Tag Archives: Civil Liberties

NYC Prosecutors Pledge to Dismiss 700,000 Minor Warrants

Four of New York City’s district attorneys say they will file motions in coming weeks to toss out 700,000 old warrants issued for low-level offenses like drinking in public and riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, reports the New York Law Journal. Prosecutors in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan will move to dismiss warrants that are 10 years old or older that stem from NYPD summonses. The mass clearance will dismiss a significant portion of the city’s roughly 1.5 million outstanding warrants.

When warrants aren’t cleared, those who have them are subject to automatic arrest for years and decades to come, even if they come in contact with police because they were involved in a minor traffic accident or while reporting a crime. Bronx DA Darcel Clark said the motions for clearance should not be viewed as mass amnesty. “We’re not telling everyone it’s OK to get a summons and not show up,” Clark said. But she said many of the cases are unprosecutable because of legal sufficiency issues.

Bipartisan Bail Reform Bill Introduced in the Senate

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, has introduced bipartisan legislation to prod states to reform their bail systems, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The new bill, which Harris co-wrote with Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, and was introduced yesterday, would spend $10 million annually for three years on grants for states that reform their bail systems.

Most courts in the U.S. require money bail, holding defendants in jail before trial until they pay. Advocates say cash bail is unfair to poor defendants who haven’t been convicted of a crime.

Under Harris’ bill — her first major bipartisan legislation — states would be eligible for a grant if they enact reforms such as replacing money bail with systems based on assessing a defendant’s risk to the community, releasing inmates before trial in most cases, or appointing public defenders at the earliest stages of pretrial detention.

In a New York Times commentary, Harris and Paul wrote, “Our justice system was designed with a promise: to treat all people equally. Yet that doesn’t happen for many of the 450,000 Americans who sit in jail today awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail.” They said their proposal encourages better data collection, empowers states to build on best practices, and holds them accountable.

Some states have already moved to change their approach to bail. New Jersey, for example, is shifting away from “money-based” pretrial justice through pretrial risk assessment in a system NPR describes in the latest episode of its “Planet Money” podcasts as a “model” for the nation.

Federal Agencies Fail to Report Hate Crimes to FBI as Mandated

In violation of a longstanding legal mandate, scores of federal law enforcement agencies are failing to submit statistics to the FBI’s national hate crimes database, ProPublica has learned.

The lack of participation by federal law enforcement represents a significant and largely unknown flaw in the database, which is supposed to be the nation’s most comprehensive source of information on hate crimes. The database is maintained by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which uses it to tabulate the number of alleged hate crimes occurring around the nation each year.

The FBI has identified at least 120 federal agencies that aren’t uploading information to the database, according to Amy Blasher, a unit chief at the CJIS Division, an arm of the bureau that is overseeing the modernization of its information systems.

The federal government operates a vast array of law enforcement agencies — ranging from Customs and Border Protection to the Drug Enforcement Administration to the Amtrak Police — employing more than 120,000 law enforcement officers with arrest powers. The FBI would not say which agencies have declined to participate in the program, but the bureau’s annual tally of hate crimes statistics does not include any offenses handled by federal law enforcement. Indeed, the problem is so widespread that the FBI itself isn’t submitting the hate crimes it investigates to its own database.

“We truly don’t understand what’s happening with crime in the U.S. without the federal component,” Blasher said in an interview.

At present, the bulk of the information in the database is supplied by state and local police departments. In 2015, the database tracked more than 5,580 alleged hate crime incidents, including 257 targeting Muslims, an upward surge of 67 percent from the previous year. (The Bureau hasn’t released 2016 or 2017 statistics yet.)

But it’s long been clear that hundreds of local police departments don’t send data to the FBI, and so given the added lack of participation by federal law enforcement, the true numbers for 2015 are likely to be significantly higher.

A federal law, the 1988 Uniform Federal Crime Reporting Act, requires all U.S. government law enforcement agencies to send a wide variety of crime data to the FBI. Two years later, after the passage of another law, the bureau began collecting data about “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” That was later expanded to include gender and gender identity.

The federal agencies that are not submitting data are violating the law, Blasher told us. She said she’s in contact with about 20 agencies and is hopeful that some will start participating, but added that there is no firm timeline for that to happen.

“Honestly, we don’t know how long it will take,”Blasher said of the effort to get federal agencies on board.

The issue goes far beyond hate crimes — federal agencies are failing to report a whole range of crime statistics, Blasher conceded. But hate crimes, and the lack of reliable data concerning them have been of intense interest amid the country’s highly polarized and volatile political environment.

ProPublica contacted several federal agencies seeking an explanation. A spokesperson for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, which handles close to 50,000 offenses annually, said the service is adhering to Defense Department rules regarding crime data and is using a digital crime tracking system linked to the FBI’s database. But the Army declined to say whether its statistics are actually being sent to the FBI, referring that question up the chain of command to the Department of Defense.

In 2014, an internal probe conducted by Defense Department investigators found that the “DoD is not reporting criminal incident data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for inclusion in the annual Uniform Crime Reports.”

