Robert Petricci, a businessman from Hawaii, has a fascinating and tragic story of his experience with forfeiture in Hawaii. Robert also suffers from severe arthritis, and consumes medical marijuana for pain. A few years ago, he was the victim of a SWAT raid searching for marijuana, and went through what I can only describe as a legal nightmare that has left him bankrupt and the victim of extortion by forfeiture, as he is currently working to meet an October 1st, 2011 deadline to make a $75,000 cash payment to the prosecutor, or the prosecutor will seize his house and the property it is located on. I might note that Robert owns a lumberyard and exports rare Hawaiian hardwoods of excellent quality.
The Hawaiian state forfeiture laws are bad; they let law enforcement full discretion to keep anything they take. Worse, the DEA has for years been using Hawaii as a “test state”; it’s far away and isolated from the rest of the United States, so when the DEA wants to test new technology or tactics of questionable legality, they test them in Hawaii first. It’s easy to contain stories of police misconduct or abuse in Hawaii, and the DEA can establish a legal precedent in a state that they pretty much control.
Robert’s story has been hard to get my head around. It is part of a bigger story about Hawaii, SWAT policing, and corrupt narcotics enforcement that is undeniably far worse than any drug problem in Hawaii, and I am sorting through a pile of affidavits from victims and witnesses of amazing corruption and official wrongdoing. I am working on a series of articles on Robert’s case and narcotics enforcement/asset forfeiture in Hawaii, but for now, I encourage you to watch Robert’s testimony to the Hawaii County Council about his story.