- The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is purchasing an Illinois prison with asset forfeiture funds despite Congressional attempts to block the acquisition. The purchase highlights how asset forfeiture, as a tool of self-appropriation, subverts representative democracy (castrating the power of the people to compel responsive government through their representatives’ control of appropriations. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder apparently realizes that this is something of a problem but nonetheless justifies the purchase because Congress will not accede to the DOJ:
“Instead, the Department of Justice moved on its own authority – and on the Bureau of Prisons’ behalf – and filed paperwork Tuesday in federal court to transfer the prison to the federal system. “We have deep reservations about proceeding without the support of all our appropriators. Department leadership requested multiple meetings with you to discuss the Thomson purchase, to dispel the concerns you have had with the acquisition, and to explain how the facility would be used,” Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter Tuesday to Wolf. “Unfortunately, you declined those requests. … Under these circumstances, the Administration has decided to proceed with the purchase.” He explained that $151 million would come from the department’s assets forfeiture fund, $9 million from the Bureau of Prison’s salaries and expenses account and $5 million from the bureau’s modernizations and repair account.” Sophia Tareen, Federal government will buy Ill. prison for $165M, The Associated Press, 3 Oct. 2012.
Update: Politico’s Tal Kopan has more on the DOJ’s attempt to circumvent Congressional intent with asset forfeiture funds and has a copy of the letter that General Holder sent to U.S. Representative Frank R. Wolf [R, VA-10], Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.
- Plaudits to CBS’s The Good Wife for tackling asset forfeiture. And, plaudits to Radley Balko and NewsChannel 5 for their apparent influence on The Good Wife’s season premiere dealing with forfeiture corridors, K9 sniffs, and policing for profit. It’s good to see the issue has re-entered the zeitgeist.
- Americans for Forfeiture Reform is pleased to report that the FBI returned the vehicle of a veteran who sought our help after local police seized her vehicle and transferred it to the FBI for an equitable sharing kickback. The forfeiture attempt occurred despite (1.) a lack of any evidence that she was involved in any criminal offense of any kind and (2.) evidence that she bought the car with income derived from her ongoing employment with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and disability pay stemming from her military service to our country in the first Gulf War.
- Former Romulus, Michigan Police Chief Michael St. Andre, his wife, and former detectives Richard Allan Balzer, Richard Bruce Landry, Donald Ralph Hopkins, Jeremy James Channells and Larry Droege are scheduled to be arraigned on October 10th, 2012. Allegations include fraud, embezzling asset forfeiture funds, attempting to obstruct an investigation, using asset forfeiture funds to purchase drugs and prostitutes for personal gratification, and attempting to bribe or intimidate witnesses.
- The Gloucester Daily Times calls for an unaltered release of Special Master Robert B. Swartwood III’s second report concerning the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NOAA’s troubled Office of Law Enforcement. Earlier investigations revealed problems:
“This is from a department that can’t document what happened to some $38-40 million of the $96 million that went into their Asset Forfeiture Fund. This a government agency that destroyed 75-80% of relevant documents during an ongoing OIG investigation, via a “shredding party,” at the behest of a senior department leader, Dale Jones Jr. They have tolerated duplicate, undocumented, and unexplained expenses for reimbursement, including one employee who apparently submitted his expenses twice every month. NOAA even purchased a trip, to Kuala Lumpur, for at least one Administrative Law Judge responsible for impartially ruling on the legality of NOAA forfeitures.” Scott Alexander Meiner, Not every government agency needs a SWAT team, Americans for Forfeiture Reform, 21 Dec. 2011. [For more on NOAA malfeasance.]
- Southampton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke telegraphed that charges may be forthcoming in the probe of former Halifax County, Virginia Sheriff Stanley Noblin. Noblin is suspected of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars in asset forfeiture funds.