ProPublica contacted the Defense Department for clarification and shared with a department spokesman a copy of the 2014 reports acknowledging the failure to send data to the FBI.

“We have no additional information at this time,” said Christopher Sherwood, the spokesman.

Federal agencies are hardly the only ones to skip out on reporting hate crimes. An Associated Press investigation last year found at least 2,700 city police and county sheriff’s departments that repeatedly failed to report hate crimes to the FBI.

In the case of the FBI itself, Blasher said the issue is largely technological: Agents have long collected huge amounts of information about alleged hate crimes, but don’t have a digital system to easily input that information to the database, which is administered by staff at an FBI complex in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

Since Blasher began pushing to modernize the FBI’s data systems, the Bureau has made some progress. It began compiling some limited hate crimes statistics for 2014 and 2015, though that information didn’t go into the national hate crimes database.

In Washington, lawmakers were surprised to learn about the failure by federal agencies to abide by the law.

“It’s fascinating and very disturbing,” said Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who said he wanted to speak about the matter with the FBI’s government affairs team. He wants to see federal agencies “reporting hate crimes as soon as possible.”

Beyer and other lawmakers have been working in recent years to improve the numbers of local police agencies participating in voluntary hate crime reporting efforts. Bills pending in Congress would give out grants to police forces to upgrade their computer systems; in exchange, the departments would begin uploading hate crime data to the FBI.

Beyer, who is sponsoring the House bill, titled the National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act, said he would consider drafting new legislation to improve hate crimes reporting by federal agencies or try to build such a provision into the appropriations bill.

“The federal government needs to lead by example. It’s not easy to ask local and state governments to submit their data if these 120 federal agencies aren’t even submitting hate crimes data to the database,” Beyer said.

In the Senate, Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota said the federal agencies need to do better. “I’ve long urged the FBI and the Department of Justice to improve the tracking and reporting of hate crimes by state and local law enforcement agencies,” Franken told ProPublica. “But in order to make sure we understand the full scope of the problem, the federal government must also do its part to ensure that we have accurate and trustworthy data.”

Virginia’s Barbara Comstock, a House Republican who authored a resolution in April urging the “Department of Justice (DOJ) and other federal agencies to work to improve the reporting of hate crimes,” did not respond to requests for comment.

By: A.C. Thompson and Ken Schwencke

Racial Imbalance in Louisiana Murder Charges is ‘Systemic’

Black homicide defendants in Louisiana are more likely than whites to face charges making them eligible for the death sentence in cases in which their victims are white, according to a Northeastern University study.

The findings add more evidence of the “stark racial imbalances” researchers have already found in the administration of the death penalty in that state—where the odds that African Americans who kill whites will receive the death sentence are 11 times greater than for a  “black-on-black” homicide—according to study author Tim Lyman.

Lyman, of the Institute for Security and Public Policy at Northeastern’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, concluded that the “systemic” inequality actually begins with prosecutors’ initial charging decisions.

He examined 1,356 cases where first-degree murder charges were filed and found that the race of the victim and accused made a critical difference.

“Yes, prosecutors pursue severe punishment more often in all white victim cases,” Lyman concluded. “But no, they do not round up and overcharge white suspects in these cases the way they do black suspects.

“To the contrary, they overcharge fewer (white on white) cases than they do the across-the-board under-represented (black on black) cases.”

An abstract and a downloadable version of Lyman’s study, “Race and the Death Penalty in Louisiana: An Actuarial Analysis,” are available here.

The Racist Roots of Marijuana Prohibition

The history of marijuana (or cannabis/THC) stems back over 10,000 years and is widely recognized as one of the most useful plants on the planet. Yet it was made illegal in the United States in the early 20th century due to political and economic factors.

History of The Drug

Let’s get one thing clear: marijuana was not made illegal because it caused “insanity, criminality, and death” as was claimed by Harry J. Anslinger. It was made illegal in an attempt to control Mexican immigration into the United States and to help boost the profits of large pharmaceutical companies.

Humans have been using the plant for almost 10,000 years to make necessary items such as clothing and pottery. But the first direct reference to a cannabis product as a “psychoactive agent” dates back to 2737 BC in the writings of the Chinese emperor Shen Nung.

Southern states feared the plant so much, it was called the “marijuana menace.”

The focus was on its healing powers, primarily how it healed diseases such as malaria and even “absent-mindlessness.” The plant was used recreationally by Indians and Muslims as well.

Marijuana in America

The drug was introduced into America by the Spanish in 1545, where it became a major commercial force and was grown alongside tobacco. Farmers mostly grew hemp instead of cannabis (a form of the plant that is very low in THC), and by 1890 it had replaced cotton as the major cash crop in southern states.

Hemp continued to flourish in the States until the 1910s when Mexicans began popularizing the recreational use of cannabis.

At the time, cannabis was not primarily used for its psychoactive effects. However, and quite frankly, many “white” Americans did not like the fact that Mexicans were smoking the plant, and they soon demonized the drug.

