they continued to contest it, they could be indicted on felony charges. “I will contact you and give you an opportunity to turn yourself in without having an officer come to your door,” she wrote in a letter mentioning the prospect of a grand jury. Once again, their custody of the kids was threatened.