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From Heather Gillers in today’s Indianapolis Star:

State Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced Tuesday he will “zealously” defend 78 county prosecutors against a lawsuit alleging the prosecutors are holding on to seized assets meant for a state school fund.

The suit, which was filed by an Indianapolis law firm in Marion Superior Court, seeks repayment of two years’ worth of money the firm thinks is owed to Indiana’s Common School Fund, and to clarify how much of that money prosecutors are allowed to keep.

Radley Balko, senior editor at Reason Magazine, had this to say on the subject late last month:

In March the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm, praised Indiana for curbing asset forfeiture abuses by assigning proceeds from seized property to the state’s public schools instead of law enforcement agencies. But according to Indiana attorney Paul Ogden and The Indianapolis Star, only one of Indiana’s 92 counties made any significant payments into the school fund from August 2008 to July 2010. That’s because, as I reported in Reason last February and in a follow-up column in August, Indiana prosecutors have found several ways to get around the rule. And instead of cracking down on these evasive maneuvers, the state’s attorney general is defending them, while the state legislature may codify prosecutors’ current practice of keeping the money that is officially earmarked for schools.

One popular way Indiana prosecutors have avoided contributing to the school fund is to contract outcivil forfeiture cases to private attorneys, who get to keep a quarter to a third of what they win in court. If there are incentive problems with letting police departments and district attorneys’ offices keep forfeiture proceeds, those problems are magnified several times by allowing private attorneys to get paid directly from the forfeiture cases they bring on behalf of local governments. Forfeiture experts I’ve spoken with say the practice almost certainly violates the Constitution’s Due Process Clause, since the people making decisions about these cases get a direct financial benefit from those decisions.

The Star recently reported that private attorney Christopher Gambill—who handles forfeiture cases for several western Indiana counties, including Putnam County, which brought the case that was the focus of my Reason feature—once made $113,146 from a single forfeiture case. That’s more than all 92 Indiana counties paid into the school fund during the two-year period examined by Ogden and the Star. Yet it’s a pittance compared to the $627,525 radio talk show host and celebrity attorney Greg Garrison earned by representing Madison County in a gambling forfeiture. In another case, a judge recentlyreprimanded Mark McKinney for earning commissions as Delaware County’s private, contracted attorney in civil forfeiture cases while also serving as the county’s prosecutor.

We’ve covered these issues previously, particularly Mark McKinney’s flagrant misconduct and abuse of power. It is amazing to me that this misconduct can be so widespread, yet garner only tepid responses from legislators at best; at worst, the legislators seek to protect the prosecutors and law enforcement agencies that have gamed the system for so long.

It’s time for Indiana voters to begin holding their public officials accountable for their decisions to legalize official crimes and wanton misconduct. Where is Presidential hopeful Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels on this issue?

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1 Response » to “Indiana attorney general to defend state prosecutors’ right to break the law”

  1. I want to thank Governor M. Daniels and the Indiana Supreme court for now stepping up and going against Indiana attorney General Greg Zoeller on the forfeiture abuse issue.Greg Zoeller knows exactly whats going on, he knows my case where Hendricks co. DTF and the prosecutor raided my house, instead of looking for 6or 7 items authorized on the search warrant, these crooks showed up with 2 large trucks and cleaned my house out on a illegal shopping spee, $150K worth of property taken outside the scope of the warrant, Exceeding the scope is a 4th amendment violation of my US Constitutional rights. They could not prove anything was from illegal means, because it wasn’t.I couldn’t fight the forfeiture suit because I was threatened with a increased criminal penalty if convicted for attempting to enforce my rights in the related civil suit. They finished the civil case, no contest prior to me getting sentenced over 10 VICODINS.Yeah,,There was tons of my property that was taken and never even recorded,like a new 5,500 watt total home generator that some cop took for himself and much more, The prosecutor Bryan played a dual role as DTF attorney and prosecutor at the same time and in the same case he was prosecuting,He had a material interest in my assets like his DTF, he made us pay off a 2005 kia amanti for $12,436.00 and send the title to him,he retitled it to himself,it sat in his driveway while my family made the payments.

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