Around 1910, the Mexican Revolution was starting to boil over, and many Mexicans immigrated to the U.S. to escape the conflict. This Mexican population had its own uses for cannabis, and they referred to it as “marihuana.” Not only did they use it for medicinal purposes, but they smoked it recreationally – a new concept for white Americans. U.S. politicians quickly jumped on the opportunity to label cannabis “marihuana” in order to give it a bad rep by making it sound more authentically Mexican at a time of extreme prejudice.

It worked. Southern states became worried about the dangers this drug would bring, and newspapers began calling Mexican cannabis use a “marijuana menace.”

During the 1920s, many anti-marijuana campaigns were conducted to raise awareness about the many harmful effects the drug caused. These campaigns included radical claims stating that marijuana turned users into killers and drug addicts. They were all obviously fake, made up in an attempt to get rid of Mexican immigrants.

“A widow and her four children have been driven insane by eating the Marihuana plant, according to doctors, who say that there is no hope of saving the children’s lives and that the mother will be insane for the rest of her life,” read a New York Times story from 1927. It was clear the newspapers and tabloids were building a campaign against the plant, and much of it has been said to be based on racist ideologies against Mexican immigrants.

The “war against marijuana” arguably began in 1930, where a new division in the Treasury Department was established — the Federal Bureau of Narcotics — and Harry J. Anslinger was named director. This, if anything, marked the beginning of the all-out war against marijuana.

Anslinger realized that opiates and cocaine would not be enough to build his new agency, so he turned towards marijuana and worked relentlessly to make it illegal on a federal level. Some anti-marijuana quotes from Anslinger’s agency read:

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”

“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

“Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”

“You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”

“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”

Yes, every single one of these claims is outrageous, but the strategy worked.

(Harry Anslinger got some additional help from William Randolph Hearst, owner of a huge chain of newspapers. Hearst had lots of reasons to help. First, he hated Mexicans. Second, he had invested heavily in the timber industry to support his newspaper chain and didn’t want to see the development of hemp paper in competition. Third, he had lost 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa and blamed Mexicans. Fourth, telling lurid lies about Mexicans [and the devil marijuana weed causing violence] sold newspapers, making him rich.)

The war on marijuana intensified in 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act was passed.

The two were then supported by the Dupont chemical company and various pharmaceutical companies in the effort to outlaw cannabis. Pharmaceutical companies were on board with the idea because they could not standardize cannabis dosages, and people could grow it themselves. They knew how versatile the plant was in treating a wide range of medical conditions and that meant a potentially massive loss of profits.

So, these U.S. economic and political powerhouses teamed up to form a great little act called The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.

This act testified to the many harmful effects of marijuana and was obviously opposed by many. But it was ultimately the committee chairman who got this act passed in congress. 

The chairman decided that

“high school boys and girls buy the destructive weed without knowledge of its capacity of harm, and conscienceless dealers sell it with impunity. This is a national problem, and it must have national attention. The fatal marihuana cigarette must be recognized as a deadly drug, and American children must be protected against it.”

And there you have it: 1937 marks the year where marijuana became illegal in the United States of America.


A man by the name of Harry Anslinger became the director of the newly established department — the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

Anslinger teamed up with William Randolph Hearst (a newspaper company owner) and some big-time pharmaceutical companies, and together they launched an anti-marijuana campaign to profit off of manufactured medicine and deport thousands of Mexicans.

Marijuana was not made illegal because of its negative health impacts. It was these men who manipulated the public into believing the herb was deadly, and their impacts are still felt even today.

The war against marijuana intensified in 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act was passed.
The future for marijuana is looking very bright.

During this time, marijuana, heroin, and LSD were listed as “schedule 1” drugs (having the highest abuse potential and no accepted medical use). Obviously, this goes against thousands of years of human knowledge where it was widely known that cannabis was one of the most beneficial herbs on the face of the planet.

Congress has repeatedly decided to ignore history to the benefit of big pharmaceutical companies, which bring in billions of dollars annually from selling cheaply manufactured medicine.

The “zero tolerance” climate of the Reagan and Bush years resulted in the passage of stricter laws, mandatory minimum sentencing for possession of marijuana, and heightened vigilance against smuggling at the southern borders. The “war on drugs” brought with it a shift from reliance on imported supplies to domestic cultivation.

It wasn’t until 1996 when California legalized marijuana for medical use. Alaska, Oregon, and Washington eventually followed suit. However, it has taken well over a decade for marijuana to reach recreational legalization in these states. 

With all this being said, the future for marijuana is looking very bright. Marijuana advocates believe there is a chance for at least 11 more states to legalize recreational marijuana in the near future, which would be a huge leap forward in the grand scheme of things.

It has taken far too long to break the stigma attached to marijuana. Yes, like any drug, it can be abused. But to ignore its obvious health benefits in order to maintain large scale pharmaceutical operations and a monopoly on the health industry is ludicrous. 

David McDonald

David McDonald is a 20-year-old student at the University Of Guelph.

Tennessee Passes on Chance to OK Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana won’t be legal in Tennessee anytime soon after a House Representative’s bill, which aimed to legalize cannabis use for people suffering from certain conditions such as cancer, HIV and epilepsy, failed to get Senate support. The bill, HB0495, was considered dead for the year after the state’s House Health Committee rejected the measure following… Continue reading Tennessee Passes on Chance to OK Medical Marijuana

9th Circuit Refuses to Issue Stay on Immigration Travel Ban Restraining Order

The court case over the travel ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries won’t be dropped, as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request from the Justice Department to put it on hold until a new executive order is issued.

The DOJ asked the federal appeals court to put the case on hold after it had upheld a restraining order against enforcing the ban in mid-February. On Monday, the 9th Circuit declined to do so.

President Donald Trump is expected to issue a replacement order on Wednesday.

During the daily White House press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer said he would not address the ruling because he had not a chance to read it, and asked for a chance to speak with the White House Counsel’s Office.

“The president has made a commitment right now to continue to defend what we did,” Spicer said, “because this is the strategy that he believes that we had the authority vested in US Code.”

“I think that it’s not a question of proving a point, it’s that the manner in which it was done in the first place,” he continued.

“And while the second executive order attempts to address the court’s concerns that they made, the goal is obviously to maintain the way that we did it the first time because we believe that the law is very clear about giving the president the authority that he needs to protect the country.”

On January 27, Trump signed an executive order that blocked people from seven majority-Muslim countries ‒ Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen ‒ from entering the US for 90 days. It also halted the US refugee program for 120 days.

Its rollout caused mass confusion, deportations and protests. There are at least 40 active lawsuits against the order in 17 states. On February 3, a federal judge issued a nationwide, temporary restraining order against enforcing the executive order. Days later, a three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that TRO. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly took the blame for the poor rollout.

The ruling comes just hours after it was revealed that the president of UEFA, football’s governing body in Europe, said that Trump’s “America first” policies, including the temporary travel ban, could harm the United States’ bid to hold the 2026 World Cup.

“It will be part of the evaluation, and I am sure it will not help the United States to get the World Cup,” Aleksander Ceferin told the New York Times. “If players cannot come because of political decisions, or populist decisions, then the World Cup cannot be played there. It is true for the United States, but also for all the other countries that would like to organize a World Cup.”

MEMO Says Trump Might Use National Guard to Round Up Immigrants in 11 States

The Trump administration is considering a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press.

The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana.

Four states that border on Mexico are included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

 Governors in the 11 states would have a choice whether to have their guard troops participate, according to the memo, written by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general.

While National Guard personnel have been used to assist with immigration-related missions on the U.S.-Mexico border before, they have never been used as broadly or as far north.

The memo is addressed to the then-acting heads of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It would serve as guidance to implement the wide-ranging executive order on immigration and border security that President Donald Trump signed Jan. 25. Such memos are routinely issued to supplement executive orders.

Also dated Jan. 25, the draft memo says participating troops would be authorized “to perform the functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension and detention of aliens in the United States.” It describes how the troops would be activated under a revived state-federal partnership program, and states that personnel would be authorized to conduct searches and identify and arrest any unauthorized immigrants.

Requests to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security for comment and a status report on the proposal were not answered.

The draft document has circulated among DHS staff over the last two weeks. As recently as Friday, staffers in several different offices reported discussions were underway.

If implemented, the impact could be significant. Nearly one-half of the 11.1 million people residing in the U.S. without authorization live in the 11 states, according to Pew Research Center estimates based on 2014 Census data.

Use of National Guard troops would greatly increase the number of immigrants targeted in one of Trump’s executive orders last month, which expanded the definition of who could be considered a criminal and therefore a potential target for deportation. That order also allows immigration agents to prioritize removing anyone who has “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”

Under current rules, even if the proposal is implemented, there would not be immediate mass deportations. Those with existing deportation orders could be sent back to their countries of origin without additional court proceedings. But deportation orders generally would be needed for most other unauthorized immigrants.

The troops would not be nationalized, remaining under state control.

Spokespeople for the governors of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon and New Mexico said they were unaware of the proposal, and either declined to comment or said it was premature to discuss whether they would participate. The other three states did not immediately respond to the AP.

The proposal would extend the federal-local partnership program that President Barack Obama’s administration began scaling back in 2012 to address complaints that it promoted racial profiling.

The 287(g) program, which Trump included in his immigration executive order, gives local police, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers the authority to assist in the detection of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally as a regular part of their law enforcement duties on the streets and in jails.

The draft memo also mentions other items included in Trump’s executive order, including the hiring of an additional 5,000 border agents, which needs financing from Congress, and his campaign promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

The signed order contained no mention of the possible use of state National Guard troops.

According to the draft memo, the militarization effort would be proactive, specifically empowering Guard troops to solely carry out immigration enforcement, not as an add-on the way local law enforcement is used in the program.

Allowing Guard troops to operate inside non-border states also would go far beyond past deployments.

In addition to responding to natural or man-made disasters or for military protection of the population or critical infrastructure, state Guard forces have been used to assist with immigration-related tasks on the U.S.-Mexico border, including the construction of fences.

In the mid-2000s, President George W. Bush twice deployed Guard troops on the border to focus on non-law enforcement duties to help augment the Border Patrol as it bolstered its ranks. And in 2010, then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced a border security plan that included Guard reconnaissance, aerial patrolling and military exercises.

In July 2014, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry ordered 1,000 National Guard troops to the border when the surge of migrant children fleeing violence in Central America overwhelmed U.S. officials responsible for their care. The Guard troops’ stated role on the border at the time was to provide extra sets of eyes but not make arrests.

Bush initiated the federal 287(g) program — named for a section of a 1996 immigration law — to allow specially trained local law enforcement officials to participate in immigration enforcement on the streets and check whether people held in local jails were in the country illegally. ICE trained and certified roughly 1,600 officers to carry out those checks from 2006 to 2015.

The memo describes the program as a “highly successful force multiplier” that identified more than 402,000 “removable aliens.”

But federal watchdogs were critical of how DHS ran the program, saying it was poorly supervised and provided insufficient training to officers, including on civil rights law. Obama phased out all the arrest power agreements in 2013 to instead focus on deporting recent border crossers and immigrants in the country illegally who posed a safety or national security threat.

Trump’s immigration strategy emerges as detentions at the nation’s southern border are down significantly from levels seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Last year, the arrest tally was the fifth-lowest since 1972. Deportations of people living in the U.S. illegally also increased under the Obama administration, though Republicans criticized Obama for setting prosecution guidelines that spared some groups from the threat of deportation, including those brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Last week, ICE officers arrested more than 680 people around the country in what Kelly said were routine, targeted operations; advocates called the actions stepped-up enforcement under Trump.

Jeff Sessions and the Thuggery of Asset Forfeiture

One of the unfortunate features of Washington is that people often wind up in places that bring out their worst behaviors.

The classic example is Jack Kemp, who did great work as a member of Congress to push a supply-side agenda of low marginal tax rates and less double taxation. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that the Reagan tax cuts were made possible by Kemp’s yeoman efforts. But when President George H.W. Bush brought Kemp into his cabinet back in 1989, it wasn’t to head up the Treasury Department. It was to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a department that shouldn’t even exist. And because Kemp was weak on spending issues, he predictably and unfortunately presided over an expansion of HUD’s budget. If he was at Treasury, by contrast, he may have been able to stop Bush’s disastrous read-my-lips tax deal.

Once seized, the property’s owners bear the burden of proving their property’s innocence.

Another example is that Republicans members of Congress from farm states generally favor small government. So if they wind up on committees that deal with overall fiscal issues, they usually are allies in the effort to restrain Leviathan. Unfortunately, they more often wind up on the Agriculture Committee, which means they accumulate power and expertise in the area where they are least likely to favor free markets and limited government. They net effect is that they may still have a decent voting record, but their actual impact on public policy will be harmful. The same thing happens with Republicans who get on the transportation committees.

Today’s example is Attorney General Jeff Sessions. When he was Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, he was an ally in the fight against big government. He favored decentralization. He supported rolling back the welfare state. He favored entitlement reform. He supported tax cuts. He used his power and position to try to do the right thing. But when Trump asked Sessions to join his cabinet, it wasn’t to head the Office of Management and Budget, a position that would have been a good fit. Instead, Trump picked him to be Attorney General, which is problematical because Sessions is an advocate of the failed War on Drugs. And he’s also a supporter of “asset forfeiture,” which occurs when governments steal money and property from citizens without convicting them of any crime. Or sometimes without even charging them with a crime.

I’m not joking. This happens with distressing regularity. It’s called “policing for profit.”

In poor nations, a corrupt cop will stop motorists to shake them down for pocket change. In the United States, we’ve legalized a bigger version of that sleazy behavior. George Will shared a reprehensible example last December.

The Sourovelises’ son, who lived at home, was arrested for selling a small amount of drugs away from home. Soon there was a knock on their door by police who said, “We’re here to take your house” and “You’re going to be living on the street” and “We do this every day.” The Sourovelises’ doors were locked with screws and their utilities were cut off. They had paid off the mortgage on their $350,000 home, making it a tempting target for policing for profit. Nationwide, proceeds from sales of seized property (homes, cars, etc.) go to the seizers. And under a federal program, state and local law enforcement can partner with federal authorities in forfeiture and reap up to 80 percent of the proceeds. This is called — more Orwellian newspeak — “equitable sharing.” No crime had been committed in the Sourovelises’ house, but the title of the case against them was “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. 12011 Ferndale Street.” Somehow, a crime had been committed by the house. In civil forfeiture, it suffices that property is suspected of having been involved in a crime. Once seized, the property’s owners bear the burden of proving their property’s innocence.

The good news is that there’s a growing desire to stop governments from stealing.

Indeed, Will points out that there was “a 2015 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on forfeiture abuses.”

Unfortunately, not everybody at the hearing agreed that it’s wrong for governments to arbitrarily engage in theft.

…one senator said “taking and seizing and forfeiting, through a government judicial process, illegal gains from criminal enterprises is not wrong,” and neither is law enforcement enriching itself from this. …this senator asserted an unverifiable number: “Ninety-five percent” of forfeitures involve people who have “done nothing in their lives but sell dope.” This senator said it should not be more difficult for “government to take money from a drug dealer than it is for a businessperson to defend themselves in a lawsuit.” In seizing property suspected of involvement in a crime, government “should not have a burden of proof higher than in a normal civil case.”

The Senator who made these statements was Jeff Sessions.

And, as George Will explains, the then-Senator missed a few points.

In civil forfeiture there usually is no proper “judicial process.” There is no way of knowing how many forfeitures involve criminals because the government takes property without even charging anyone with a crime. The government’s vast prosecutorial resources are one reason it properly bears the burden of proving criminal culpability “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A sued businessperson does not have assets taken until he or she has lost in a trial, whereas civil forfeiture takes property without a trial and the property owner must wage a protracted, complex, and expensive fight to get it returned.

The Wall Street Journal also opined about the new Attorney General’s indefensible position.

The all-too-common practice allows law enforcement to take private property without due process and has become a cash cow for state and local police and prosecutors. …Assets are often seized—and never returned—without any judicial process or court supervision. Unlike criminal forfeiture, civil forfeiture doesn’t require a criminal conviction or even charges. According to the Virginia-based Institute for Justice, which tracks forfeitures, 13% of all forfeitures done by the Justice Department between 1997 and 2013 were in criminal cases while 87% were civil forfeitures. And 88% of those forfeitures were done by an administrative agency, not a court. …The lack of procedural protection coupled with financial incentives has turned policing for profit into a slush fund for governments hungry for cash, and the payouts too often come at the expense of civil liberties. We’d like to hear what Mr. Sessions thinks of the practice today.

Sadly, it doesn’t appear that President Trump is on the right side either.

In a new column on the topic, George Will addresses this unfortunate development.

There is no reason for the sheriffs to want to reform a racket that lines their pockets. For the rest of us, strengthening the rule of law and eliminating moral hazard are each sufficient reasons. Civil forfeiture is the power to seize property suspected of being produced by, or involved in, crime. If property is suspected of being involved in criminal activity, law enforcement can seize it. Once seized, the property’s owners bear the burden of proving that they were not involved in such activity, which can be a costly and protracted procedure. So, civil forfeiture proceeds on the guilty-until-proven-innocent principle. Civil forfeiture forces property owners, often people of modest means, to hire lawyers and do battle against a government with unlimited resources. And here is why the sheriffs probably purred contentedly when Trump endorsed civil forfeiture law — if something so devoid of due process can be dignified as law: Predatory law enforcement agencies can pocket the proceeds from the sale of property they seize.

The folks at Reason have a new video on Trump’s support for theft-by-government.

By the way, I hold out some hope that Trump may not be completely bad on the issue. It’s possible that he’s never considered the issue and doesn’t understand that it involves over-the-top government thuggery. He may simply think it’s some sort of procedural issue involving good cops against bad crooks.

So perhaps when he is briefed on what the issue really means, he’ll be in favor of protecting Americans from the kind of horrible abuse that the Dehko family experienced. Or the mistreatment of Carole Hinders. Or the ransacking of Joseph Rivers. Or the brutalization of Thomas Williams.

I could continue, but I think you get the point.

Let’s close, though, with some good news. I wrote two years ago about the case of Charles Clarke, who had $11,000 that was stolen by government. Thanks to the Institute for Justice, that stolen money has been returned.

Charles Clarke, the college student who was robbed of $11,000 in cash by cops at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport two years ago, will get his money back with interest under an agreement he reached with the Justice Department this week. …To keep the money, the government theoretically had to show that it more likely than not came from selling drugs or was intended to buy them. But that burden applied only if Clarke had the means to challenge the forfeiture once the government had taken his savings. Innocent owners often find that standing up for their rights costs more than the value of the property they are trying to get back. Luckily for Clarke, he had the Institute for Justice in his corner.

And the other bit of good news is that New Mexico has curtailed the disgusting practice of asset forfeiture. Hopefully Trump won’t try to destroy the careers of the lawmakers who decided the Constitution was more important than lining the pockets of the bureaucracy.

Republished from International Liberty.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

A Dark City: Racism and Corruption in Fontana, California

by Carlos Avalos

Adolf Hitler once said, “If you tell the masses a lie enough times, they will soon believe it.”  Unfortunately, people chose to accept what is told to them rather than seeking out the truth.  Often the vast majority of people do not like to be inconvenienced by reading or researching facts surrounding crucial issues within our society. Many people wait to be spoon feed a particular doctrine or information without validating the source or the facts.  Not all but much of society sits complacently while others diligently seek the truth and battle for justice.  As a result, we as a society suffers as the powerful fists of reality continue to beat us into submission over and over again.

If you ask most people in the United States if they have heard of Fontana, CA you get a few responses that say isn’t that a town next to Los Angeles?  But most people will have no idea what or where the city is let alone the history of it.  To understand the racism and corruption that has been living in the city of Fontana, its city government, and police department one must connect the dots and signs that show how Fontana got to its current situation.  The current situation I speak of is as of 2017 Fontana’s police force, and city government is racist and corrupt.   This is not something that just happened mid-1800, but something that is ingrained into the fabric of Fontana and other cities neighboring it.  San Bernardino County is notorious for having some of the worst air quality in the United States, as well as being known for being one of the most corrupt countries in the world.  San Bernardino County is the biggest county in the U.S, with 31 cities in the county.

Specifically, Fontana has been known to be one of the racist and corrupt out of all of the cities in the county.  Although no one can exactly pinpoint when the corruption started in the Fontana P.D or its city government, the pre cursor for racism in Fontana as a whole depending on whom you ask can be pinpointed to around the mid 1800’s on the famous Route 66.

On the close outskirts of Fontana entering into its neighboring city to the west, Rancho Cucamonga on Route 66 still lays Sycamore Inn, which as of today is a steakhouse.  During this period of time, the dirt road that ran past the Sycamore Inn’s became the main thoroughfare from the city of San Bernardino to the growing areas of Los Angeles and further west.  William Rubottom realized the significance of having a strategically placed inn where travelers could stop to eat and wet their whistle, as well as sleep.  William Rubottom known as “Uncle Billy” was a Southerner from Missouri.  Soon his stage coach stop became a favorite meeting place for Southern sympathizers during the Civil War.  Uncle Billy can also be accredited for introducing slavery into the area.  This is extremely significant in the history of Fontana and neighboring cities for many reasons.  If Sycamore Inn was known to be Southern Confederate friendly then one could assume that many people friendly to the Southern cause and mindset came to this inn and area because they knew that they would not be shunned away.

After the Civil War Southern loyalists could not just move and start a new life anywhere, especially if they still had their views and mindset about slavery despite losing the war.  They needed to go to places and start a new way of life in places that were gentle to their cause or where like-minded people were.  Thus, it can be assumed that if there was an influx of people coming to Fontana and neighboring areas who were Southerners, there was a good chance that they stayed local in the area and started a new life after the Civil War.  California was not only getting these new people to the area, they were also getting their religion, beliefs, and mindsets as well.  It is not farfetched to believe that this is in fact how and when the racist views of the city of Fontana and its police department started.

Fontana was founded in 1913 by Azariel Blanchard Miller.  Within a few short years, Fontana became known for its chicken ranches, vineyards, and citrus orchards.  Fontana originally was an agricultural town.

During World War II Fontana was greatly transformed when Henry J. Kaiser built one of the only two steel mills west of the Mississippi River in Fontana.   Kaiser Steel was a large producer of metal parts and steel framing for Liberty Ships during the war.  In the 1980’s Kaiser Steel filed for bankruptcy after a revenue loss of over 125 million dollars.  Over 5,000 people were employed in the small city of Fontana, which upset many blue collar workers, who were predominantly White.

Racial tension during this time and years before were already high in Fontana between Blacks and Whites.  The Ku Klux Klan established its headquarters in Fontana.  KKK Grand Wizard George Pepper and White Aryan Resistance (WAR) leader Tom Metzger claimed Fontana and the Inland Empire as their California Eastern Territory for White Supremacy.  Around this time sub groups such as the Hells Angels Biker Gang which originated in Fontana, Nazi Low Riders (NLR), all began to flourish in the city of Fontana, without being eradicated by the Fontana P.D.  Many incidents of discrimination and hate crimes were unsolved and poorly investigated, if any investigations were conducted at all. Many African Americans and Hispanics complained of the racial tension within the city of Fontana, but their complaints fell on deaths ears.

The story of O’Day short is one of the most horrific tragedies to happen in the city of Fontana. O’Day H. Short, his wife, and two children purchased a home in Fontana, and they were threatened with violence to move to a Negro Ghetto area outside of Fontana. O’Day short was African American.  Short stood his ground and refused to move.  Two weeks later his home burned to the ground.  His wife and kids succumbed to burns, O’Day Short held onto life for a few weeks but he later died.  O’Day Short moved his family from Los Angeles to Fontana because of a housing shortage.  He bought a lot in Fontana; when he started building his home he was approached by two Deputy Sheriffs Tex Cornelison and Joe Glines.

The two officers told O’Day Short that “he was out of bounds and to avoid problems he should move his family to a northern part of the city where African Americans lived.”  There was no legal basis for the Sheriff’s meeting with O’Day Short and telling him this.  This visit and warnings of these two Deputy Sheriffs are recorded in the Sheriff’s office in San Bernardino.  Short reported the threats to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I), and also told his story to the Los Angeles Sentinel an African American Newspaper on December 6, 1945.  Ten days later on December 16th, the horrible incident took place.  Two days later the tragic incident of the Short family was reported in the newspaper as an accidental fire.  O’Day Short’s sister in law Carrie Morrison asked for an inquest into the death of the family; she was met with resistance from the County Coroner.  The Coroner resisted because they claimed that the incident was clearly an accident.  Only after constant pressure was an inquest into the fire granted.  Many African American newspapers bringing light to the incident called on California Attorney general at the time Robert Kenny to get involved.  Because of this, the San Bernardino County District Attorney Jerome B. Kavanaugh allowed the inquest.

District Attorney Kavanaugh interviewed Short personally about the incident while Mr. Short was in the hospital because of his injuries from the fire.  Mr. Short told the D.A that he was in no condition to answer any questions concerning the incident until he was competent to do so and with the help of his attorney.  The D.A wanted to know if the fire in Short’s mind was accidental or a criminal act.  Documents show that Short was pressured into admitting that this incident could have been an accident.  That was all the D.A wanted to hear.  Later when O’Day Short was in better condition he conveyed to representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People N.A.A.C.P that the fire was an “incendiarist act of vigilantes.”

The only physical evidence that was involved in this case was a lantern that supposedly malfunctioned and caused the fire of O’Day Shorts home.  The biggest piece of physical evidence was discarded by the by the police and not looked upon as having any significant value.

Many times during the trial friends of the family and family of the Short’s spoke up and wanted to talk about the threats made to O’Day Short and his family that was well documented, but the police or the D.A for some mysterious reason did not want to talk about it.  Very quickly the verdict was given and the inquest was closed.  The only sole survivor was O’Day Short and instead of waiting for him to recover and give a competent statement; the statement taken from him by the D.A when he was in horrible physical condition was used.  An arson investigation was conducted on behalf of the N.A.A.C.P, not on behalf of the authorities.  Paul T. Wolfe had over 25 years of arson experience with the Los Angeles Arson Bureau.  He conducted a highly extensive analysis of the burnt remains of the Short’s house, as well as a chemical analysis.  His report concluded that there was another highly flammable substance found at the Shorts house other than Kerosene which was claimed to have been the reason the lamp exploded.  Mr. Wolfe also stated in his professional opinion and entire time conducting arson work has never ever seen an incident where kerosene caused such a huge explosion. The explosion at the Short’s house caused the walls of a home to blow out.

The facts of this incident are simple.  In Fontana we have an African American man trying to create a life for him and his family.   O’Day Short and his family were threatened by members of the community to move because of the color of their skin.  They were also warned or somewhat threatened by local law enforcement to move because their mere presence would create a problem because Fontana at this time was primarily filled with white residents who did not look to kindly upon African Americans. The District Attorney in this case who is supposed to seek the truth and hold people who break the law accountable did everything but that.

Important evidence was mishandled, and proper investigation skills were not conducted to find the truth.  Expert testimony was ignored, and the all around handling of this case was mediocre at best.  I believe in this particular incident we were not dealing with an incompetent police force, but we were dealing with a corrupt and racist police force and D.A at the minimum.  This incident still lingers in the minds of Fontana residents.  Although this type of blatant racism is not happening in Fontana as of 2017, it is happening in more covert ways.

On July 1st, 1980 Pacific Bell Lineman Dovard Howard while working on an elevated line in Fontana was shot with a shotgun, which left him paralyzed.  Howard’s son reported that at this current point in time he could remember crosses being burnt on lawns in Fontana.  This type of behavior is something that most people only witness through a cinematic experience, but in Fontana decades ago, this was real life.  And this was not in the South where this type of behavior is attributed.  This was on the West Coast.  Around this point and time and earlier there was an unwritten rule in Fontana.  African Americans were not welcome south of Baseline Street in the northern part of the city.  The Northern part of Fontana was agricultural.  It had grape and citrus groves, as well as hog farms.  Larry West Deane was arrested for this incident.  It was later discovered that Deane was part of the Hells Angels motorcycle club, not the KKK.  Fontana Police Sergeant at the time Mickey Carns stated that Fontana “in fact did not have a race problem, that they have a good ethnic mixture of diversity.” During this period and time, the initials KKK could easily be found throughout Fontana spray painted onto benches, bus stops, and on the side of liquor stores.

Cross burnings, segregated neighborhoods, KKK rallies and marches on city hall were all a part of the dark history of Fontana. One must ask why KKK and other white supremacist groups felt comfortable establishing their organizations in the city of Fontana?  The answer is simple, what a person or city tolerates or finds acceptable is what they allow.

From the inception of the Fontana police department in the early 1950’s until the present time, there has been a deep-rooted stench of supremacy which haunts the halls of the city, its government, and the police department.  Like the hatred and bigotry passed on from generation to generation by the Nazi parties, racist fathers and grandfathers chose to share their tainted views with their friends and family in an effort to keep segregation alive.  The only difference between racism now and in the past is that in many cases it is still institutionalized, but now it is covert.

Members of the Fontana P.D whom are current active officers and retired have told me that the racism in Fontana is shrewder.  In regards to the police department the white hierarchy of the department will organize behind closed doors to prevent a minority or person they do not like from getting hired.  They hire their family members and recruit their friends.  They will ostracize anyone who does not think like them.  This is a little history of the dark city that I call home, Fontana.  While conducting research about Fontana and its police department I have came across but is not limited to billboards being used for KKK recruiting devices, chiefs of police having Nazi swastikas tattooed on them, unfair treatment of minority officers, murder, corruption, and falsifying documents. The problem with racism in Fontana is that it is institutionalized.  The problem with corruption in Fontana is that it is the norm in the city and the entire San Bernardino County.   I encourage people to pay attention to what is going on in Fontana, CA.  The truth is starting to be revealed, and the truth is something that shows the darkness that still lives in Fontana, CA.